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The Promise of Inclusive Education

The international community has until 2030 to deliver primary education to every child on the planet. But if this target is to be met, more money will be needed to support children with disabilities in developing countries, a vulnerable population that is too often excluded from the classroom.

WASHINGTON, DC – Ali Moussa and Mahmoud are sixth graders in Zanzibar. Both boys are nearly blind and use recording devices and braille machines to read. But, thanks to their school and teacher, they are able to keep pace with their peers in the mainstream primary school that they attend.

Despite the obvious hardship, Ali Moussa and Mahmoud are fortunate that their community has embraced inclusive education – the pedagogical concept that children of all abilities and backgrounds should learn together. In most developing countries, educators don’t even know how many children with disabilities are absent from school, let alone what those who do attend might need in the classroom.

As many as 150 million children live with a disability; in low- and lower-middle-income countries, around 40% are out of school at primary level (rising to 55% at lower secondary level). But data on disabilities are notoriously poor, and the actual numbers might be far higher. For example, recent research by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), found that less than 5% of children with disabilities in 51 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are enrolled in primary school.