JOB Post: Education Specialist, Fast Track Initiative, World Bank

Posted on 24 February 2009. Filed under: Announcements, Children, Education, HIV/AIDS, Jobs & Internships, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Opportunities, Poverty | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

ob # 090252
Job Title Education Spec.
Job Family Education
Location: Washington, DC
Appointment International Hire
Job Posted 17-Feb-2009
Closing Date 03-Mar-2009
Language Requirements
English [Essential]
Appointment Type Term (Duration: 2 yrs)
Background / General description
THIS IS A 2 YEAR TERM POSITION WITH POSSIBLE EXTENSION TO 3 YEARS.
To apply go to http://extjobs.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64273552&piPK=64273556&theSitePK=1058433&JobNo=090252&order=descending&sortBy=job-req-num&location=ALL&menuPK=64262364

The Fast Track Initiative (FTI) is a global partnership launched in 2002 to accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goal of universal quality primary education by 2015. All low-income countries which demonstrate serious commitment to achieving universal primary completion can receive support from FTI. The FTI is a high visibility and politically sensitive aid platform which currently provides technical and financial support to over 50 countries, with the majority in Africa. The FTI provides direct financial support to countries with endorsed education sector plans through a multi-donor Catalytic Fund which currently has over $1,400 million in commitments through 2009, making it the second largest source of financing for basic education in low income countries. It will also provide support to conflict-affected and other fragile states through the recently created Education Transition Fund managed by UNICEF. The FTI Partnership is supported by a Secretariat housed in the World Bank in Washington, DC.

Duties and Accountabilities
The Education Specialist will provide support to countries developing education sector plans and programs to reach the most vulnerable populations who constitute the majority of out-of-school children. S/he will also work with FTI Secretariat Staff, FTI partners, country donors, civil society organizations and the World Bank to provide substantive input and technical support on a range of education and development topics such as improving quality/learning outcomes; fragile states; strengthening in-country processes; donor harmonization; improving gaps in policy, financing, data, and capacity development; and FTI’s response to HIV/AIDS, gender, and disability issues. S/he will report to the Head of the FTI Secretariat and support and collaborate with the FTI Secretariats’ Senior Education Specialists who lead FTI’s work on learning outcomes and country level processes. Specific responsibilities will include:
1. Out of School/Vulnerable Children Coordinate partnership planning and processes to address key constraints for vulnerable populations to achieving the education MDG.
• Assist in designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating a targeted outreach program to reach the populations most at risk of not benefiting from EFA/FTI programs.
• Develop a results framework for working with vulnerable populations. Develop and monitor indicators and activities linked to specific marginalized populations (gender, poverty, rural/urban, disability, and child labor).
• Provide background research on education and development policies as appropriate.
• Strengthen the policy dialogue within the FTI partnership by researching the donor partners’ statements on policy (user fees, language of instruction, disability, gender, etc.) and identifying common principles and shared understandings.
• Liaise with the Interagency Task Team on HIV/AIDS and education and strengthen mechanisms to ensure that this collaboration between education and HIV/AIDS is brought down to the country level.
• Represent the FTI Secretariat on the INEE Working Group on Education and Fragility

2. Country Focal Point Serve as focal point for a select number of FTI endorsed and potential countries.
• Act as first line of contact for all FTI communications with coordinating agency.
• Provide and seek information on ESP development and implementation, including FTI trust fund issues, application procedures, and key events such as joint annual reviews.
• Ensure tools such as the capacity development, inclusion/equity, HIV/AIDs, School Health are utilized when LDGs are developing their ESPs.
• Conduct the FTI Secretariat’s support and advice on ‘Light Touch’ review of ESPs prior to endorsement.
• Monitor and provide guidance to fragile states as they progress through the single entry process.

3. Learning Outcomes Support the FTI Secretariat and Partnership’s work to develop its work plan and activities on learning outcomes within the FTI partnership.
• Provide research and other support for the FTI task team on education quality.
• Provide support for the coordination of partnership planning and processes for measuring learning outcomes in FTI countries.
• Assist in communicating with country Local Education Groups/Coordinating agencies (CA) to gauge interest in their participating in international assessments of learning/quality.

Selection Criteria
• Education: An advanced degree in education or related fields.

• A minimum of 5 years of relevant experience working in the education sector.

• Strong knowledge of and commitment to the principles and procedures of the FTI.

• Knowledge of fragile states policies and financing mechanisms.

• Demonstrated knowledge of and experience in the use of education data, and social and institutional research analytical tools.

• Knowledge of education operations in the World Bank or other major donor or UN agencies.

• Experience with dialogue with government and other partners, including bilateral donors, multilateral organizations, and NGOs.

• Proven ability to work with peers, managers, and a diverse range of partners including donors, civil society groups, governments, and academic institutions.

• Ability to work well in a small team, operate under pressure, deliver high quality work within deadlines, and meet team objectives.

The World Bank Group is committed to achieving diversity in terms of gender, nationality, culture and educational background. Individuals with disabilities are equally encouraged to apply. All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence.

To apply go to http://extjobs.worldbank.org/external/default/main?pagePK=64273552&piPK=64273556&theSitePK=1058433&JobNo=090252&order=descending&sortBy=job-req-num&location=ALL&menuPK=64262364



I received this announcement via the Global Partnership on Disability and Development (GPDD) mailing list. For other jobs at the World Bank, consult the World Bank Employment page. Most jobs at the World Bank are not disability related, but a few are.

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US-Costa Rica Summer Exchange Program, June 26-July 10, 2009, Scholarships

Posted on 23 February 2009. Filed under: Announcements, Capacity Building and Leadership, Education and Training Opportunities, Fellowships & Scholarships, Human Rights, Latin America & Caribbean, Opportunities, youth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Now Accepting Applications
Deadline: March 20, 2009
for the Costa Rica Program this Summer!

Live with a host family
Learn Spanish through immersion
Learn about disability rights and leadership
Go Abroad with Mobility International USA
June 26 to July 10, 2009
Generous Scholarships Available!
Applications available online now
First time travelers with disabilities who are between 18-24 years old, from cultural minority and low-income backgrounds are encouraged to apply. ASL staff interpreters and materials in alternative formats will be provided. Funding for personal assistants may also be available.
For more information:
apply@miusa.org
or
541-343-1284 (tel/tty)

http://www.miusa.org

The 2009 US/Costa Rica: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Disability Rights Leadership Exchange Program is funded by the New York Community Trust DeWitt Wallace/Youth Travel Enrichment Fund and administered by Mobility International USA to provide an educational travel opportunity to youth with disabilities from diverse communities.

Forward this email to a friend.

Mobility International USA, a non-profit organization founded in 1981, empowers people with disabilities around the world to achieve their human rights through international exchange and international development.

The MIUSA mailing address is:
Mobility International USA 132 E. Broadway Suite 343 Eugene, Oregon 97401, USA

MIUSA’s telephone:
541-343-1284 tel/tty

Please consult the official website on the US/Costa Rica program for further details, and to apply. All inquiries and applications should please be directed to MIUSA, NOT We Can Do. The official web site is at:

http://www.miusa.org/exchange/costarica09/index_html



I received this announcement via the Intl-Dev email news distribution service.

