Disabled Girls in the Classroom: Finding What We Don’t Know
A report entitled Education for All: a gender and disability perspective (PDF format, 151 Kb) discusses what we don’t know about girls with disabilities in relation to education, and what ought to be done about it.
Readers familiar with gender issues within education know that, in many countries, girls are still more likely to drop out of school–if they ever attend at all. They may be needed at home to fetch the water; they may be afraid of being sexually assaulted on the way to school; or they may be embarrassed about managing their menustration at schools where there is no separate bathroom for girls–or perhaps no bathrooms at all.
Regular We Can Do readers and others familiar with the education field may also recall that about 77 million primary school-aged children today are not enrolled in school–and about one-third of them have disabilities. Schools are reluctant to enroll disabled students; parents may fear subjecting children with disabilities to bullying from the community and thus keep them at home; or decision makers may simply assume that disabled students either cannot learn or would be unable to use their educational degree later on because “no one wants to hire disabled workers.”
But what of girls with disabilities? Being a double minority does tend to come with a triple whammy. Disabled girls are excluded because they have disabilities; they are excluded because they are girls; and then they are excluded yet again when programs might target girls without including disabled girls, or when programs might target children with disabilities without considering the impact of gender.
This would seem to imply that girls with disabilities may face a unique set of barriers when pursuing an education–barriers that neither non-disabled girls nor disabled boys need to consider. If a unique set of barriers, then surely a unique set of solutions would also be needed to ensure that the push to put the last 77 million children into school does not leave behind girls with disabilities. But, how can we tackle these barriers if we don’t have a clear picture of what they are?
The 35-page paper, Education for All: a gender and disability perspective (PDF format, 151 Kb), is an attempt to pull together what is known about girls in education with what is known about disability in education, coupled with anecdotcal information about how girls with disabilities are affected differently. It provides recommendations for areas researchers should be focusing on and gives a few ideas for things that can help.
This paper was published in 2003. But, unfortunately, I doubt it is significantly dated. I don’t pretend to be intensively familiar with the literature on education among students with disabilities internationally. But a quick skim through a more recent report on disability in education, Education’s Missing Millions (PDF format, 1.2 Mb), suggests that advancements since 2003 have been far from dramatic.
Perhaps one of the most important purposes of Education for All: a gender and disability perspective (PDF format, 151 Kb) is to help remind gender specialists that girls with disabilities are first and foremost, girls–but will be inherently excluded if not consciously targeted. For We Can Do readers already working on disability issues in education, another purpose is to remind that barriers excluding women and girls from full participation in society impact disabled girls and women just as much–if not more so.
If issues impacting girls with disabilities interests you, then you might also be interested in some of the following We Can Do posts:
Equalizing Educational Opportunity for the Nigerian-Ghanaian Blind Girl Child
Violence Against Blind/VI Girls in Malawi
Report on Violence Against Disabled Children (which I include in this list because violence against girls is often cited as a reason why some girls quit school)
Education’s Missing Millions: Including Disabled Children
Report on Promoting the Rights of Children with Disabilities (the referenced report includes brief references throughout to girls, including in the context of education)
Online discussion of inclusive education in Eastern Africa
Advocates working to promote more educational opportunities for girls with disabilities also may wish to consult, and cite, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), with particular attention to Article 6 (Women with Disabilities); Article 7 (Children with Disabilities); and Article 24 (Education).
I found this report by browsing the AskSource.info database.
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