- September 30, 2019

The 2nd meeting of the Task Team on Inclusive Education of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) was held in Kathmandu, Nepal from 11-14 March 2019.  This followed the first meeting held in London in March 2018; and a stock report on the state of play of education in general, and in particular for children with disabilities. At the first meeting, it was decided that the Task Team would focus on access and equity in order to address both the schooling and learning crises facing children with disabilities. Leading up to the Kathmandu workshop, a desk top review was undertaken to gather data on the education sector in Nepal and on the access to education for children with disabilities.

The objectives of the 2nd technical workshop were:

  1. Establish parameters for policy scenarios leading to the realisation of quality, inclusive education for all children with disabilities, including priorities and next best alternatives
  2. Review Nepal’s situation with regards to access to the quality inclusive education for all children with disabilities, take stock of the existing data and identify gaps for further data collection
  3. Explore possible policy scenarios for Nepal including through interactions with a broader range of stakeholders, including Nepalese DPOs, INGOs and representatives of the working group involved in the review of the Nepal School Sector Development Plan 2016-2023

In preparation for this workshop, IDA members were requested to prepare a short description of their desired outcomes for achievement of SDG 4 in compliance with the CRPD by 2030; and considering that resources may not be always sufficient to achieve these, what would be at least a next best alternative in terms of outcomes and ways or approaches to achieve this desired outcome.

Policy parameters and issue for discussion
On the first day of the workshop, Task Team members discussed the policy parameters for achieving SDG 4 in compliance with the CRPD. There was agreement on the following issues:

  • Building an inclusive education system was the only way to respond to both the learning and schooling crises and ensure that all children whoever they are and wherever they are – are positively impacted by education systems, policies and programmes by 2030.
  • There will be however a diversity of pathways depending on the country context(s).
  • There was a clear agreement that zero rejection policies and mere placement in mainstream schools do not constitute inclusion or inclusive education.

In order to frame the overall discussion the following policy scenarios were defined. Primary among them was that since both SDGs and CRPD imply universality, all policy scenarios considered should positively impact all children, including children with disabilities whoever and wherever they are, to ensure that no child is left behind. Additionally, all efforts towards achieving SDG 4 should be compliant with the CRPD, meaning a dual duty for Immediate and continuous improvement of non-discrimination enforcement, including the provision of reasonable accommodation; and progressive realisation of the transformation of the entire education system towards full and effective inclusion, with comprehensive accessibility and individualised support. It is reiterated that non-discrimination and zero rejection policies, including duty to provide reasonable accommodation are necessary but are only one of the critical components leading to an effective and inclusive education.

It was also agreed that all schools must be under one education system, that there should be cross-sectoral attention and interventions (such as accessibility, early intervention, etc.), and that sign language is recognised as an official language of instruction, along with the recognition of diversity of required mode of communication are critical elements

Other important parameters included the agreement that advocacy of any disability constituency should not undermine the advocacy of any other constituency.

Discussion on Special Schools
After intensive discussion, it was agreed by all members that in an inclusive education system, there is no role for special schools[1]. However, there was an acknowledgement of the fact that inclusive boarding schools such as deaf bilingual schools have an important role to play. But the term ‘special school’ leads to confusion and can be detrimental to the advocacy towards a truly  inclusive system.  This understanding was further strengthened by discussions with national groups representing persons with deafblindness.

Vision for 2030
Based on the discussion, the Task Team agreed on the following vision:

  • All boys and girls with disabilities are learning with other kids of their community in regular classes and all kids receive the support they need from preschool to tertiary education and vocational, in inclusive and accessible schools in their preferred official language of instructions.
  • Some children with and without disability may require access to inclusive boarding school among other reason to benefit from quality bilingual education, including sign language, with peers using similar language and cultural references, and/or acquiring specific skills and knowledge for which the schools of their community/village/town are not yet equipped for. Specific knowledge available and languages in those settings should be progressively made available in the entire education system.
  • The overall system is geared to foster equity, quality and inclusion (eg., non-discrimination, reasonable accommodation, support services, teacher training, etc.)

The Task Team agreed to present this vision and the policy parameters to representatives with Nepalese DPOs and representatives from IDDC members. 

Discussion with DPOs from Nepal
The desk top review of the status of children with disabilities in Nepal conducted in the run up to the 2nd workshop was presented and potential data gaps were identified. It was agreed that this baseline report would be strengthened by working with a local researcher. The Task Team had joint sessions with DPOs from Nepal, including members of IDA members, and representatives of IDDC members (HI, CBM, LCD).

The following key questions formed the basis for discussions: 

  1. What does the achievement of SDG 4 by 2030 in compliance with the CRPD for all children with disabilities ideally look like?
  2. Considering the current situation, what would be required to fully realise SDG 4 in line with CRPD for all children disabilities in Nepal by 2030?
  3. In the event, that current and future resources constraints prevent such achievement:
    1. What is the best set of outcomes that can be achieved with regards to realisation of SDG 4 in line with CRPD for all children disabilities Nepal by 2030?
    2. What are the required steps to achieve such outcomes?

The Nepalese DPOs and INGO representative  members presented  on their current work on inclusive education. These presentations highlighted the unique challenges that children with disabilities face in Nepal, including geographical challenges which has led to boarding schools for children becoming a preferred option in many regions. Erstwhile special schools have been turned into ‘resource classrooms’ but have not been instrumental in supporting an inclusive set up, rather they have raised concerns that they do not really contribute towards inclusion. Overall lack of resources for the education system further aggravates the situation. There was an overall consensus about the failure of resource classroom, however, it was evident that the lack of a vision for Article 24 and pathways to achieve that has led to very siloed approach towards inclusive education. The phasing out of special schools triggered intensive discussions, particularly from the deaf participants. It was agreed that the process and time for phasing out special schools would be critical to ensure that there is no loss in level of knowledge and expertise, and the availability of the quality and attention required by certain groups.  Discussions revealed the critical need for a consensus vision on SDG 4 to inform national interventions and advocacy to make inclusive education a reality. As part of the session national DPOs also discussed their vision for education by 2030.

On the last day, representative of the DFID country office and the UNICEF country office presented on some ongoing work on education. Nepal has made several commitments at the Global Disability Summit a and there is a major focus to revise the School Sector Development Plan. There is a Equity, Access and Inclusive Education Task Group being led by UNICEF, with DPO membership. This increased focus on education also reaffirmed the need to develop a vision and a consensus position on Article 24. At the end of the workshop, it was decided that the Task Team would meet again in July in Brighton to finalise the consensus position.

[1] In London, it was agreed that special schools usually cater to one specific or a few groups of learners with disabilities, are day or residential, and in most cases there is little or no involvement of children without disabilities.

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Category: Right to Education