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Enabling Education Network Desires Feedback for Website Redesign

Posted on 5 February 2009. Filed under: Announcements, Call for Comments or Information, Children, Cross-Disability, Education, Inclusion, Opportunities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[Note to We Can Do readers: For years, people in the field of disability inclusive education have turned to the Enabling Education Network (EENET) for information, resources, and opportunities for debate. EENET has disseminated the following announcement, and is seeking responses by the end of February 2009.]

This year EENET is going to redesign its website. A very kind volunteer in EENET Asia has offered to do all the work for free. So, now we need to get some feedback from people who use the website, so that we can make sure we create a new website that is more useful and user-friendly.

The attached questions may help you give feedback. But please do tell us anything you want about the website — what is good, what is bad and what you would like to see on the website in future.

Please share this request for feedback with anyone else you know who uses the EENET website.

Thanks in advance for any feedback you can give.
Best wishes
Ingrid

EENET website redesign

In 2009 EENET’s website – www.eenet.org.uk –– is going to be redesigned and relaunched. This will be the first significant redesign since the website was created in 1997. So it’s important that we get it right!

The detailed evaluation of EENET in 2006 told us that there are various aspects of the website that are not user-friendly, and users sometimes find it difficult to locate the information they want from the huge selection available.

We now want to top up the evaluation results with some more recent feedback on what you like and don’t like, and what you want to see on the new website.

The following questions are of particular interest to us, but please feel free to send comments about other aspects of the website as well.

Thank you in advance for your help.

1) Organising documents
There are two main options for how we can organise the content on the website:

(a) we could list documents according to type of document (e.g. training manuals, short articles, long reports, etc). Under this option you would see a list of, for instance, all the training manuals available covering all aspects of inclusive education

(b) we could list documents according to inclusive education themes (e.g. gender, working children, disability, refugees, emergencies, etc). With this option you would see all the information available under that theme (you would see a list of all articles, reports, manuals, posters, links to other websites, etc on the theme of, for instance, ‘inclusive education and refugees’).

Which option would you prefer and why?
We could design the site so that both options are available, but before we take this more complicated route, we first want to know if one option is a lot more popular than the other!

2) Search facility
The current search facility within the EENET website is using outdated technology and isn’t very helpful. To help us improve the search facility, please tell us how you search for items on the EENET website. Do you mostly search for items according to:

  • subject area
  • a known document title
  • country
  • name of an organisation/NGO
  • a known author name
  • other (please specify)

3) Which website section(s) do you find most useful? Why?

4) Which website section(s) do you find least useful? Why?

5) Is there anything about the website that you find particularly confusing or frustrating? If so, how could we overcome this problem?

6) Documents in other languages
We currently have a separate section where users can go directly to a list of documents in other languages (it contains a random selection, as we rely on volunteers to do translations). Should we keep this separate section http://www.eenet.org.uk/other_langs/documents.shtml? Or should we remove this section and simply list any translations next to their English versions?

7) Word, PDF or html
Which format do you prefer / find most convenient for accessing and reading documents? Please explain why you prefer this format.

  • Html pages that you read online
  • PDF file downloads
  • Word file downloads

8) Please tell us about anything else that you think will help us make an EENET website that meets your needs!

If you are not already familiar with it, please explore the EENET website at www.eenet.org.uk. Then, send your responses to the above questions to EENET at info@eenet.org.uk by the end of February 2009.



I received this announcement via EENET’s Eastern Africa email discussion group, which focuses on discussion related to disability inclusion education in Eastern Africa.

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Give One, Get One XO Laptop Per Child

Posted on 25 November 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Children, Education, News, Opportunities, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

They’re simple, rugged, and low-cost. And their more ardent fans think they can transform the world–one educated child at a time. Since the first XO laptops rolled off the assembly line in November 2006, hundreds of thousands of children in low-income countries have been using them in the classroom and at home. If you haven’t heard the hype yet, you can explore the website for the new, but increasingly famous One Laptop Per Child project at http://www.laptop.org/.

The latest news is:, people in the US, Canada, and Europe are now able to purchase an XO laptop for a child at home–if they will agree to also buy a laptop for a child they have never met somewhere abroad. From now until December 26, 2008, people in the US, Canada, and Europe may go to amazon.com/XO. A total of $399 in US dollars (or £275 in UK pounds) buys one XO laptop that can be shipped to your child and a second laptop to be shipped to a child in a developing country.

Because they are cheaper than most computers, XO laptops fit a little more easily into the education budgets of developing countries, especially if donors step in to help. Do they really enhance children’s learning experience as dramatically as the XO’s most earnest supporters believe? Some critics are not so sure. But others remain enthusiastic. I’ll let We Can Do readers google for more competing opinions at news.google.com and blogsearch.google.com on their own. But as a small sampling: various articles report that Microsoft and Intel don’t like the competition, and even some former employees of the One Laptop Per Child project are critics of the way the head of the company, Nicolas Negroponte, runs the business. But they seem to like the XO in Peru. And one US blogger with an XO shares his own thoughts on the subject.

What of children with disabilities? The XO is a bit of a mixed bag. Some features are good for some children with some disabilities (eg, built-in camera, good for signing deaf kids). But others are not so great for other children (eg, the interface is very visual–not so great for blind kids). I wrote some more thoughts on the topic last year at https://wecando.wordpress.com/2007/11/16/opinion-one-laptop-per-child—but-is-it-inclusive/.

I remain disappointed now, as I was then, that the people who developed the XO don’t seem to be as proactively inclusive of the needs of people with disabilities as I think they could be and should be. But some independent XO fans and programmers are working on solutions. If you want to join their on-line discussions on the topic, you can sign up for their free email-based discussion group at http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/accessibility. Or, if you want to learn more about the accessibility issues for XO laptops, you can explore the online “Wiki” community on the topic at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Accessibility.

What of adults who simply want a cheap, portable laptop for their own use? If you’re in the US, Canada, or Europe, then nothing would stop you from buying one for yourself. But be aware that the keyboard is designed for the small hands of primary school-aged children. If your hands are the same size as most adults, you will find it hard to touch type on the cramped keyboard. You might have to resort to two-fingered (or possibly four-fingered) typing. Also, the interface is geared toward young, creative children who might never have seen a computer before. An adult who has spent too many years using more boring, typical computers for “grown-ups” in developed countries might initially be confused about how to access its most basic programs.

Learn more about its software and hardware at http://www.laptop.org/en/laptop/index.shtml. There is an on-line forum where people who are bewildered by their XOs can ask for help from other users: http://en.forum.laptop.org/. People with more disability-specific questions will probably want to join the accessibility mailing list I mentioned above, at http://lists.laptop.org/listinfo/accessibility so they can exchange ideas, information, and solutions with other list members.

Or if all else fails, give your new XO to a young child you know and ask them to teach you how to use it. That is, if you decide to buy one.



I learned about this year’s “Give One, Get One” project through a mailing from the One Laptop Per Child project.

