By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia
KATHMANDU, Nepal – A report by Human Rights Watch expressed concern that children living with disabilities in Nepal are denied access to education.
Contributing to this concern is the inaccessibility of school structures, lack of instructors who are properly trained to accommodate children with disabilities and neighborhood schools denying admission to disabled children.
These factors result disproportionately in low school attendance and high dropout rates for disabled children when compared to children who do not suffer from a disability. According to Education Ministry officials, disabled students comprise a significant number of the almost 330,000 students who are not in school despite being school aged.
Shantha Rau Barriga of Human Rights Watch reports, “[t]ens of thousands of children with disabilities in Nepal are being shut out from or neglected by the school system.” Barriga also states that these failures exist despite a national policy of inclusive schools.
According to the Human Rights Watch report, “Futures Stolen: Barriers to Education for Children with Disabilities in Nepal” which is based on 97 interviews, more than half the interviewed families of disabled children stated that their children had been denied admission to schools and many of the parents were not even made aware that their children had the right to an education.
The inability of parents to enroll their children in schools has prompted some parents to state that they have “…no choice but to lock their children with disability in a room or tie them to a post” according to the report.
One parent reported to Human Rights Watch that she would be unable to care for her other child and manage the household if she had to constantly care for her disabled child and therefore locks him in a room, only letting him out one or two times a day to see the sun.
The problem facing Nepal’s disabled children also extends to those who manage to attend school. Classes are often segregated and the classes offered to disabled students are generally inferior to classes attended by children who are not disabled.
In one case, Nepal’s failure to take into account differences in learning ability caused a fifteen year old boy to spend three years in Class one, three years in Class two and then one year in Class three. Despite the time spent in school, the student reports that he still does not know the alphabet and only passed because teachers began to take exams for him.
The inaccessible structure of schools also contribute to the difficulties disabled children face. One student interviewed by Human Rights Watch, a sixteen year old named Amman, reported that he is forced to crawl to his classroom because the school entrance has steps that he is unable to access any other way and no other entrance to the school. He is also unable to use the restroom without assistance and because staff is unwilling to help him, another student must either run home to get his mother or he must wait until the end of the school day.
The extent of the problem is unknown because there is no reliable data about the number of children who have a disability but it is estimated that between .45 percent and 1.63 percent of Nepal’s child population is living with at least one disability.
These failures come despite Nepal’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 1, 2008.
For more information, please see:
Hindustan Times – Right to Equality, but Only on Paper– 27 August 2011
Nepali Times – Educating Children with Disabilities – 26 August 2011
Daiji World – Nepal’s Hellen Kellers, Stephen Hawkings Await Their Rights – 24 August 2011
The Himalayan Times – Disabled Kids Denied School Admission – 24 August 2011
Human Rights Watch – Nepal: Separate and Unequal Education – 24 August 2011
United Nations – Convection Optional Protocol Signatures and Ratifications– 1 March 2008