Between 93 million and 150 million children are estimated to live with disabilities. Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized and excluded groups of children, and are often ‘invisible’ due to high levels of stigma, poverty and vulnerability. Disability has a greater impact on access to education than gender, household economic status, or rural/urban divide.
Inadequate learning environment
Conflict or crisis
Negative attitudes towards children with disabilities can see their education needs neglected or valued less by families, schools, and governments, who may not believe in these children’s future potential.
Systemic and school based barriers such as untrained teachers, inaccessible school infrastructure, and materials discourage or prevent children with disabilities from attending school and learning basic skills.
Children with disabilities experience extremely high levels of violence in school, compared to those without disabilities. Eighty-four percent of children with disabilities questioned in Uganda experienced some form of violence at school in the previous week.
Children with disabilities are also often overlooked in humanitarian action, as resources and services are rarely inclusive or accessible in the midst of an emergency.
Approximately one third of out-of-school-children at the primary level have disabilities, and children with disabilities are up to five and a half times more likely to be out of school than those with no disabilities. In one study, in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, fewer than five percent of children with disabilities are enrolled in primary school. Even when children with disabilities are enrolled in school, they are often excluded from learning as the curriculum has not been adapted to their needs or teachers do not have the time or capacity to provide individualized support and learning assistance.
National economic growth
Educating children with disabilities increase their potential productivity and economic opportunities, but it also reduces future welfare costs and dependence on families and government resources.
Low- and middle-income countries that do not adequately educate or employ persons with disabilities lose between five to seven percent of their annual GDP annually. Educating children with disabilities will help them become productive members of society and release family carers to engage in income-generating activities, contributing to the economy.
Inclusive education, where all children learn together, regardless of differences, leads to benefits for all children, leading to reduction of out-of-school populations, improvement of transitions between primary and secondary school, and generally help to tackle discrimination.
Welcoming children with disabilities into school allows them to interact with their peers and build friendships, as well as equipping them with the skills to seek employment, support their families, and become a valued part of their communities.
Children with disabilities have the same right to education as any other child. They also have the same hopes and dreams, and potential to live a good and productive life. As with all children, education is the key to unlocking that potential.