Last week we celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. There is a lot to celebrate around the world as many countries have sound policies in place, which reflect the principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Unfortunately, for a majority of countries, most of these policies remain solely on paper or do not address the serious gaps and bottlenecks with service delivery to ensure all children with disabilities have access to a quality education.
Too few children with disabilities can go to school
A new World Bank and GPE report on Disability Gaps in Educational Attainment and Literacy based on census data from 19 countries, finds that “the gap in primary completion rates between children with and without disabilities has increased over time from a few percentage points a few decades ago to 17.6 points for boys and 15.4 points for girls in the latest available census data.”
While progress has been made in closing the educational participation gaps for children without disabilities, those with disabilities remain at higher risk of being left behind. The schooling deficit experienced by children with disabilities can become the most challenging impediment to earning an income and long-term financial health as adults.
According to the 2011 World Report on Disability, globally there are between 93 and 150 million children with disabilities under the age of 14. In Africa, 6.4%of the children in this age range have moderate to severe disabilities. The true prevalence of disability, however, is uncertain – and is likely to be much higher – in light of poor data collection, especially in conflict-affected settings. Disability in Africa is largely attributable to war and armed conflict, poverty, and inadequate access to health and rehabilitation services.
A new World Bank/USAID partnership to support inclusive education
With fewer than 10%of children with disabilities in Africa attending school, USAID’s Africa Education team and the World Bank launched a new US$3 million Disability-Inclusive Education in Africa Program.
The 3-year program will collect better data on children with disabilities and education, provide technical assistance for building capacity and support demonstrative pilot projects in select African countries, and disseminate knowledge generated globally.
To start, an analytical report on the main economic, social, and system-level structures that impact inclusion and educational participation for children with disabilities will be commissioned as well as a cost-benefit analysis and cost assessments of inclusive education for children with disabilities in Africa.
According Makhtar Diop, World Bank, Vice President, Africa: “The Sustainable Development Goals highlight the necessity of inclusive development – to leave no-one behind. Despite major progress made around the world towards access to education, significant gaps remain in ensuring that children with disabilities have access to school, stay in school, and achieve quality learning outcomes that prepare them for further educational growth and success. This program will help put these children where they belong – in school.”
This program will complement and further strengthen the work that is being done by USAID and the World Bank by providing better data and evidence-based solutions for designing education programs that are inclusive of all children, including children with disabilities.