19 May No Assumptions, Please!
Leave no one behind in education
In today’s blog post I wanted to share some things I have learnt through a UN brief and video about education for girls with disabilities. I also had the chance to contribute to the video through the Commonwealth Children and Youth Disability Network (CCYDN). I showed the books I’ve written to show that’s what education means to me.
Although I’m doing my degree in Performing Arts part time at MCAST, for 6 months I was trapped inside just doing online lectures because I was more vulnerable and didn’t have to go in for lectures. Even though I’ve now started going in once a week to help out with a performance that my classmates are doing, I still spend the majority of my time at home. Being an only child only makes things worse especially when my parents are working so I end up retreating into my stories and spending far too much time on my computer.
I also understand what my friends who are in sixth form are saying about not being able to go into school. But if you look at what is happening to children and youths with disabilities and what they must go through for their education especially for girls in some countries, then it really makes me wonder. Luckily in Malta as in other developed countries the situation is not like this.
Shocking facts from the report:
• Only 10% of children with disabilities in developing countries go to school.
• Just 1% of women worldwide with disabilities can read and write.
• Children with disabilities are less likely than their peers without disabilities to complete all levels of education.
What does the law or UN say?
Every child has the right to a good education. Education is a basic human right, which has been put into practise in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. All children, no matter what gender, race, class, disabilities, or whether they are refugees should have equal opportunities and resources to learn.
Why is this happening?
During the pandemic the situation has become worse. Education has been interrupted for many children, but especially girls with disabilities. In quite a lot of countries girls are not allowed to use the internet and technology, as their parents fear online sexual harassment and violence and non-supervised interaction with boys.
Sometimes people with disabilities may not have access to a mobile phone and use the internet. This means many children with disabilities are left unable to access remote learning tools. In particular, girls with disabilities living in villages and households that have very limited internet are at greater risk of being left behind through the pandemic, due to a lack of support for online learning.
Girls with disabilities can experience gender-based violence and may face communication and cultural barriers. Because of this risk of violence, parents do not know if they should send their daughters to school at all. Even though this is coming from safety concerns, this can also lead to girls being isolated and be left out from opportunities to learn, gain their independence, and actively participate in society. These gender related barriers are rarely addressed by inclusive education policies.
Girls with disabilities are less likely to ask for assistance than the boys. Sometimes there are no clean toilets available and it can be difficult for girls to manage their menstruation hygiene with safety and dignity. In many countries, girls with disabilities are often excluded from sexual and reproductive health and rights education altogether. This can also lead to girls missing schools or even keeping away during their period.
School can choose to practice or remove the harmful stereotypes and attitudes towards children with disabilities that exist in wider societies. Stigma and discrimination around the abilities and the potential of girls with disabilities can be held by peers, parents, and teachers. This happens because of the assumption that they are not worthy of an education. The teachers and the support staff sometimes don’t have the skills they need or the training to use teaching techniques that are inclusive.
What can we do?
This is what I learnt from a Capacity Development masterclass I did with CCYDN last year on Gender Equality for Young Women and girls with disabilities:
• We should be speaking up and fighting more for the rights of children and youth with disabilities, especially girls and young women.
• We need to get the girls to practise self-advocacy in getting their story out more.
• Help them to branch out to more support platforms like how we have some groups on Facebook which are just for girls and women.
• There needs to be more connections and opportunities for women and girls with disabilities like scholarships and jobs.
• We need to educate more people in and not in authority more about this.
• In big countries, we also have to make sure to consider those girls and women with disabilities from rural areas.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) main goal is to ‘Leave no one behind’. So let’s all do our part and make education as inclusive as possible.
UN Girls’ Education Initiative Advocacy brief: Leave No Girls With Disabilities Behind
Advocacy video with self-advocates: Girls with disabilities have an equal right to education
Commonwealth Children and Youth Disability Network (CCYDN): Include Me TOO CCYDN