On the road to inclusion

03 December 2019

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A boy pushing another boy in a wheelchair at a school in Tanzania.
GPE/Kelley Lynch
A boy pushing another boy in a wheelchair at a school in Tanzania.

As many as 33 million children with disabilities are out of school worldwide. A new report from IIEP-UNESCO reveals common challenges faced in planning for inclusive education and a way forward for getting all children and youth learning together. 

“I lost my sight when I was 16 years old,” recounts Fred Haga, Acting Director of Special Needs Education in Kenya’s Ministry of Education. “At that time, the awareness was quite low, so I had to drop out of school.”

It took seven years for Mr Haga to find a new school that would allow him to finish his education. While this was a difficult time in his life, the experience helped shape who he is today: a pioneer in the global struggle for inclusive education.

Today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December), we celebrate Mr Haga’s story and remind ourselves of the millions of individuals who confront exclusion on a daily basis.

The day also reaffirms inclusive education as a human right and a core element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which urges the international community not to leave anyone behind.

From exclusion to inclusion

However, many challenges persist, including those related to stigma and discrimination, data limitations, and difficulties in locating out-of-school children, as well as insufficient teacher professional development and support. This is reflected in the fact that as many as 33 million children with disabilities are out of school worldwide, according to the Education Commission.

Educational planning and management that embraces a holistic approach plays an important role in fostering inclusive education systems. It also lays the foundation for ensuring that the future is truly accessible to all.

A new report, On the road to inclusion, shares key highlights from two recent round table discussions on disability-inclusive education sector planning, hosted by IIEP-UNESCO and UNICEF.

The report weaves together diverse country examples from 16 national ministries of education and disabled people’s organizations of the common challenges faced in planning for inclusive education. It also highlights best practices and identifies signs of progress in reaching children and youth with disabilities and getting them in school – and learning – in mainstream education establishments. 

The discussions from both round tables will also feed into a forthcoming online training course for staff from ministries of education that will be launched in 2020.

A framework for disability-inclusive educational planning