Take Action for Children with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities Statement by Education Cannot Wait Executive Director Yasmine Sherif

NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Children with disabilities have an undisputed right to an inclusive quality education. We will never achieve true equality – nor the overarching goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – if they are left behind.

While we are taking important strides in reaching these girls and boys with the opportunity and hope that a quality education provides, we must take action by providing more financial resources, more inclusive policies and more access to learning for children and adolescents living with disabilities – especially for those impacted by crises.

For far too long, these girls and boys have remained in the shadows, despite approximately one in six of us experiencing a significant disability. Children and adolescents with disabilities suffer extreme hardship in violent conflict and climate crises, in refugee camps and displacement centres. They are more vulnerable than the majority of the world’s children.

Compared to children without disabilities, children with disabilities are: 49% more likely to have never attended school; 47% more likely to be out of primary school; 42% less likely to have foundational reading and numeracy skills; and 33% more likely to be out of lower secondary school, according to UNICEF.

Children with disabilities are not just disproportionally excluded from school and denied their right to a quality education, but they are also often denied equitable opportunities to make economic and social contributions to their communities.

Building on commitments made at the ‘Transforming Education Summit Call to Action on Disability Inclusive Education’ and the ‘Global Disability Summit 2022’, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) takes concrete action to ensure inclusive, accessible education for all.

Guided by our Policy and Accountability Framework on Disability Inclusion, ECW ensures that at least 5% of our funding goes to support the equitable access, participation and achievement of persons with disabilities. We have high standards to systematically improve results for children with disabilities.

And we apply a twin-track approach to simultaneously mainstream disability inclusion and use targeted interventions across our funding windows to support their inclusion. ECW investments have already reached over 100,000 children and adolescents with disabilities.

In 2022 alone, our funding provided 65,000 children with disabilities access to essential learning and support materials, as well as devices such as hearing aids, glasses, Braille typewriters, sign language interpretation, long canes, wheelchairs and materials printed in large font. Because inclusion starts in the classroom, we have supported over 14,000 teachers with inclusive education training.

In Colombia, this means refugee girls with disabilities like Sammy are able to go to school, in South Sudan, this means a wheelchair for Achol Mary, and in Syria, this means a chance for girls like Kawthar, who has stunted growth, to go to school for the first time.  

The road of inclusion and equity is a process, not a destination. As we commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, join us in calling on public and private sector donors to make financial commitments to ensure no child is left behind.  

With an additional US$1.5 billion in funding, ECW will be able to significantly scale-up our life-saving and sustainable multi-year investments in education. With financial resources, we can and will deliver on our promise of reaching more children with disabilities like Sammy, Achol Mary and Kawthar. They deserve no less.

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