Children with disabilities held back from education

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Children in India helping a disabled class mate get to school

3 December 2013: Children with disabilities are being denied an education across the developing world, reveals a new report by child rights organisation, Plan International.

Groundbreaking report

The groundbreaking report, Include Us!, was produced in collaboration with London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and is based upon Plan’s dataset of 1.4 million sponsored children. The report compares sponsored children with a disability to sponsored children without, from 30  countries throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia.

This unique piece of research found that children with disabilities are less likely to attend school than children without disabilities. In fact, the likelihood that a child with a disability did not attend school was often over ten times greater - with disabled boys and girls in Kenya the least likely to go to school.

Children being excluded

From the analysis, it would seem that these children are being excluded as a result of their disability, rather than lack of access to education in general. This is particularly prevalent in Egypt, where 80% of children with disabilities cited this as a reason for not attending school.

Moreover, when children with disabilities do access education they often fall behind their peers.

The report also found that within the countries researched, inclusion rates for children with disabilities are highest for those with vision or hearing impairments, and lowest for those with learning, physical or communication impairments. This suggests the level of exclusion faced by children with a disability is linked to the type of impairment.

Children with disabilities are also more likely to have experienced a serious illness in the last 12 months, including malaria and malnutrition, than children without disabilities.

Less medical care

While most children with disabilities and without did seek and receive treatment, in some instances, the report found children with disabilities were less likely to have received treatment for their illness.

For example, in Indonesia, the findings indicate that treatment is deemed “too expensive” or they did not receive treatment because there was “no transport” available. It was further reported that boys with a disability were more likely to receive hospital treatment than girls in Indonesia.

According to Plan’s Disability Inclusion Advisor, Iva Tanku:

“There are around 150 million children with disabilities in the world today and they face many barriers and are discriminated when it comes to inclusion and participation. Poor health and lack of school attendance are just two of the outcomes. When combined, they will likely have a long-lasting impact on the life of the children, especially those with disabilities.

“These factors may influence future employment opportunities, social opportunities and their overall quality of life, including the likelihood of experiencing poverty.

“It is essential children with disabilities are provided with the same opportunity as those without to ensure they have the best start to life possible.”

This unique research proves that Plan’s sponsorship data is a valuable resource that can inform the organisation’s programme work and provide a platform to explore why children with disabilities are not attending formal education and why they are facing high rates of illness.

According to Dr Hannah Kuper, Director at the International Centre for Evidence in Disability at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine:

“The child sponsorship database is a unique and fantastic resource. It provides internationally comparable data of more than a million children across 49  countries, and includes detailed information about their lives.

“This information can be used to fill many existing knowledge gaps and help Plan and other organisations to better target the needs of children in resource-poor settings in order to improve their lives and their futures.”

Read report:

For copies of the report, Include Us!, or case studies, please contact:

HQ: Angela Singh, Press Officer  
Mobile: + 44 (0) 7739 326164
Skype: angelasingh24

About Plan:
Founded 76 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world.  We work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.

About London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine:
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with 3,500 students and more than 1,000 staff working in over 100 countries. The School is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, and was recently cited as one of the world’s top universities for collaborative research. The School's mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice.

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