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JOB POST: Project Manager Inclusive Education Bac Kan province, Vietnam, Handicap International

Posted on 21 November 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Children, Cross-Disability, East Asia Pacific Region, Education, Inclusion, Jobs & Internships, Opportunities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Handicap International IS LOOKING FOR Project Manager Inclusive Education in Bac Kan province, Vietnam.
Posting date: 1st February 2009 Length of the assignment : 2 years
Closing date for application : 21/12/2008 (December 21, 2008)

Handicap International is an international organisation specialised in the field of disability. Non-governmental, non-religious, non-political and non-profit-making, it works alongside people with disabilities, whatever the context, in response to humanitarian crises and the effects of extreme poverty. Handicap International implements programmes of assistance to persons and local organisations, inclusion programmes and programmes focusing on the fight against the main causes of disability. It runs projects in almost 60 countries, with the support of a network of 8 national associations ( Germany, Belgium, Canada, United-States, Luxembourg, United Kingdom and Switzerland)

The organisation employs almost 3300 people worldwide, 330 of whom work in France and in its European and North American sections.

For more details on the association: http://www.handicap-international.fr/en/s/index.html

JOB CONTEXT :

Unified from 1975 after 40 years of conflict, Vietnam entered into the Doi Moi process on economy and politics in the mid 80’s to open the country to liberalism. With economic growth rate of more than 8% in 2007, the country is now becoming one of the new Asian Dragons. This development creates a gap between rich areas mainly located in the lowlands and urban areas and remote mountainous regions where people remain poor, despite a 50% fall in poverty over the last 10 years.

The country is very stable with a government ruled by one legal political party. All institutional levels have People Committee representatives from the State to the villages. With around 85 millions inhabitants, Vietnam is highly populated for a territory of 331,000 km2. 54 ethnic groups co-exist in this area; the Kinh (Vietnamese themselves) constitute a majority of 85% and are dispersed nationwide. All other population groups are ethnic minorities mainly located in mountainous provinces.

JOB DESCRIPTION :

The objective aims to implement the Inclusive Education National Plan in Bac Kan province. The project has been designed and submitted as a consortium between Handicap international France and Save the Children Sweden. The project will be implementing with others external partners specialized or working in education domain.

Challenges and goals:

The Project Manager will ensure the effective implementation of the project “Rights-Based Inclusive Education Access for Children with Disability in Bac Kan province, Vietnam” in line with programme and project requirements. The post holder must support and promote the core values and interests of HI. The Project Manager will work under the supervision of the Programme Director based in Hanoi and will manage one to two project assistants, and up to two field staff (to be recruited).

_Activities_ :

/_Manage the project_/:

– To manage the following project areas: implementation of activities, human resources (field staff), finance and communications. To coordinate with partners strategies on Inclusive Education;

– Determine the methodology to be used in the project appropriate to the Vietnamese understanding of inclusion of disabled children in education

– Support the implementation of activities by partners and consultants, to implement an education policy which takes into account disabled children,

– Write the project narrative reports and participate in financial reports,

– Co-ordinate between all the project’s internal and external stakeholders;

– Prepare and participate in the evaluation phases and implement any pertinent recommendations;

– Provide initiatives to develop the project in the relation to the HI Vietnam’s pluri-annual strategy and participate technically in fundraising.

/_Manage the project and site team:_/

– Draw-up job profiles, validate recruitments an individual action plans for each team member

– Train the team in methods, approaches (participative methods, partnership…) or technical aspects (Inclusive Education, Specialized Education, identification and assessment of disabled children); Ensure effective communication within the HI team in Hanoi and other sites.

/_ Assure the project’s technical framework and its representation_/:

– Ensure that the project is implemented in line with Handicap International’s Inclusive Education policy and the Vietnamese education sector plan. /__/

/_Contribute towards the capitalization of experience:_/

– Identify with the Technical Adviser, which issues or subject areas should be capitalized,

– Define a method for collecting good practice with the Technical Adviser

CANDIDATE PROFILE:

_Mandatory:_

– Degree in a relevant discipline ; Education, development or disability (equal to BAC + 4 in France)

– Strong management skills. At least 5 years experiences in his/her field or in project management.

– Sound knowledge of Monitoring and Evaluation techniques and methodology

– Ability to work in partnership with national and local actors

– Experience of working within a multi-cultural environment

– English is essential as all project documentation and reporting systems are in English

_Qualities required_: Group leadership, initiative, creativity, diplomacy, interpersonal skills. Written and oral expression, decision making, good team work skills, strong autonomy.

_Complementary_:

– _Field of studies:_ special Education (Inclusive education, social work…)

– Experience of working in remote area, experience in INGO, experience in Asian context.

REQUIRED LANGUAGE SKILLS: English mandatory both written and oral, French would be an asset.

JOB ENVIRONMENT : The Project Manager will travel to Hanoi once a month to attend a monthly internal HI meeting in order to monitor and share his project with the Hanoi office and the Quang Tri site (HIV/AIDS project).//

EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS :

_Volunteer :_ 750 or 850 Euros monthly indemnity + living allowance paid on the field + accommodation + 100% medical cover + repatriation insurance

_Salary :_ 2000 to 2300 + 457 Euros expatriation allowance + 100% medical cover + repatriation insurance « + family policy »

Please send resume and covering letter with the above reference to : FPINSERCPEducVietnam1108

HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL – 14, avenue Berthelot – 69361 LYON CEDEX 07

Or by Email : recrut11@handicap-international.org

Please do not telephone

Candidates from Canada or the United States, and nationals of these countries, should send their application to the following address :

HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL CANADA
1819 Boulevard René Lévesque, bureau 401 – MONTRÉAL, QUÉBEC – H3H 2P5

Or by email : jobs@handicap-international.ca
or fax : 514-937-6685

Please do not telephone



This announcement was previously circulated via the Intl-Dev mailing list; the Global Partnership for Disability and Development mailing list; and other sources.

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UNESCO Flagship to Promote Education Access for Disabled Children

Posted on 12 November 2008. Filed under: Children, Education, Inclusion, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has created a Flagship devoted to improving the reach and quality of inclusive education for students with disabilities in developing countries. As many as 90 percent of children with disabilities in developing countries are denied the opportunity to obtain an education. The Flagship program works in partnership with other United Nations agencies, international and national disability organizations, and donors. It promotes the need for policy makers and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to work in partnership with organizations of, or representing, people with disabilities and their families. The Flagship also promotes the inclusion of education rights for people with disabilities in National Education Plans.

Read more about the Flagship at
http://www.unesco.org/education/efa/know_sharing/flagship_initiatives/disability_last_version.shtml

Read more about inclusive education at
http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=56205&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

Download a brochure on the Flagship program (PDF format, 432 Kb) at
http://www.unesco.org/education/efa/know_sharing/flagship_initiatives/depliant_flagship.pdf

People who are interested in promoting educational opportunities for people with disabilities in developing countries will also want to explore the web site for the Enabling Education Network (EENET), an information-sharing resource on inclusive education.

If you have a specific interest in Eastern Africa, then you might wish to learn about an on-line discussion group on inclusive education in Eastern Africa. Select the category education from the pull-down menu under “Categories” to see more We Can Do posts related to education for people with disabilities.



