Radwan: “My school said ‘We don’t want wheelchairs any more’”

1Almost every country around the world has ratified the right to education, but yet many schools either refuse to enrol children with disabilities or are ill-equipped to cope with their needs.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch which looked at Lebanon is a case in point where, as in many other countries, children either end up in institutions, which are not supposed to provide an education, or they don’t go to school at all.

Radwan is an 8 year old in Lebanon who is in a wheelchair. “My old school said we don’t want wheelchairs any more,” he said. “All summer mom was looking for a new school. They all told her “we don’t accept wheelchairs.””

These problems are obviously not confined to Lebanon, as many previous GEM Reports have shown, and as the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion and education will expand upon. A lack of appropriate education for children living with disabilities in many countries leads to children dropping out. The 2015 GEM Report presented analysis from 51 countries that found a 10 percentage point gap in primary completion rates between those living with a disability and those not.


Often, when children are allowed to enrol in school, they end up in institutions where, as demonstrated in the picture on the right by Human Rights Watch in Serbia, the quality of education provided and conditions in these institutions are far from good. In multiple countries, such special schools are often chronically underfunded and lack either skilled teaching staff or the equipment needed to deliver a good education.

In addition, because the institutions are far from their homes, children often end up sleeping in them, separating them from their families for long stretches of time. This separation is detrimental to their development and potential; integrating them into existing public schools, meanwhile, can break down the segregation that reinforces stereotypes and entrenches their marginalization.

graph 2016Children with severe disabilities may still require highly specialized support. While the majority of countries have begun transitioning to the social model of disability and inclusive education, some still favour segregation. The 2016 GEM Report, for instance, showed that more than 40% of students with special educational needs across 30 education systems in Europe were in special schools, but the share was more than 80% in Belgium and Germany and almost zero in Italy and Norway.

The consultation for the 2020 GEM Report is currently underway. We would like to invite all readers to help by recommending interesting examples of policies and practices from around the world that highlight how inclusive education policies look like in different countries and how inclusive education is implemented in schools and classrooms.


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