Disabled children in Nepal facing barriers to quality education: HRW

Kathmandu, September 14

Children with disabilities in Nepal face serious obstacles to quality, inclusive education, Brussels-based Human Rights Watch said today.

Despite progress in law and policy, the government segregates most children with disabilities into separate classrooms. It has yet to train teachers to provide inclusive education, in which children with and without disabilities learn together. Thousands of children with disabilities remain out of school.

“Despite several new policies to promote disability rights, including for access to education, many children with disabilities in Nepal are not getting quality, inclusive education,” said Alpana Bhandari, disability rights fellow at HRW. “Public schools should provide adequate support for children with disabilities to learn in classrooms with other children and not segregate them,” she added.

Based on research conducted in May in 13 public schools in five districts across Nepal, HRW found that segregating children with and without disabilities has denied many children with disabilities their right to education.

HRW interviewed 80 children with disabilities, their families, representatives of organisations for people with disabilities, teachers, principals, government officials and United Nations staff.

This research builds on the August 2011 HRW report ‘Futures Stolen: Barriers to Education for Children with Disabilities in Nepal,’ which found many children with disabilities in Nepal faced obstacles in accessing schools and obtaining quality education.

Since then, Nepal has improved laws and policies regarding access to education for children with disabilities and some children have benefited. However, thousands of children with disabilities continue to face significant obstacles to education.

Based on UN and World Health Organisation estimates, Nepal has 60,000 to 180,000 children between the ages of five and 14 with disabilities. In a 2011 report, HRW estimated that at least 207,000 children in Nepal have a disability.

In 2016, UNICEF found that 30.6 per cent of children were living with disabilities, or approximately 15,000 to 56,000 children between the ages of five and 12 did not attend school.

Very few mainstream public schools enrol children with disabilities. Out of more than 30,000 schools in Nepal, just 380 have what they call ‘resource classes,’ where children with a particular disability, such as children who are blind or who have an intellectual disability, are grouped with others with a similar disability.

Nepal has no academic curriculum for children with intellectual disabilities, including children with Down Syndrome. Those who do attend school learn only basic skills, largely focused on self-care. Denying education based on a child’s disability is discriminatory, HRW said.

In 2010, Nepal ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which guarantees the right to inclusive, quality education. Children with and without disabilities should learn together in classrooms with adequate support in an inclusive environment.

Research shows that an inclusive approach can boost learning for all students and combat harmful stereotypes of people with disabilities. The constitution provides free and compulsory primary education and free secondary education.