Inclusive Education as a Trigger of Change

At a high-level discussion hosted by Lord Low of Dalston on Monday 6th June in the River Room at the House of Lords, international experts, activists from the field of global development, inclusive education academics, philanthropists, foundations, government officials and leading NGOs in the field of disability and international development joined forces to discuss how education for ALL children can be achieved – also for children with disabilities in developing countries.

The eve of 6th June also marked the launch of LIGHT FOR THE WORLD, a disability and development organisation in the UK.  Lord Low of Dalston, International Ambassador of LIGHT FOR THE WORLD, Professor Tom Shakespeare, Deputy Chair and Trustee at LIGHT FOR THE WORLD CIO, Yetnebersh Nigussie Molla, Senior Inclusion Advisor and Dr. Caroline Harper OBE, Sightsavers emphasised the urgent need to work together in strong international networks to grant children with disabilities access to education.

“Over 90% percent of children with disabilities in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia are never given the chance to receive an education. Without education, the majority of persons with disabilities in developing countries cannot find employment and will never be able to live independently. Thus, reducing poverty among persons with disabilities and their families means providing quality inclusive education” pointed out Lord Low of Dalston.

Over 30 Million children are out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa and one in three children of primary school age has a disability. Specifically, in developing countries, children with disabilities are often stigmatized, hidden and outcast from society.  “Our core principle must be to leave no one behind and to work towards education for all children – including children with disabilities. Education gives children with disabilities the chance to become productive citizens and future contributors to the development of their country”  urged Yetnebersh Nigussie, Senior Inclusion Advisor at LIGHT FOR THE WORLD and disability activist from Ethiopia.  Yetnebersh, who became blind at the age of five, never succumbed to societal opinions about her capabilities. She overcame the barriers of social exclusion in Ethiopia, by not only finishing school, but also completing her advanced studies and becoming a lawyer.

Professor Tom Shakespeare, Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees of LIGHT FOR THE WORLD CIO and co-author of the ‘World Report on Disability’ (2011) added to her point by saying that, “Many of the world’s billion disabled people are excluded from rights such as healthcare, education and employment. I think that LIGHT FOR THE WORLD, with local partners, can make a real difference, and that’s why I am proud to be a supporter.“ Sightsavers’ Chief Executive, Dr. Caroline Harper highlighted that, “Ensuring access to education for children with disabilities in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will only be possible if we work closely with local Ministries, donors and other NGOs. Global influence and awareness like that built by Muhammad Ali, illustrates first-hand how individuals can make a difference. Ali, who was diagnosed with a form of Parkinson’s Disease in the early 1980’s, devoted himself to humanitarian work including support for education. We urge everyone working in education to collect data to help us monitor whether children with disabilities are being left out – as they have so often been in the past”.

In line with the Sustainable Development Goals and their core principle of leaving no one behind, the Trustees of LIGHT FOR THE WORLD and its Ambassadors call for each stakeholder to lay the foundation towards an inclusive society whereby men and women with disabilities equally enjoy their fundamental freedoms, all human rights, are treated meaningfully and are included in the day-to-day activities of their given community.

Founded in Austria 28 years ago, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD is an international disability and development organization whose vision is an inclusive society where no one is left behind. We strive for accessible eye care services and support inclusive education, empowering persons with disabilities to participate equally in society.

LIGHT FOR THE WORLD proves every day that the inclusion of children with disabilities in schools is possible. Our multi-stakeholder pilot project in Garango in Burkina Faso, is a good example.  Starting in 2009, the percentage of children with disabilities attending school in the project region rose from 4% to 60%. LIGHT FOR THE WORLD works closely together with other development agencies from the UK and across the world to make truly inclusive development a reality.  We look forward to working even more closely together with the international development community in the UK to make sure persons with disabilities are not left behind.

From Left: Dr. Caroline Harper CBE, CEO Sightsavers, Lord Colin Low of Dalston, Politician and Scholar, International Ambassador LIGHT FOR THE WORLD, Baroness Verma, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, Professor Tom Shakespeare, Deputy Chair & Trustee, Professor of Disability Research, University of East Anglia, Ms. Yetnebersh Nigussie Molla, Senior Inclusion Adviser, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD, Mr. Rupert Roniger, CEO LIGHT FOR THE WORLD

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Joy Morozov, Senior Manager International Alliances
Mobile: +44 (0)75 149 79 349 / +43 664 889 296 15
Email: j.morozov [at] light-for-the-world.org