4 December 2013

Africa: Poor Disabled Children 10 Times Less Likely to Go to School Than Peers - NGO

London — Poor children with disabilities in developing nations are 10 times less likely to go to school than children without disabilities, and often suffer discrimination - leaving them less educated and in poorer health, according to a report released on Tuesday by children's rights organisation Plan International.

The 272-page report - produced in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - examined Plan's vast pool of 1.4 million sponsored children across 30 countries in South America, Asia and Africa, and compares sponsored children with a disability to sponsored children without.

The analysis found that disabled children in Kenya were the least likely to go to school, and indicates that children are being excluded as a result of their disability, rather than lack of access to education. This is evident in Egypt, where 80 percent of children with disabilities say they do not go to school "because they have an impairment".

Within most countries, disabled children with a vision or hearing impairment have the highest inclusion rates, while children with a learning, physical or communication impairment were less able to access school.

Disabled children are also considerably more likely to have suffered a serious illness including malnutrition in the last 12 months, compared to children without disabilities.

"In all likelihood, the serious illness may be related both to the disability", the report said, citing the example of children with hearing impairment with ongoing ear problems. The illness could also be due to "the higher vulnerability of children with a disability to serious illness", it said, noting that children with disabilities may be more likely to experience malnutrition because of difficulties in feeding.

"There are around 150 million children with disabilities in the world today and they face many barriers and are discriminated (against) when it comes to inclusion and participation," Iva Tanku, disability inclusion advisor at Plan International, said in a news release.

"These factors may influence future employment opportunities, social opportunities and their overall quality of life, including the likelihood of experiencing poverty," she said in the statement. "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."

From the findings of the study, Plan concluded that more efforts are needed to promote the inclusion of sponsored children with disabilities in education, and to meet their health needs.

It also said that more research was needed to determine why children with disabilities are not attending formal education and why they report high rates of illness, while noting that other studies have shown that children with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to violence, neglect and abuse, as a result of exclusion and discrimination. - Thomson Reuters Foundation

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