I first learned of the Flagship via the mailing list for the Centre for Services and Information on Disability.

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FOREIGN LANGUAGE SURVEY for US People with Disabilities: Take 10 Minutes to Share Experience Studying, or Being Excluded From Learning, Foreign Languages

Posted on 29 September 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Call for Comments or Information, Cross-Disability, Education, Opportunities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

NOTE from We Can Do editor: I hope that We Can Do readers with disabilities in the United States will take 10 minutes of their time to participate in a survey on their experiences studying foreign languages–or, as the case might be, on their experience being excluded from these opportunities.

People with disabilities in developing countries cannot lift themselves out of poverty if mainstream international development and humanitarian agencies and organizations continue to overlook their concerns when developing new programs and policies. One important way to ensure that the needs of poor disabled people are always put front and center is for more mainstream international development organizations to hire more disabled employees from all countries. Workers with disabilities need to be employed across all sectors, in all regions, and at all levels of all agencies and organizations, including in management. (Ditto for more employees who have grown up in poverty, or who have grown up in a developing country, or all three.)

Bringing more employees with disaiblities into these organizations, among other things, means we must ensure that more students with disabilities have a way to study foreign languages. This is a critical pre-requisite: it’s not impossible to pursue a career in the field without foreign language skills, but it is harder. But, many people with disabilities in many countries–including the United States–find it difficult to receive appropriate accommodations in foreign language classes.

This foreign language survey is an opportunity for people with disabilities in the United States to take 10 minutes of their time to share their experience with studying foreign languages–or with being excluded from the opportunity. What accommodations worked best for you? Or, what would have helped if you could have had them? The deadline to participate in the survey is October 31, 2008.

Start the survey at http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/47971/foreignlanguages, or if you wish, you may read the original press release about this survey below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE August 26, 2008

CONTACT: Michele Scheib, Project Specialist
EMAIL: pr@miusa.org

Foreign Language Survey Asks U.S. People with Disabilities to Respond

National surveys show US high school students with disabilities, while increasing in numbers enrolled, still lag behind their non-disabled peers in the percentages taking foreign language courses. Students with and without disabilities are close to equal in the percentages completing foreign language courses at the higher education level. However, the data does not explain what languages are being studied, how successful the learning experience is, and what are the barriers and benefits for people with disabilities at all ages.

Are you a person with a disability from the United States who is interested in taking a survey about foreign language learning and disability? The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange seeks your and other individuals with disabilities input and experiences.

Take a 10-minute Foreign Language survey online at:
http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/47971/foreignlanguages

Deadline to submit the survey: October 31, 2008

The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and administered by Mobility International USA. The NCDE works to increase the participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange programs. Contact us at: 541-343-1284 (tel/tty), clearinghouse@miusa.org, http://www.miusa.org/ncde.

The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange provides free information and referral services related to the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange programs. The Clearinghouse is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, and is managed by Mobility International USA, which is celebrating its 27th year as a U.S.-based non-profit organization.

Our mailing address is:
Mobility International USA
132 E. Broadway, Suite 343
Eugene, Oregon 97405 USA

Our telephone/tty:
541-343-1284

If you want to receive these press releases, please subscribe by inquiring with pr@miusa.org.

Copyright (C) 2008 Mobility International USA All rights reserved.



Thank you to MIUSA for circulating this announcement.

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Disabled Girls in the Classroom: Finding What We Don’t Know

Posted on 25 August 2008. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Children, Cross-Disability, Education, Reports, Violence, Women, youth | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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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Dhaka University in Bangladesh Creating Disability-Friendly Environment

Posted on 25 August 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Cross-Disability, Education, Inclusion, News, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Dear Friends

Action on Disability and Development (ADD) and Disabled Students Rights Forum in cooperation with Dhaka University organized a roundtable discussion titled ‘Right to education for students with disabilities: Barriers and moving forward to inclusion into mainstream’ held at Senate Bhaban, University of Dhaka on Aug, 2008. Professor S.M.A. Faiz, Vice-Chancellor, University of Dhaka attended the roundtable as Chief Guest while Mr. Mosharraf Hossain, Country Director, ADD moderated the event.

Disabled friendly environment should be ensured in university for disabled students in acquiring higher education. This is why; the authority of the university should be sensitized in building a sustainable infrastructure paving the advancement to the disabled students in getting higher education smoothly. The speakers demanded at the roundtable discussion.

Prof Faiz said, Dhaka University is committed to ensure the disabled friendly environment paving the disabled students in acquiring higher education. We will try our level best to do for the betterment of the disabled students studying in DU. We will bring this issue to the policy making authority in a view to find the better way out mitigating the existing barriers faced by the disabled students. He also assured to award the scholarships to the disabled students more and ease the admission process so far.

The distinguished speakers said that a tiny group of students got chance in getting admission at higher education by their arduous efforts as they always face the grueling barriers from everywhere. So, the authority of Dhaka University should take initiatives to move forward for inception of inclusive education where disabled students will enjoy full facilities having higher education. The issue should be taken as a serious agenda in the policy making level of the university for easing the problems of the disabled students, which could be replicated to other universities.

Among others Prof Dr. AFM Yusuf Haider, Pro-VC, DU, Prof. Md. Muinuddin Khan, VC, ASA University and former adviser to caretaker government, Prof Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Educationalist, Prof. M. Anower Hossain, General Secretary, Dhaka University Teachers Association, DU, Mr. Anisul Haque, Deputy Editor, Prothom Alo, Sultana Zaman, education expert, Mr. Syed Rezaur Rahman, Registrar, Dhaka University, Mr. Sadek Khan, Syndicate Member, DU, Prof. Farida Rahman, Registrar, Jagannath University, Prof. Syed Anower Hossain, Naimul Islam Khan, Editor, Amader Shamoy Abul Kalam Azad, President, Disabled Students Rights Forum, DU and Mozammel Haque, Advocacy Coordinator, Md. Aktar Uddin, Communication and Fundraising Officer, Fazlul Azim, Human Rights Officer, ADD spoke at the roundtable discussion.

Key findings of the roundtable
• 5% quota should be reserved for the students with disabilities in the university admission process.
• Formulation a policy to ensure higher education uninterruptedly for the students with disabilities
• Set up ramps and disabled friendly spacious and talking lifts in all buildings of the university and introducing Braille readers and writers at the halls of residence.
• Allocation of seats of residential halls should be reserved for student with disabilities
• Seats should be reserved for disabled students at university bus which should also be disabled friendly
• The process of getting scribes (interpreter) for visually impaired persons in delivering examination should be easy and allowed necessary extra time for examination
• Scholarship should be reserved for the students with disabilities
• Every department of university should appoint a disability sensitive teacher to minimize the barriers of the disabled students
• Attitudes of teachers, administrative officers, students should be sensitive to the disabled students, so, the authority should organize training on disability for those groups in a view to deal the disability issue from rights based approach
• UGC should constitute a specific guideline on disability for the universities to deal the students with disabilities and take actions for implementation properly
• Inclusive education should be materialized managing all facilities for the students with disabilities
• Disability issue should be included at policy making body of university as a serious agenda to ensure congenial atmosphere for students with disabilities to obtaining higher education
• Authorities should appoint officials at the university dormitories who would read newspapers for the visually impaired students.

