Education and Disability

This is a bit different from my usual writing. However, I decided to share it as I had saved it to my drafts on my work email and had sat there for five months without a home. It is based on notes I have made from experiences and courses I have done on disability, education, and low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) sets out the responsibility of states to provide an inclusive education system at all levels. Article 24 states that people with disabilities have the right to education on an equal basis with others and without discrimination. The CRPD committee’s General Comment on inclusive education further articulates the right to education for people with disabilities.

However, learning environments are not always inclusive and safe places. They can be sites of physical, verbal, psychological and sexual violence, and social exclusion. For children and young people who are perceived as ‘different’ and who do not fit into dominant cultures in societies, schools can actually be alienating and marginalising spaces. Moreover, violence in educational settings is a daily reality that denies millions of children and young people the fundamental human right to education.

However, despite global progress in achieving universal access to education, more than half the 65 million children with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries are not in school. They face multiple barriers to receiving an education including inaccessible schools, inaccessible teaching materials, prejudice and discrimination from teachers and bullying from peers. The situation is particularly concerning for girls with disabilities,as they are at an increased risk of violence, which can also lead to families choosing not to send them to school. In conflict settings, the risk of gender-based violence increases for all girls. Leaving them in a cycle of poverty and inequality that extends throughout adulthood.

Globally, we are facing a learning crisis. Not only are children out of school, but once in school, they are failing to learn. Children with disabilities experience lower levels of enrolment, attainment and literacy. The attainment gaps between children with disabilities and children without disabilities are growing, and children with disabilities are being left behind.

© Fi S. J. Brown