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Education for disabled in Nepal

Sep 14, 2011

The recent Futures Stolen- Barriers to education for children with disabilities in Nepal report by Human Rights Watch reveals that despite Nepal’s commitment to achieve universal primary education, thousands of disabled children still remain out of school facing discrimination and harassment and are denied right to inclusive education.

Futures Stolen-Barriers to education for children with disabilities in Nepal

Published by: Human Rights Watch

Futures Stolen- Barriers to education for children with disabilities in Nepal report by Human Rights Watch examines the barriers faced by children with disabilities in obtaining an inclusive and quality education.

The Government of Nepal and the United Nations acknowledge that, while Nepal has made important progress toward achieving universal primary education as part of its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), children from marginalized communities, such as children with disabilities, represent a significant portion of the approximately 330,000 primary school aged children who remain out of school in Nepal.

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Based on the governments’ conservative figures from a 2001 analysis, there are atleast 207,000 children with disabilities in the country.

Nepal has ratified a number of international human rights treaties, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which articulates that children with disabilities are entitled to the same rights as other children, including the right to inclusive education.

This means that children with and without disabilities should be able to attend schools in their communities without discrimination. The focus of such a system is to adapt the environment and teaching methods to support the needs of all students.

Although in theory the government promotes an inclusive education policy, in practice, it supports a system of segregated resource classes designated for children with disabilities in mainstream schools and separate schools for deaf, blind and children with physical and intellectual disabilities.

While it takes time to transition from resource classes and special schools to a fully inclusive education system, the government has not done enough to ensure that children with disabilities attend school and that the education system is accessible, appropriate, and of good quality for children with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities.

Some disabled children and their parents told that they were subjected to beating and harassment by teachers, fellow classmates and parents

Furthermore, the governments’ inclusive education policy does not appear to be serious since there is no clear plan for the integration of children with disabilities, particularly intellectual or developmental disabilities, into mainstream schools.

This report is the outcome of interviews carried out between February and July 2011 with nearly 100 disability advocates, teachers, government officials, and children or young people with disabilities and their families in Nepal. 

Low enrollment and higher dropout rates

Officials in the Ministry of Education told Human Rights Watch that children with disabilities have lower enrollment and higher dropout rates than other children. Based on our research, this is due to a lack of awareness of the right to education among parents, inadequately trained teachers, lack of appropriate teaching materials, inaccessibility of and long distance to schools, lack of funds for transportation, and negative parental attitudes about the learning capabilities of their children.

Despite national policies on inclusive and child-friendly schools, the government is failing to make the school environment accessible for children with disabilities, which in many cases effectively denies these children their right to education. In addition to physical abuse, children with all types of disabilities also experience stigma and verbal abuse in the school and the community.

In Nepal and in many other countries, disability and poverty are inextricably linked. Poverty can lead to disability through malnourishment, the inaccessibility of health services, poor sanitation, or unsafe living and working conditions.

Governments’ inclusive education policy does not appear to be serious since there is no clear plan for the integration of children with disabilities, particularly intellectual or developmental disabilities, into mainstream schools.

Of the primary school aged population in Nepal, 93.7% are enrolled in school, totaling nearly five million children. Of all those enrolled in school at the primary level, 1.1% are students with disabilities, totaling 53,681 children.

UNESCO estimates that children with disabilities represent more than one-third of the 67 million children who are out of school worldwide. In some countries, the chances of a child with a disability not attending school are two or three times greater than a child without a disability.

Some children and parents told Human Rights Watch that they were subjected to beating and harassment by teachers, fellow classmates and parents.

Reccommendations:

The HRW report has come up with certain recommendations for the Ministry of Education of Nepal-

•    Work with the National Center for Educational Development to revise the teacher training materials to reflect inclusive education methods and adequate information on children with disabilities and train all teachers, school administrators, caregivers and community development workers on inclusive education methods, including basic sign language.

•    Train and support parents of children with disabilities, including through regular parents’ meetings to exchange information and provide peer support.

•    Work with the Curriculum Development Centre to develop an appropriate curriculum and assessment system for children with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

•    Develop the curriculum for children learning in sign language and Braille.

•    Involve children with disabilities and their parents or family members in consultations and decision-making and monitoring processes.

•    Develop and implement a longer-term inclusive education plan that clarifies the concept of inclusive education in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and outlines steps to integrate children with disabilities, particularly intellectual, developmental or psychosocial disabilities, into mainstream schools.

The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Education, other relevant ministries, and members of Parliament, together with disabled peoples’ organizations and other stakeholders, should comprehensively review all domestic legislation and policies (including the National Policy and Plan of Action on Disability), propose amendments to fully comply with the CRPD, and implement compliance and enforcement mechanisms.

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