I hereby attach a brief report on the roundtable discussion for your convenience.

Thanking you

Md. Aktar Uddin
Communication and Fundraising Officer
ADD
Cell: 01726-832567



Ensure disabled friendly environment at university for students with disabilities obtaining higher education

Disabled friendly environment should be ensured in university for disabled students in acquiring higher education. This is why; the authority of the university should be sensitized in building a sustainable infrastructure paving the advancement to the disabled students in getting higher education smoothly. The speakers demanded at the roundtable discussion titled `‘Right to education for students with disabilities: Barriers and moving forward to inclusion into mainstream’ held at Senate Bhaban, University of Dhaka yesterday organized by Action on Disability and Development (ADD) and Disabled Students Rights Forum in cooperation with Dhaka University.

Professor S.M.A. Faiz, Vice-Chancellor, University of Dhaka attended the roundtable as Chief Guest while Mr. Mosharraf Hossain, Country Director, ADD moderated the event.

Prof Faiz said, Dhaka University is committed to ensure the disabled friendly environment paving the disabled students in acquiring higher education. We will try our level best to do for the betterment of the disabled students studying in DU. We will bring this issue to the policy making authority in a view to find the better way out mitigating the existing barriers faced by the disabled students. He also assured to award the scholarships to the disabled students more and ease the admission process so far.

He also opined that Physical impairment can not be a bar to get admission in educational institutions. The students with disabilities deserve equal education facilities everywhere. Of course, potentialities lying in disabled students if flourished can play a vital role in advancing social development.

Prof Faiz heard patiently the problems of the disabled students of DU and gave some instant solution to do. He also opined that states should take the disability issue as a serious concern as it covers 10% population of the country, so they must be noticed priority concern from everyone for bringing into mainstream. He also called upon the corporate sectors to come forward standing beside the students with disabilities to bring them into mainstream.

Among others Prof Dr. AFM Yusuf Haider, Pro-VC, DU, Prof. Md. Muinuddin Khan, VC, ASA University and former adviser to caretaker government, Prof Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Educationalist, Prof. M. Anower Hossain, General Secretary, Dhaka University Teachers Association, DU, Mr. Anisul Haque, Deputy Editor, Prothom Alo, Sultana Zaman, education expert, Mr. Syed Rezaur Rahman, Registrar, Dhaka University, Mr. Sadek Khan, Syndicate Member, DU, Prof. Farida Rahman, Registrar, Jagannath University, Prof. Syed Anower Hossain, Naimul Islam Khan, Editor, Amader Shamoy Abul Kalam Azad, President, Disabled Students Rights Forum, DU and Mozammel Haque, Advocacy Coordinator, Md. Aktar Uddin, Communication and Fundraising Officer, Fazlul Azim, Human Rights Officer, ADD spoke at the roundtable discussion.

Serajul Islam Chowdhury, Professor Emeritus said we have to change our attitudes towards the persons with disabilities. Obviously, we should not think the disability issue as charity, rather an issue of rights. We should respect their capability and dignity. The demand of 5% quota for disabled students is very rational.

Naimul Islam Khan, Editor, the daily Amader Shomoy urged the authority of Dhaka University making disabled friendly environment at DU to give the opportunity the students with disabilities having higher education smoothly through taking all out initiatives.

The distinguished speakers said that a tiny group of students got chance in getting admission at higher education by their arduous efforts as they always face the grueling barriers from
everywhere. So, the authority of Dhaka University should take initiatives to move forward for inception of inclusive education where disabled students will enjoy full facilities having higher education. The issue should be taken as a serious agenda in the policy making level of the university for easing the problems of the disabled students, which could be replicated to other universities.

Key findings of the roundtable
• 5% quota should be reserved for the students with disabilities in the university admission process.
• Formulation a policy to ensure higher education uninterruptedly for the students with disabilities
• Set up ramps and disabled friendly spacious and talking lifts in all buildings of the university and introducing Braille readers and writers at the halls of residence.
• Allocation of seats of residential halls should be reserved for student with disabilities
• Seats should be reserved for disabled students at university bus which should also be disabled friendly
• The process of getting scribes (interpreter) for visually impaired persons in delivering examination should be easy and allowed necessary extra time for examination
• Scholarship should be reserved for the students with disabilities
• Every department of university should appoint a disability sensitive teacher to minimize the barriers of the disabled students
• Attitudes of teachers, administrative officers, students should be sensitive to the disabled students, so, the authority should organize training on disability for those groups in a view to deal the disability issue from rights based approach
• UGC should constitute a specific guideline on disability for the universities to deal the students with disabilities and take actions for implementation properly
• Inclusive education should be materialized managing all facilities for the students with disabilities
• Disability issue should be included at policy making body of university as a serious agenda to ensure congenial atmosphere for students with disabilities to obtaining higher education
• Authorities should appoint officials at the university dormitories who would read newspapers for the visually impaired students.

Achievement
The issue of creating congenial atmosphere for the students with disabilities at universities to obtaining higher education has grabbed the attention of the public and private university authorities, educationalists, researchers, students political leasers, civil society, general students, mass media and other concerns resulting the sensitization will be turned into active support materializing the rights of disabled students in acquiring higher education. All the speakers agreed upon the demands of the roundtable so far. They strongly uttered their commitment to provide their full support and cooperation ensuring rights to education for students with disabilities.

The Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University gave some instant solutions after hearing the problems faced the disabled students and he also assured doing best to minimize the barriers in getting education smoothly. He also declared that Dhaka University will provide all out cooperation to ADD in organizing any programme at Senate Hall of DU regarding the development of disabled people. The roundtable also experienced the prolific confidence, mental strength, active team force and unity among the students with disability in moving forward to materialize their rights to education through strengthening disability movement.



Thank you to Md. Aktar Uddin, Communication and Fundraising Officer at ADD, for circulating this notice and the accompanying report on the DU roundtable.

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LISTSERVE: On-line Discussion of Inclusive Education in Eastern Africa

Posted on 24 June 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Children, Cross-Disability, Education, Networking Opportunities, Opportunities, Sub-Saharan Africa Region, youth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Dear Colleagues,
 
To support the growing interest in the area of Inclusive Education throughout Eastern Africa, an Eastern Africa Discussion Group was set up to help facilitate discussions, networking and information sharing on this topic.  This discussion group is associated with EENET – The Enabling Education Network, which is a UK based information sharing network which promotes the inclusion of marginalized groups in education world wide.
 
The initial discussion group that was established was inundated with SPAM.  To overcome this problem the discussion group is now utilizing a Yahoo Group for discussion, which is free of SPAM.
 
If you would like to join the Eastern Africa Discussion Group, please send an email to eenet_eastern_africa-owner@yahoogroups.co.uk stating your interest to join the discussion group.   Or you may also join via the web at http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/eenet_eastern_africa/

If you join and decide later you do not want to be a part of the group any longer, you can unsubscribe at any time.
 
