Education for children with disabilities: Lessons from my experience
My name is Muhammed Deniz, I am 15 years and I was born in London, England. I am a blind student at Mill Hill County High school, a mainstream school where disabled and non-disabled children are educated side by side. I am currently gaining work experience at A World at School and becoming more and more passionate about education for all.
Approximately 58 million children around the world are being denied access to education, a basic human right. One of the main barriers affecting out-of-school children is discrimination against people living with disabilities – an issue that I can relate to and am passionate about overcoming.
As a young person, and a blind student, I want to speak up for the 23 million children with disabilities believed to be missing out on an education.
My experience with education has always been good. Ever since primary school I have had access to technology such as computers equipped with special screen readers and devices that make it easy for me to type brail. These technologies are essential in my life as they allow me to accomplish tasks quickly, advance my mathematical skills, communicate via e-mail and gain access to information across the internet. Being in a mainstream school, I am happy to be able to work alongside my peers and am able to relate to the content I am taught through the use of these technologies.
But unfortunately, most children with disabilities in developing countries do not even go to school. In Africa, less than 10% of disabled children attend primary school. Among those who do have access to education, the majority cannot benefit from the same technology that I have access to. For them, it is surely harder to relate to the content presented in school. While a teaching assistant is helpful and can read to the students, taking in the information must remain a challenge. Keeping up with the volume of work given in a mainstream school without the use of technology can also be quite difficult. I am certain that blind and disabled students who are socially disadvantaged can, and should, benefit from the same devices that I use daily.
Even in places where disabled children have access to technology, they often cannot enjoy the benefits of inclusive education, which have been an important factor for me over the years. Yaaseen Edoo is a person living with disability and a campaigner for Leonard Chesire Disability in Mauritius. In the ‘A World at School Google Hangout Discussion on Education for Children with Disabilities’ Yaaseen explains that he has always had to rely on 1 on 1 instruction for his education and was never able to go to school. Yaaseen missed out on a conventional education because teachers in Mauritius were not trained to educate children with disabilities. His example shows that on top of getting children with disabilities into school and giving them the right tools to study, we must train teachers and create a good environment for them to learn.
From my experience with education, I feel the most important ways to support children with disabilities are to equip them with the right tools (in my case these were technologies such as screen readers and brail writers), and create an environment that allows them to learn like all other students. Governments and the international community should step up efforts to make sure that technology for children with disabilities in developing countries is accessible and that they can use it in a mainstream school setting alongside instructors who are trained to educate them.
I will remain an advocate for this cause and continue to raise my voice for those who have been denied their basic human right to an education simply because of a disability.