Education is a basic human right that should be guaranteed to all children and adolescents, regardless of their social status, gender, age, ethnicity, race, language, religion, disability, and other characteristics.
Recent estimates suggest that 224 million young people affected by crises are in need of educational support. Given that estimates indicate that 1 in 10 young people have a disability, this suggests that approximately 22.4 million young persons with disabilities may be living in emergencies and crisis-affected settings
Inclusive Education is a process that protects the presence, participation, and achievement of all individuals in equitable learning opportunities. It ensures that education policies, practices, and facilities respect the diversity of all individuals in the classroom context. Exclusion from education can result from discrimination, or from a lack of support to remove barriers and avoid the use of languages, content, or teaching methods that do not benefit all learners. Persons with physical, sensory, psychosocial/ mental, and developmental disabilities are often among the most excluded from education. Inclusive education acknowledges that all individuals can learn and that everyone has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs. Therefore, inclusive education means ensuring that the barriers to participation and learning are removed and that curricula, and teaching and learning materials are adapted, made accessible, and appropriate for all learners, in all their diversity to reach their full potential. In relevant contexts, it can also be referred to as ‘Inclusive education in emergencies’.
Inclusive education is not the same as special education, special needs education, or integration. In an inclusive education system, diverse learners can participate alongside one another in the same classroom. Traditionally, “special education” or “special needs education,” as referred to in some contexts differs from an inclusive education system, in that it relies on segregation or integration rather than inclusion. When special education programs take place in separate classrooms or separate schools, it creates an integrated or segregated approach to education rather than one that is truly inclusive. Applying Universal Design principles in education can ensure that all learners have equitable opportunities to access, participate in, and benefit from teaching and learning processes.
- Education For All as set out in the Dakar Framework for Action, is a global commitment to provide quality education for all children, youth, and adults. That includes those who have disabilities from prior to the disaster or as a result of the natural or man-made disaster. Thus, a rights-based approach to disability-inclusive EiE should be adopted, and disability-inclusion should be mainstreamed into organizational and institutional culture.
- Education in emergencies provides an opportunity to build inclusive education systems from the beginning in situations where education systems have largely or sometimes entirely broken down.
- Inclusive education is “democracy in action”. It offers a chance to rebuild broken societies and bring people together from across divides as they face a common challenge in providing all learners with equitable access to safe and relevant education, as well as instilling a culture of acceptance of difference and diversity.
- Education in emergencies and in crisis-affected contexts arguably requires more focus on ensuring access for persons with disabilities given that natural and man-made disasters cause physical and psychological damage to people. Persons with disabilities are also likely to face increased risks and barriers in terms of access to aid (including food, water, shelter), precisely because they are either unable to physically access distribution points, sanitation facilities, and schools, or because they face barriers to reaching the information about the distribution taking place and the available services.
- Early interventions and the provision of accessible and inclusive teaching and learning materials and reasonable accommodations in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, ensure access, participation and learning achievement of all learners, including those with disabilities.
- Meaningfully engaging communities in education efforts, especially Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) increase local ownership of inclusive education efforts.
- More efforts are needed to strengthen disability-data collection tools and processes that will lead to more informed decision-making across all phases of an emergency.
- Training, supporting teachers’ wellbeing and motivation, including those with disabilities, help them meet their learners’ diverse needs.
This collection was developed with the support of Myriam Jaafar, INEE Inclusive Education Coordinator.