#SeePossibility: Five factors for building inclusive education for girls
Looking back over this week’s #SeePossibility campaign, five issues jump out as key to making inclusive education a reality, especially for girls with disability.
1. Target gender based violence: Adolescent girls with disabilities are the most vulnerable to school-related gender-based violence such as bullying, harassment and physical and sexual violence. In institutions, in school toilets, on the way to school, at the hands of peers and teachers, gender based violence was a refrain by all the bloggers as common feature of girls’ lives. For girls with disabilities to attend school, remain in school and learn, we must address gender based violence as a first step. It is a matter of human rights as well as education rights.
2. Invest where it counts: The cost of exclusion from education is significant – for the individual and country – with countries losing billions of dollars of potential income when persons with disabilities are not educated or working. However, inclusive education is consistently underfunded. The newly released report, #CostingEquity: The case for disability-responsive education financing, tells us that in spite of emerging commitments by donors, most donor aid does not include amounts earmarked for disability or inclusive approaches. DFID sets a great example of investing in girls with disability through the new funding window of the Girls’ Education Challenge Fund, “Leave no girl behind”. This second phase of the GECF, has pledged to invest an additional 100 million (L) to get the hardest to reach girls into school and learning, including a particular focus on girls with disability.
3. Make teaching and learning materials inclusive: Current reviews highlight the fact that in most countries learning materials fail to represent persons with disabilities at all, or do not provide a positive portrayal of girls and boys with these challenges. In the newly released policy brief, ‘Textbooks pave the way to sustainable development’, UNESCO reports that only 9% of textbooks show people living with disabilities. This is an inaccurate portrayal of society given that across the globe 15% of the world’s population has a disability. Girls with disability need to recognize themselves in classroom material; all children need to see children with disability actively participating in school activities as well as daily lives.
4. No more ‘special’ schools: In far too many countries, girls and boys with disability – when they have access to school – continue to be separated from their peers. By contrast, child-friendly, inclusive education brings better social, academic, health and economic outcomes for all learners, and at less cost than special/segregated education. Nora Fyles, Head of United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative emphasizes “We should have the same goals and aspirations for girls with disability’ states Nora Fyles, Head of Secretariat for UNGEI. “Our vision is a world where all girls complete free primary and secondary education with the skills, knowledge and opportunities to lead a productive and fulfilling life.’
5. Nothing about us without us: Girls’ with disability are the richest source of information about their needs, their experience in school and their ambition. Meaningful engagement of girls with disability in the design of education programs will help ensure that school are relevant, safe and suitable.