“Disabled People in Developing Countries Are the Poorest of the Poor”
A welcome encouragement from the U.K. Parliament on the importance of inclusivity in development
“Disabled people in developing countries are the poorest of the poor: if we are serious about tackling extreme poverty, our development work has to target them.” - Sir Malcolm Bruce, U.K. Parliament. That is precisely the imperative we figure into our work to ensure all children around the globe get a good quality education.
April 15, 2014 by Alice Albright, Global Partnership for Education|
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“Disabled people in developing countries are the poorest of the poor: if we are serious about tackling extreme poverty, our development work has to target them.”

That is how Sir Malcolm Bruce summed up a new report by the International Development Committee he chairs in the U.K. Parliament. And it is precisely the imperative we at the Global Partnership for Education figure into our work to ensure all children around the globe get a good quality education.

The scale of the challenge is enormous. As the new Parliamentary report notes, “Around one billion people—or 15% of the world’s population—are disabled. People with disabilities are often the poorest of the poor. They are stigmatized and face discrimination in many forms—from a lack of access to basic services, to violence and abuse.”

Supporting the Parliamentary Inquiry of Inclusivity in Development

With that in mind, earlier this year the Global Partnership shared with the Parliamentary Inquiry leading up to the new report that our 2012 to 2015 Strategic Plan commits to supporting children who are the most marginalized, including children with disabilities. In my meeting with Sir Malcolm Bruce I explained that the Global Partnership for Education will continue to evaluate how well our developing country partners address the needs of children with disabilities. We are poised to help our partners build inclusivity into their education sector plans.

We are also committed to building a better understanding in partner developing countries of what true inclusivity requires.

The Global Partnership will promote clear and concrete quality standards on safe and supportive learning environments for children with disabilities; analyze data to tease out the most valuable and actionable insights about how to meet the learning needs of students with disabilities; and share innovative approaches teachers can use to improve learning outcomes for marginalized children, in particular children with disabilities.

How the Global Partnership for Education supports inclusive education

Where necessary – through its policy dialogue and its grant-making capability – the Global Partnership will continue to encourage efforts to ensure children with special needs secure their right to education.  As an example, between 2008 and 2012, the Global Partnership awarded a grant of $57.4 million to Cambodia’s Ministry of Education and Youth to conduct a survey on the needs of marginalized and disabled children excluded from education. In Moldova, a GPE grant of $4.4 million for the period 2012 to 2014 aims to improve access, quality and inclusiveness of preschool education.

Also, a GPE Global and Regional Activities grant of $3 million for the period 2014 to 2015 will help develop crucial policies and hence improve the management of moderate disabilities of school-age children through school-based health interventions to ensure children, especially girls, complete primary education.

As part of the data revolution we are fostering, we have developed a “Data Strategy for Improved Education Sector Planning and Implementation” in part to address how to fill data gaps about children with disabilities in GPE countries along with other data requirements.

The way forward

As Margarita Focas Licht, GPE regional lead for Eastern and Southern Africa will discuss in a subsequent blog post here, the development community has long been seriously grappling with how best to address the challenge of inclusivity. In 1994 representatives of 92 governments and 25 international organizations met in Salamanca, Spain, for the groundbreaking World Conference on Special Needs Education. Since then, however, precious few developing countries have been able to get beyond policy to implement large-scale programs that truly provide education opportunities to the children who are excluded.

That’s all the more reason why the new report from the U.K. Parliament’s International Development Committee is so important. It strongly encourages its own development agency, DFID, and other development initiatives, like the Global Partnership for Education, to redouble our efforts to address this important challenge.  

It’s a welcome message and one that we at the Global Partnership address with urgency and the powerful tools we have at our disposal.

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