Exclusion of Children With Disabilities on The Rise in Africa

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Children living with disabilities continue to be the most excluded among all groups of children in Africa, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

According to UNICEF, data suggests that between 5 and 10 per cent of all children in Africa grow up with disabilities.

At an event marking this year’s Day of the African Child, UNICEF highlighted that only a small portion of chidren with disabilities are in school and few only have access to inclusive education.

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Students of the New York Institute for Special Education perform at UN Headquarters’ special event, Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development, in observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Today, the UNICEF urges families, communities and governments on Africa to protect children with disabilities from discrimination, violence and neglect.

The agency also stressed the need to provide these children with access to all the services they need to grow up healthy and live up to their potential.

Only 25 out of 55 African countries have not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

which guarantees children with disabilities access to inclusive, quality and free primary and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live.

School enrolment among children with disabilities is much lower than among other children, UNICEF stated.

A 2011 study carried out by the agency in Madagascar found that on average only 11 per cent of children with disabilities attended primary school.

Some African countries introduced national policies or strategies to respond to the needs of children with disabilities. Rwanda for one is one of the countries that invested in specialized education for children with disabilities.

UNICEF is supporting the development of national frameworks for inclusive education in a number of African countries as well. The agency is also supporting interventions for children with disabilities, including through the distribution of textbooks in Braille for children with visual impairment in Zimbabwe.

The Day of the African Child is marked on 16 June each year to honour the memory of school children killed in 1976 during a demonstration in Soweto, South Africa, to protest inferior education by the apartheid administration.

The theme for this year’s observance is “The rights of children with disabilities: The duty to protect, respect, promote and fulfil.”

On September 2011, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said research shows that inclusive education lead to better learning outcomes for children with disabilities. The agency cited that long-term placement in institutions damages children’s health and development.

UNICEF also stressed that inclusive education promotes tolerance and enables social cohesion as it fosters a cohesive social culture and promotes equal participation in society. Inclusive education is more cost effective than separated schooling. It also provides for inclusive labour markets which lead to a more efficient social economy.

Some 1.1 million children with disabilities in Central and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union are hidden away at home or in institutions.

These children are likely to be out of school and among those most vulnerable to neglect, abuse and exploitation, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported.

Eighteen of the 22 countries and entities across the region have signed and 12 have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

A WHO benchmark places the number of children who have disabilities at 2.5 per cent of the population or 2.6 million children in the region, but national statistics record only 1.5 million, most of whom are likely to be out of school. This figure seriously underestimates the scope of the problem and suggests another 1.1 million children are unaccounted for, UNICEF said.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.