Every third child of primary school age without access to education has a disability

LIGHT FOR THE WORLD alerts: children with disabilities who are excluded from education are confined to a future of poverty and isolation. In order to break the cycle of poverty, the disability and development organization LIGHT FOR THE WORLD sup-ports global efforts to ensure education for every child.

From April 24 to April 30, the GLOBAL ACTION WEEK, created by the international educational movement ‘Global Campaign for Education’ (GCE), raises awareness about the urgent need for universal quality education. LIGHT FOR THE WORLD – a GCE partner – emphasizes that 150 million children worldwide live with a disability. Eighty percent of them live in developing countries and 9 out of 10 never have the chance to get an education.
Children with disabilities in developing countries are often excluded from society due to physical, attitudinal, systematic or communication barriers. The majority of disabled children remains at home, shut away, with no hope for a real childhood or a self-determined future. “Being excluded from education is devastating for these children. They lose a crucial opportunity to make friends, develop their talents, acquire knowledge and realize their full potential. Along with that, their wider community suffers too,” states Benjamin Bach, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD Inclusive Education Program Coordinator. Education is the first step out of poverty and towards an active participation in society. Education gives children with disabilities the chance to become productive citizens and future contributors to the development of their country.

Learning together has lots of positive effects

“LIGHT FOR THE WORLD supports children with disabilities in more than 20 Inclusive Education programs where they learn together with kids without disabilities,” explains Benjamin Bach. These programs demonstrate the success of Inclusive Education, even in remote and underprivileged regions and communities. For example, since 2009, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD has supported an Inclusive Education program in the region of Garango in Burkina Faso, involving several stakeholders and the Ministry of Education. The program strategy includes awareness-raising for disabilities, trainings for teachers on Inclusive Education, adaptations to make school buildings more accessible as well as medical support for children with disabilities. Moreover, adequate curricula and learning materials are being provided. The program has been a resounding success thus far. “Prior to the program’s inception, only 5% to 6% of children with disabilities had access to education. Now, more than 60% of all children with disabilities in the region attend school,” Benjamin Bach emphasizes. Due to its huge success, the program will soon be extended to other regions of the country.

The impact for each individual child is huge: Elie Bagbila, Country Representative of LIGHT FOR THE WORLD Burkina Faso, tells the story of Roukiatou, who was born with deformed, crossed legs and had great difficulty walking: “Going to school and playing with other children was impossible for the girl. The fieldworker organized surgery for her legs.” He showed the girls’ parents how to improve her mobility with physiotherapy exercises and helped build parallel bars so she could practice standing and walking. Today, Roukiatou walks with a colorful pair of crutches. “Most importantly, she is very much enjoying going to school. Now she is receiving an education, has made new friends and has the chance, one day, to lead an independent life”, emphasizes Bagbila. Apart from the individual impact, learning together has lots of other positive social effects as prejudices and negative attitudes are reduced. “Children, who learn together, learn to live to-gether,” explains Bach. That way, Inclusive Education fosters tolerance and strengthens social cohesion within a society. Last but not least, Inclusive Education promotes active citizenship and democracy.