Disability inclusive education – a fundamental human right

Read how Sightsavers and partners are working with governments like Sierra Leone to reinforce inclusion of all children in their education systems.

December 02, 2022 by Liesbeth Roolvink, Sightsavers
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4 minutes read
Marie, who was born blind, was able to attend a special school for blind children in 2009. Sierra Leone. Credit: Eric Musa/Sightsavers
Marie, a young girl born blind, was able to attend a special school for blind children in 2009. Sierra Leone.
Credit: Eric Musa/Sightsavers

International Day of People with Disabilities, celebrated on December 3rd, is an opportunity to promote the fundamental human rights of people with disabilities which they are too often denied.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) about 15 per cent of the world’s population live with some form of disability; 80 per cent of whom live in lower income countries. This population faces many barriers to inclusion in key aspects of life and society, including education.

If we want to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all - we must urgently transform education and remove barriers for girls and boys with disabilities and special needs, who are too often still left behind.

Sightsavers and partners have launched a global campaign calling on leaders to take urgent action on inclusive education.

In Sierra Leone, they are doing just that, by implementing a National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools. This policy outlines that schools throughout Sierra Leone are accessible to, and inclusive of, all children – especially those that are typically marginalized or excluded.

That means children like Marie, an ambitious young girl living in Sierra Leone who was born blind. Marie comes from a large family with six sisters and seven brothers. Her parents primarily work as farmers.

In 2008, she moved in with her aunt who supported her to attend a special school for blind children in 2009. Later, she enrolled at a mainstream school alongside children with and without disabilities, in her own home district.

Marie shares: ‘Going to school is something I like doing because I believe that education is the key to success. I have accepted the challenge to be educated; since I am blind, without education, my future would be more difficult.’

Marie doing her homework. Credit: Eric Musa/Sightsavers
Marie doing her homework.
Credit:
Eric Musa/Sightsavers

The Radical Inclusion policy was developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MoBSSE), with support from Sightsavers and other partners to ensure no learner in Sierra Leone is left behind.

The aim is to create an inclusive education system that allows all children in the country to thrive. The focus is on four excluded and marginalized groups: children with disabilities; children from low-income families; children in rural and underserved areas; and girls, especially those who are pregnant and in school or are parent learners.

Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, Honorable Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education in Sierra Leone in his office. Credit: Mathias Esmann
Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, Honorable Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education in Sierra Leone in his office.
Credit:
Mathias Esmann

Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, Honorable Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education in Sierra Leone explains what drives the Government’s commitment to develop and implement this bold policy in Sierra Leone: ‘There has been great progress in education in Sierra Leone since 2018, when the government introduced its Free Quality Education program. This resulted in a significant increase in enrolment, particularly girls. However, the most marginalized children and youth in the country continue to be excluded from education, caused by intersecting disadvantages such as poverty, gender, social norms and stigma. They tend to be children with disabilities, from rural and underserved areas and from low-income households.

Education is one of the best ways out of poverty and that is what inspired us to design a new education policy with the goal to remove the barriers that prevent the most disadvantaged children from reaching their full potential. A comprehensive consultation process involving all stakeholders in society provided the foundation for Sierra Leone’s first ever policy on inclusive education. The policy was adopted in 2021 and is now being implemented to support Sierra Leone in achieving SDG 4 in 2030.

Sierra Leone’s Radical Inclusion policy aligns fully with Sightsavers’ guiding principle to ‘leave no one behind’. We are firmly committed to supporting governments in lower income countries in their efforts to embed disability inclusion into their national education plans. We support countries by providing the necessary technical assistance so they can implement these plans successfully.

A vital part of this work is ensuring we have the necessary data on disability in order to identify these learners and address their specific individual needs in education planning.

Sightsavers is supporting the MoBSSE to make the Education Management Information System in Sierra Leone disability inclusive.

By working with governments, policy makers and partners, we can remove the barriers currently faced by people with disabilities and make sure no child is left behind. Every child should be able to experience the transformative power of education and be able to fulfil their dreams.

Like the aspiration Marie shared with us: “I want to be become a lawyer in the future, as this will help me to advocate and fight for an equal world where everyone is considered.”

Following the Transforming Education Summit (TES), SightSavers prepared a call to action, which more than 100 organizations have signed so far. To join this global movement to ensure disability inclusive education for all learners, we welcome your organizations to sign the call for action.

#transformingeducation, #allmeansall, #leavenoonebehind, #righttolearn, #inclusiveeducation #doyourhomework #idpwd2022

Inclusive education
Sub-Saharan Africa: Sierra Leone

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