If you know any one else who you think might be interested in joining this group, please pass this message to them so as they have the information necessary to join.
 
Kind Regards,
 
Dimity Taylor
Coordinator
EENET Eastern Africa



Thank you to Dimity Taylor for submitting this announcement to We Can Do.

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EENET Recruiting Steering Group Members to Promote Inclusive Education

Posted on 10 June 2008. Filed under: Call for Nominations or Applications, Children, Cross-Disability, Education, Inclusion, Opportunities, Volunteer Opportunities, youth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Please note that applications should be directed to EENET, not to We Can Do; read carefully for links, email address, and instructions. The deadline is June 24, 2008.

EENET steering group: user group representatives

Background to EENET’s Steering Group
The Enabling Education Network (EENET) is a global information network that helps education practitioners and stakeholders to document and share their experiences of inclusive, child-friendly education. The network prioritises the information needs of southern countries. It aims to reach those who are often excluded from other international information systems or debates, or who cannot afford to buy information resources. EENET’s users include local and international Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), teachers, parents, students, government officials, academics, etc.

EENET has a very small co-ordination office in the UK, employing one staff member and a few volunteers, but still manages to support the information needs of thousands of people in 200 countries. Independent regional networks, based on EENET’s vision and mission, are also being developed in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

To find out more about EENET’s information sharing activities visit www.eenet.org.uk; email info@eenet.org.uk; or write to EENET, c/o ESI, School of Education, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

EENET’s role is to champion inclusive education. But it also seeks to challenge the status quo, to ask difficult questions and encourage debates on controversial topics. To ensure that EENET fulfils this role, and continues to meet the information needs of its diverse target audience, the network has a Steering Group which has not been very active for several years, but is now being reformed.

EENET Steering Group function and role of members

  • The Steering Group will monitor EENET’s activities and makes suggestions for changes.
  • Steering Group members will represent the views of EENET’s founders, its regional networking partners, international NGOs/donors, and, very importantly, its target users.
  • Steering Group members will assist EENET staff with taking action in key areas of EENET’s development (e.g. fundraising) if they have skills and experience in a relevant area.

User group representatives
Two or three Steering Group representatives will be appointed from among EENET’s ‘grassroots’ users. While they will not be able to represent the full diversity of EENET’s users, they will bring to the Steering Group a valuable ‘reality check’ on the needs, challenges and potential contributions of EENET’s users.

These ‘grassroots’ Steering Group representatives will be selected based on the following criteria:

Essential

  • Good communication skills, preferably in English.
  • Able to communicate by email, and also if possible by telephone or using internet phone or chat systems.
  • Able to travel to the UK and other countries (e.g. must have a passport, or be able to obtain a passport and travel visas without difficulties).
  • Enthusiasm about the aims, values and principles of EENET, and a commitment to contributing as fully as possible to the Steering Group.

One or more of the following are desired:

    Awareness of:
  • child rights
  • education issues
  • disability and/or other diversity issues
  • community development issues.
  • First hand experience of inclusive education (as a student, teacher, parent, local education official, teacher trainer, etc).
  • Experience of being an activist or in other ways representing a marginlised, discriminated against or excluded group (e.g. women/girls; disabled people; refugees; working children, etc).
  • Awareness of EENET and/or an active member of EENET’s network.
  • Awareness of and/or an active member of other south-based, south-focused information sharing and advocacy networks.
  • Financial issues
    Steering Group members are unpaid volunteers. There is no salary for being a Steering Group member. However, EENET will cover all costs relating to attending meetings (e.g. travel, accommodation, meals and other essential daily living expenses) and participating in telephone conferences or internet chats.

    Application to become an EENET Steering Group member

    Closing date for applications: 24th June 2008

    Personal details
    Name:
    Nationality:
    Postal address:
    Tel. no:
    Fax no:
    Mobile no:
    Email:
    Other, e.g. Skype name:

    Do you have a passport?

    Are you aware of any possible restrictions to your freedom to travel to other countries?

    Are you available 8-12 September 2008 (the dates for the next Steering Group meeting)?

    Supporting information
    Describe your involvement with EENET so far (e.g. when did you first learn about EENET; when did you first read the newsletter; what communication have you had with EENET; what other EENET activities have you been involved in?)

    Why are you interested in becoming a member of EENET’s Steering Group?

    Explain any experience you have with the following (this can be experience gained through your personal life or through work):

    • education/inclusive education
    • child rights/human rights
    • community development
    • equality and diversity issues.

    Explain what you think inclusive education means.

    Why do you think it is important for EENET to promote inclusive education and help people to share information on inclusive education?

    Please provide any other information you think will support your application.

    References
    Please supply the names and contact details of 2 people who can provide references for you. At least one referee should know you in a professional or work capacity or have direct experience of your involvement in inclusive education activities/advocacy.

    Referee 1
    Name:
    Address:
    Email:
    Tel:
    Fax:

    Referee 2
    Name:
    Address:
    Email:
    Tel:
    Fax:
    Please return your completed form to:
    Email: info@eenet.org.uk
    Address: EENET, c/o ESI, School of Education, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK
    Fax: +44 (0)161 275 3548



    We Can Do received this announcement via the EENET Eastern Africa listserv. Again, applications should please be directed to EENET in accordance to the instructions above, NOT to We Can Do. Thank you.

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    International Conference: Inclusive Education, the Way of the Future

    Posted on 2 June 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Children, Cross-Disability, Education, Events and Conferences, Inclusion, Opportunities, Reports, youth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    The International Bureau of Education is holding its 48th session of the International Conference on Education (ICE) this 25 – 28 November 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland. The theme will be “Inclusive Education: the Way of the Future.”

    The International Conference on Education is usually predominantly tailored for the needs of Ministers of Education who represent country governments around the world. However, other partners such as researchers, practitioners, representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations also participate in the ICE dialogue.

    Debates at the November 2008 session of ICE are expected to focus on the following themes:

    (i) approaches, scope and content (to broaden the understanding of the theory and the practice of inclusive education);
    (ii) public policies (to demonstrate the role of governments in the development and the implementation of policies on inclusive education);
    (iii) systems, links and transitions (to create inclusive education systems which offer opportunities for lifelong learning);
    (iv) learners and teachers (to foster a learning environment where teachers are equipped to meet the learners’ diverse expectations and needs).

    As of this writing (June 2, 2008), I could not locate registration information at the ICE conference web site. However, even for people unable to attend the November conference, the web site still offers an abundance of materials that may be of interest to people involved in the education field.

    If you scroll down the page at the ICE conference site, you will see a listing of past Preparatory Meetings on Inclusive Education. Many of these include links to Executive Summaries or other reports based on the results of these past meetings. Further down the page, you will see links to reports from Working Groups of the International Bureau of Education Council regarding planning for the 48th ICE conference.

    For further (or upcoming) details on the November 2008 conference on Inclusive Education, please consult their web site directly at

    http://www.ibe.unesco.org/International/ICE48/English/index.html

    Let me please amplify that We Can Do is unable to respond to individual inquiries about this or any other event, toolkit, funding source, or other resource publicized at this site. Instead, please follow the above link.



    I first learned about this conference by browsing the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development web site.

