The right to education for girls with disability: an experience from Uganda
We all believe that children have the right to safe, inclusive and equitable education. However, disabled girls face many challenges in achieving this right. In Uganda, a number of NGOs currently work to complement efforts by the Government of Uganda in providing inclusive education for girls and boys. I work for Cheshire Services Uganda, a local NGO working with persons with disability. We believe that all children with disabilities have a right to study with their peers in mainstream schools.
In 2013, Cheshire Services Uganda received a grant from DFID, through their Girls Education Challenge Project (GEC). The project aims to support girls from slum areas around Kampala, and homeless street girls with disabilities to enroll and remain in mainstream government primary schools. Teacher training for inclusive education is one of the priority areas in the GEC project, and over 1000 teachers have gain skills in sign language, braille and others relevant areas to build teachers’ ability to support girls in mainstream schools.
Another component of the project is the provision of safe and accessible transportation to and from school. We also provide sanitary pads which helps increase girls’ confidence to manage their menses. Rehabilitation and provision of mobility devices has also helps girls to remain in school.
Amina Namukasa speaking in WILD-Uganda (Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability) training in November 2016.As a young woman with disability, I talked to some young female students with disability about gender specific barriers during a training session for girls with disability in higher education. Amina Namukasa, a 27 year old student from Kyambogo University, spoke about harassment towards girls with disabilities. Remembering a time from when she was in secondary school, Amina spoke about being harassed repeated, which almost made her leave school.
Around the world, girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to gender based violence (GBV), including at school. Not surprisingly, this topic frequently arises in the peer discussions with the female students with disabilities. GBV is a serious hindrance to staying in school. It denies girls’ right to safety, security as well as the right to education. Amina has a message to her peers: take every chance you get in life, despite the challenges you may encounter.
Flavia Jackeline Nyakayisiki, 20 years old, is currently studying for a diploma in Procurement and Logistic management in Makerere University Business school in Kampala.A second young university student, Flavia Jackeline Nyakayisiki, told me about her experience, including the social and physical barriers and a general lack of support. She gave the example of the head teacher in her school refusing to submit her report to Uganda National Examination Board. The head teacher was concerned that Flavia was likely to do poorly on the exam because of she was not able to fully prepare due to her absence after an operation. She believed that the head teacher was more concerned about the reputation of the school, than the rights of children with disability. With the pressure from the local media, the head teacher was forced to allow Flavia to sit for her examinations. This shows that advocacy and media coverage on the issue of disability can make a difference. Now Flavia studies in Makerere University Business School for a diploma in Procurement and Logistic management. In spite of all these challenges, Flavia’s dream is to continue her studies and acquire a degree.
Protecting the rights of girls and boys to quality education is everyone’s responsibility. This is a universal right and includes girls and young women with disability, not only in early education, but also in higher education. We all have role to play. My dream would be that families, communities and schools ensuring girls right to inclusive education.
_____________________________________About the Author Josephine Namirimu is an Administrative Assistant and Mentor for the Girls Education Challenge, a program of Cheshire Services Uganda since 2013. This Program focuses on recruitment and retention of the girls with disabilities from slummed areas into the main stream schools. Josephine has been a disability rights campaigner since 2009, her main focus is Education and Women and accessibility. She is passionate about women and girls at large. She feels complete to use herself as disabled young educated woman to inspire her fellow girls with disabilities in a bid to encourage them to be resilient in order to complete school despite the many challenges due their gender and again their disabilities. She believes in safe and inclusive education system as a better way for co-existence in the world which is so diverse in nature. Josephine has physical disability and uses a wheelchair.