Children with disabilities are among the hardest hit in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many were already at great risk of exclusion from education and learning loss before the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic analysis of available country data by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics reveals that children with disabilities are generally more likely to be out of school than their nondisabled peers. Even if they are in school, children with disabilities are less likely than children without disabilities to complete all levels of education.
UNESCO’s collected data also show that children with disabilities lag behind their peers in foundational reading skills.
For nearly 20 years, the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated every December 3, mobilizing awareness and support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
The 2021 theme, “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post–COVID-19 world,” serves as a reminder of the full potential of persons with disabilities, especially children with disabilities in education, to be involved in all aspects of their local, national and global lives and communities.
In response to COVID-19, the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok), with financial support provided by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), has been implementing the education initiative Accelerated Funding to Strengthen Global Partnership for Education’s Response to COVID-19. This initiative aims to ensure that children with disabilities continue to learn during and after major crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
In full recognition and support of teachers as critically important contributors to the post-pandemic recovery process, one component of this project focuses on developing capacities of both mainstream and special education teachers through a multilingual, online, self-paced course, Responding to Educational Needs of Learners with Disabilities in Emergencies: An Online Teacher Training Course (hereafter, DTeEM). Since September 2021, the teacher capacity-building course has been piloted in collaboration with the Ministries of Education and selected universities and teacher training institutions in Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Timor-Leste.