By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Governments of Nigeria have been urged to ensure that children with disabilities are not left out of upcoming global education commitments.
Nigeria has the greatest number of children out of school in the world – approximately 10 million. Most of these children are not in school because of barriers relating to poverty, gender and disability, and their situation has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A letter from campaigners, including Sightsavers Nigeria and several organisations of persons with disabilities, has been sent to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
It urged Federal Government to make clear policy commitments for children with disabilities ahead of the Global Education Summit in London this 28-29 July.
Sightsavers’ Country Director for Nigeria, Dr Sunday Isiyaku, said: “Ahead of the Global Education Summit, I would like to advocate to the government of Nigeria and civil society organizations to make a strong policy commitment towards social inclusion, specifically on inclusive education.
“Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, thus, we need strong commitment on policy change and more funding to ensure all learners with disabilities have access to equitable, quality and accessible learning environment”.
At the summit, global leaders are expected to make five-year pledges to fund the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). This Summit has the potential to transform the lives of millions of children.
Zaliha, a student with a disability, explained what inclusive education means to her: “At school I meet new friends and I learn new things, so I know what life is about. If I would have stayed home without going to school, I wouldn’t have known these things.
“I am calling on the government to help us because there are many girls with disabilities, like me, who would love to be in school, but their parents can’t afford tuition.”
In recent years the government has made slight significant investments to make Nigeria’s education system more inclusive and accessible, but more needs to be done to reach children with disabilities, particularly girls, who are being left behind.
Alongside the opportunity for Nigeria to support the joint Heads of States and Government statement led by co-host, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and make the required financial commitment to the GPE, there is also an opportunity for all countries to make additional policy commitments by Friday 30, July.
To support Sightsavers’ letter, Programme and Administration Manager at Hope for the Handicapped Persons Foundation, Mr. Monday Ojonugwa Okwoli, has said: “Inclusive education for all learners with or without disability is a vital way to fully integrate persons with disability into the mainstream economy. This ensures equal opportunity and a level playing ground, as well as a sustainable and inclusive future for all.”
Executive Director of Women with Disability Self Reliance Foundation, Risikat Mohammed, has added: “Access to inclusive education is access to justice. A world with inclusive education policies is a world without poverty. An inclusive education government is a government for everybody, leaving no one behind. Disability shouldn’t be a barrier to a quality and accessible education.”
The letter was part of Sightsavers’ ‘Equal World’ campaign which is calling on each participating government at the summit to commit to children with disabilities benefitting from good, quality and accessible education.
Sightsavers is an international organisation that works in more than 30 low and middle income countries to end avoidable blindness, treat and eliminate neglected tropical disease, and promote equality of opportunity for people with disabilities.
Sightsavers is leading a consortium of 11 organisations that is implementing a Disability-Inclusive Development (DID) programme in sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, and the Middle East. The programme is funded by UK Aid.
In Nigeria, the projects will focus on promoting Inclusive Education in Kaduna State. This project aims to support the Government in the development of a sustainable, locally driven Inclusive Education model for mainstream primary schools, with a specific focus on improving education provision for children with disabilities.
About Equal World
Under its Equal World campaign, Sightsavers has campaigned for disability-inclusive global development since 2013, and in that time has seen significant recognition of disability as a priority issue.
The campaign is currently calling on world leaders and governments to make inclusive, quality education available and accessible to children with disabilities, particularly girls.
“The G7 and Global Education summits in 2021 are pivotal moments for politicians to recommit to – and put into action – their SDG promise to ensure children with disabilities are not left behind.
“This is even more important as countries address the learning crisis resulting from the global pandemic.
Join our Equal World campaign for an end to disability discrimination,” Sightsavers stated.