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    FELLOWSHIP: Intl Fellowship Program for West Africa for 2009/10 Academic Year

    Posted on 6 February 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Cross-Disability, Education and Training Opportunities, Fellowships & Scholarships, Opportunities, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    [Addendum, Feb. 17, 2009: Please note that this blog post is more than one year old and advertises the 2008 application round for the 2009/10 academic year. However, this is an annual opportunity. The application deadline for the 2010/11 academic year is February 27, 2009. Please consult the International Fellowship program site directly for updated information at either http://www.aau.org/ifp/ or at http://www.pathfind.org/ifp]

    ***************OLD INFORMATION FOLLOWS BELOW THIS LINE, Consult http://www.aau.org/ifp for updated details************



    The International Fellowship Program invites all people in certain West African countries, including people with disabilities, to apply for a scholarship. The deadline is February 29, 2008 for the 2009/2010 academic year.

    This paragraph is taken from the IFP web site: The International Fellowships Program (IFP) is a program supported by the Ford Foundation, and coordinated in West Africa by the Association of African Universities (AAU) in collaboration with Pathfinder International in Nigeria and the West African Research Center (WARC) in Senegal. IFP provides fellowships for advanced study to exceptional individuals who will use their education to further development in their own countries and greater social and economic justice worldwide. IFP fellowships will be awarded to applicants from diverse backgrounds, including social groups and communities that lack systematic access to higher education.

    IFP is planning to award 37 fellowships in West Africa for the 2009/10 academic school year. These fellowships are meant for students who have already completed one degree and are ready to attend graduate school anywhere in the world.

    People who wish to learn more about this opportunity should read about it at the IFP web site at:

    www.pathfind.org/ifp

    Inquiries about the scholarship program can also be directed to the following contact:

    Pathfinder International Nigeria Country Office
    35 Justice Sowemimo St., Asokoro
    Abuja FCT
    Tel: 09-314 7378
    Email: ifpnigeria@pathfind.org

    The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities of Nigeria (JONPWD) also has further information about the scholarship program. JONPWD can be reached at duhkb@yahoo.com.


    We Can Do first learned about this scholarship opportunity through the Disabled People International (DPI) on-line newsletter. People can subscribe to the DPI newsletter for free, or read it online, by following the link. (Any text at We Can Do that is underlined or presented in a different color is a hypertext link to an appropriate web page.)

    Also at We Can Do: catch up with the news; explore resources, toolkits, or funding and fellowship opportunities that might be helpful for your organization; find research, reports, papers, or statistics; or look up conferences, events, call for papers, or education/training opportunities.


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    OPINION: One Laptop per Child—But is it Inclusive?

    Posted on 16 November 2007. Filed under: Children, Cross-Disability, Education, Opinion, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    The Issue
    Bringing laptops to children in developing countries. It’s a nifty concept, meant to help with an enormous challenge: improving the quality of education in developing countries. But is it inclusive of children with disabilities?

    Even relatively casual observers of the international development field quickly learn that 77 million children worldwide are not in primary school. And perhaps you also knew that a large portion of those children have disabilities. What we don’t hear about as often is that even the 2 billion children who are fortunate enough to be able to enter a classroom, in many cases, may not be that much better off. The push to put all children in school by 2015, as per the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), has led to more schools, more teachers, and more books—but not necessarily to a better-quality education. So how do we go beyond filling seats with bodies so we can start filling heads with knowledge?

    The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project thinks they have part of the answer. That’s to put a laptop into the hands of every child in school in developing nations. Not just any laptop, but the XO laptop. The XO is designed specifically for child learners. It has features that allow them to create—be it a picture, a poem, a game, or a computer program. And XO laptops can communicate directly with other XO laptops if they are close enough. That allows for collaborative projects among pairs or groups of students. The laptops are also designed to be used in rugged conditions. They can be used in places where classes might meet outside in bright sunlight, or where students may have no access to electricity.

    In developing countries, one of the largest barriers to obtaining resources—be it for disabled people or for their non-disabled peers—is cost. The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has tackled this, at least part way, by producing a laptop that costs $200. That’s twice as much as their original goal—which was to design a $100 laptop. And that’s still out of reach for any family that lives on less than $1 a day. But it’s within reach for some country governments. Uruguay, for example, has purchased the first 100,000 XOs to come off the assembly line (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7068084.stm). And there may soon be other countries standing in line. The OLPC project has also introduced several ways that people in rich countries can help (see http://www.laptopgiving.org/en/index.php). If things grow quickly from here, we could soon see the day when millions of children are learning through XO laptops and any competitors that might later emerge.

    But for children with disabilities, the question of whether someone can and will send them a laptop in the first place is only the first half of the problem. The second half is whether the laptop is even accessible to them.

    XO Laptops: Are They Suitable for Young Disabled Students?
    I should note here that I have not yet seen an XO laptop for myself. Nor am I an expert in the types of adaptations that are available or most needed by people who are blind, or who have mobility impaired—or, indeed, any disability other than deafness. That means I can’t give an accurate evaluation of how usable an XO laptop is for disabled children. But I can speculate. And given how large the OLCP project hopes to become, I suggest that anyone with an interest in educating disabled children in developing countries should also be speculating. More importantly, they should be sharing their insights and ideas for remedies with the OLPC project.

    On the plus side, some disabled children may find that the laptops will be a tremendous boon for them. For example, the XO is sturdier and more durable than most standard, western computers. That could be an important feature for children whose disabilities affect their behavior. They might be less likely to damage the laptop if they throw it during a tantrum or a “meltdown”, for example. Or a child with mobility impairments or dyspraxia can worry less if they drop their laptop.

    Also, I like how the XO laptop allows for interactive communication with other laptop users. For children who have communication-related disabilities and who have learned to read and write, it might make communication with their non-disabled peers a little easier. Instead of being forced to talk or read lips in a modality that works poorly for them–if at all–they could have the option of typing back and forth with their classmates or the teacher. This could be especially helpful in situations where no sign language interpreter is available, which is frequently the case in developing countries. I don’t think the XO will ever be a substitute for more appropriate educational placements. (I believe that most deaf children should be in good quality, specialized schools for deaf children. But that’s a subject for another blog post.) But for deaf children who have been thrust into classrooms with no means of understanding their teacher, the laptop could potentially become a tool for teaching themselves, perhaps with the aid of their peers.

    But even deaf children, if they are learning alongside hearing peers, may feel left out when their classmates start playing around with the built-in microphone and other auditory-based features. And other disabled children may find the XO laptops to be so inaccessible as to be useless. I suspect that blind children and some children with low vision—as with most computers generally—may suffer the most significant barriers. From what I can gather from their web site, the XO seems to have a very visual interface. That’s great for sighted deaf children, but bad for blind children. There seems to be no provision for screen readers of any kind: a blind child could still type but would have no way to monitor what they are typing or to read it back later. And unless there is some audio feature that I didn’t read about, the heavy graphics would be meaningless to them. That might make it harder for a child with vision impairments to interact with other students in the class. If I understand correctly, a child who wants to work on a project with someone else through the XO needs to bring up an icon representing their classmate and click it.

