This shocking statistic shows why more must be done for disabled people

There is a staggering statistic in The African Report on Children with Disabilities that shows that there is a lot of work to be done to create an inclusive society.

In Chapter Six, the report highlights that only two percent of disabled young people in Africa attend school and fewer than ten percent receive any form of education. Why is this? There is an extensive list of reasons provided that answer that question but none of them is acceptable. 

According to the report:

"Many parents, teachers, school administrators, and policymakers have the false perception that children with disabilities cannot be educated."

As we know, negative attitudes are the greatest barrier to disabled young people. Due to the stigma, disabled children are often isolated and unknown to local authorities and schools. In addition, many individuals do not feel disabled children are worthy of an education. 

The report illustrates that there is a number of other barriers in place preventing the participation of disabled young people. For example, the vast majority of schools are inaccessible - the buildings do not have ramps, hand rails, Braille signs or buttons and they have inadequate support for those with audio impairments. Also, there are not enough trained teachers, while negative traditional attitudes about disability often result in schools expelling students with impairments. 

Nonetheless,  The African Report on Children with Disabilities does show that some improvements are being made:

"Some countries – such as South Africa, Kenya and Burundi – have Constitutional provisions to ensure the right to education of children with disabilities. 

And the Republic of South Africa prepared a comprehensive plan for inclusive education"

At Disability Africa, we have programmes in place to encourage non-disabled children to find and support disabled children that were unknown to the education authorities. As we explained in a previous article:

"Our team in The Gambia are piloting another innovative but simple solution. We are establishing ‘inclusion clubs’ in schools. The aim is to inspire non-disabled students to help us locate their disabled peers; who are absent in the classroom, isolated in their own homes, and unknown to education and health care providers, usually due to the stigma that surrounds disability in Africa. Extended families in The Gambia typically live together, in the close proximity of walled ‘compounds’ of houses. We aim to harness children’s free access to their whole communities, their natural inquisitiveness and absence of strongly engrained prejudice often found in adults. Children can enter any compound and are welcomed, often invited to eat with families that are not their own and even sleep over - they know their communities like the backs of their hands. Finding, registering and helping a disabled child to attend school will be encouraged by the school curriculum. The children may even conduct a formal survey project of disabled children in their community. Once attending school disabled children will be supported by non-disabled peers in the classroom. We are certain that this low-cost, child to child approach will deliver remarkable results from which everybody will benefit."

Moreover, our work with parents of disabled young people and the local community is helping to challenge negative beliefs and consequently reducing the stigma around disability. This work ensures that the Rights of disabled people are on the agenda and not forgotten, as they all too often have been.

We know that changing hearts and minds will not happen overnight. We also know that to go from two percent, of disabled young people attending schools, to a hundred percent will take some time. Yet as Nelson Mandela once said, "it always seems impossible until it's done" - we agree!