    I also wonder about children with certain mobility impairments, particularly those that affect the use of their hands. As far as I can tell from the OLPC web site, there are no modified keyboards available. In other words, one design fits all—even when it doesn’t. And it’s not just the keyboard that might pose a problem. One of the ways to power up an XO is to either pull on a cord or operate a foot pump—either of which might be problematic for children with certain mobility impairments. What if a child could operate one type of battery re-charger but not the other? If a country buys all of its laptops in one variety, a child may not have the option of switching to equipment that is more usable for them.

    Why Inclusion Matters–From the Beginning
    Children with disabilities already face enormous barriers in even reaching the classroom. And many face even more barriers inside it. The XO laptop is meant to help bring the world of learning to poor children in developing nations. But for many children with disabilities, the XO laptop, as currently designed, may create new barriers to learning instead of removing them. What is especially worrying to me is that nowhere in their web site does OLPC even acknowledge the problem much less discuss what they’re doing to resolve it. (Or if they do and I missed it, tell me in the comments area below—their site is at www.laptop.org.)

    The usual excuse made when a new project excludes disabled people, is, “But we’re new. We’re just starting. We had to start somewhere. We’re not ready for doing anything more specialized right now.” There are two major problems with accepting this type of excuse. First is the issue of justice. People with disabilities have always been the last people to gain access to any new technology or service. As soon as one technology is finally made at least partly accessible, something new has become mainstream to everyone else—but, once again, not for disabled people. By the time innovative deaf people in rich countries finally managed to invent a way to access telephones, for example, all their hearing, middle-class neighbors had color television–while deaf people were, once again, waiting. The delay between the time a new technology or service becomes available to non-disabled people and the time it becomes available to disabled people, in and of itself, creates barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in society. There will always be something new. And, even with advancing medical technology, there will probably always be disabled people. We will only be fully included in society when new things, too, are accessible to us from the first day they become available to the public at wide. After all, aren’t we, too, supposed to be members of the public?

    The second problem with accepting the “but it’s new, give us time” excuse is that this is backwards thinking. It is PRECISELY BECAUSE a technology or project is new that the people designing it SHOULD be thinking from the start about the needs of people with disabilities. Suppose you construct a building with stairs and no ramps, then you tear part of it down in order to add the ramps years later, that’s expensive. If you remember the needs of people with disabilities while you’re still working in the blueprint stage then you can make sure it has ramps to begin with, and you can integrate the ramps into the design in a way that saves money. That’s very, very cheap. If you build 100,000 computers for Uruguay with no screen readers, and then belatedly construct a few separate devices to be attached to them later as needed, that’s expensive.

    But what if they had given consideration to the needs of blind or dyslexic students, or children with other disabilities, from the beginning? Yes, it probably would have been an enormous challenge to find a way to integrate their needs into the standard design of the XO laptop without significantly increasing its cost. But if they had at least tried—even if they had tried and failed—then if nothing else, we could have been a good five years of research and development closer to achieving an XO that does succeed in including disabled children. And not only that, but it might have been cheaper than whatever add-on fix they come up with now. Or, even if they hadn’t come up with a concept that could be integrated into the standard design, they might at least have come up with design elements that make it easier to add on a fix later. What if they come up with a nice, cheap screen reader, only to find that there isn’t a good way to plug it into the existing XO laptops?

    Or perhaps they could have come up with creative design elements that help, not only disabled students, but everyone. After all, curb cuts were implemented for wheelchair riders, but were quickly embraced by non-disabled parents with prams or baby carriages. Closed captions were invented to enable deaf people in rich countries to watch television, but have also been embraced by hearing immigrants learning the language of their new home. Speech recognition software for computers was invented, at least in part, for people who cannot type with their hands, but has been embraced by others as well. What kind of XO would we have had today if they hadn’t thrown away five years of opportunity to find out?

    Owning the Issue
    Two groups of people need take responsibility for ensuring that the built in exclusion of disabled children in developing countries does not last. First are the people operating the One Laptop Per Child project. If they’re serious about bringing laptops to all two billion children in school, then they would do well to remember that about 10 percent of the world’s population—including children in developing countries—have disabilities. They need to decide whether “all” will truly mean “all,” or if “all” really means “all except disabled children because they’re too difficult to include.”

    The obligation doesn’t end with the One Laptop Per Child project, but it does begin with them: they need to be proactive. To start with, they should reach out to organizations of disabled adults and children in developing countries to share the laptop with them and find out exactly what problems they face in using it. They can begin with some of the organizations listed in “Finding Local Disability Organizations” for possible contacts. They should be talking with disabled adults, because people who have already been adapting to their own disabilities for a whole lifetime often see obvious solutions that elude everybody else. And they should be talking with parents and teachers who may notice barriers that even disabled users miss. But most importantly of all, they should be talking with disabled children in developing countries—because the best person to tell us what a disabled child needs is a disabled child.

    Also, they should mention the problem of accessibility for children with disabilities throughout their web site, where appropriate. In particular, where they recruit volunteers, they should be specifically asking for people who can help make the laptop more usable for children with a wide range of disabilities. But even in other parts of their web site, for example where they talk about its design features and their future design plans, they can acknowledge its existing limitations and explain how they hope to overcome them. Possibly they could also have a separate page devoted to the topic of accessibility—but this is not a substitute for integration. “Add-on” issues rarely get the attention they deserve: if it’s important, then the organization’s concern for the issue should reverberate through everything they say and do.

    Second are people around the world who are already committed to bringing more disabled children in developing countries into the classroom and giving them a high-quality education. That means parents, educators, disabled advocates, non-government organizations (NGOs) and other interested parties. People who have direct experience with the XO laptop can give their feedback to the One Laptop Per Child project. Others can review their web site and offer their advice or consultation services.

    I think the One Laptop Per Child program is a good concept and a good cause worth supporting—even with its current flaws. That’s exactly why I urge them to become a more inclusive cause as well. I hope they listen—and take action.

    Nicholas Negroponte and the other staff at OLPC: it’s over to you, now.


    The facts, figures, and information behind the opinions expressed in this essay come from a range of sources. Most particularly I drew upon the OLPC web site, but you will also note that I link to a number of other sources throughout this article.

    Edited 17 Nov. ’07 to add: Eduardo Silva points out (thank you for alerting me) that interested readers can go to http://wiki.laptop.org to see some of the software work that is being done to improve the XO laptop. And as Eduardo Silva indicates, they are indeed working on a text-to-voice screen reader, which you can read about at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Screen_Reader. However, I still have some concerns about this which I elaborate upon further in the comments area below.

    Edited 31 Dec. ’07 to add: I wonder if a Sightsaver’s Dolphin Pen would help blind children make better use of the XO. Is there anyone reading this who is familiar with BOTH the XO AND with the Dolphin Pen (a low-cost screen reader and screen magnifier designed for use in low-income countries)? If so, I would value your input. Please do comment in the comments area below.

    Edited 5 Jan. ’08 to add: THANK YOU to the anonymous contributer in the comments area below who led me to the accessibility mailing list for people who want to brainstorm ideas and solutions on how to make the XO more accessible.


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