Include us in Education

Include us in education: A qualitative research study on disability and inclusion in education for children in Nepal

A qualitative research study from Plan International on barriers and enablers to education for children with disabilities in Nepal. It looks at the experiences of 21 children aged 6 to 16 years.

A 2013 Plan International study across 30 countries found that children with disabilities were on average 10 times less likely to go to school than children without disabilities.

This report presents the findings of a follow-up second phase to the research – a qualitative research study on disability and inclusion in education for children in Nepal.

The research looks at the experiences of 21 children aged 6 to 16 years – 8 of them had dropped out of school while one had never been enrolled.

Read the summary online or download the summary and full reports.

Education has long been recognised as bringing a wide range of benefits and opportunities to individuals, their families and societies as a whole. While education is considered a right guaranteed to all children, children with disabilities face particular vulnerability to exclusion, and thus their participation in education often lags far behind that of peers. Denying children with disabilities the ability to exercise this fundamental human right not only propagates their continued marginalisation in society, but also may limit the potential economic, social and human development that can only be achieved with universal access to education.

While it is widely acknowledged that children with disabilities face exclusion in accessing and receiving a quality education, more research is needed to better understand why this disparity exists. Identifying barriers – and enablers – to accessing a quality education is key for addressing these inequalities and ensuring that children with disabilities are able to exercise their right to inclusion.

Disability and inclusion in education

A previous analysis of Plan International’s 2012 sponsorship data found that across 30 countries, children with disabilities were on average 10 times less likely to be going to school than children without disabilities. When children with disabilities did attend school, their level of schooling was below that of their peers. They were also more likely to have reported a serious illness in the last 12 months.

This report presents the findings of a follow up second phase to the research; qualitative research conducted to better understand why these disparities exist, and to identify barriers and enablers to accessing education with a focus on the perspective of the child and caregiver. As one of the countries in the original quantitative analysis, Nepal was selected as the setting for this study.

For this qualitative second phase study, in-depth interviews were conducted with 21 families across three districts in Nepal (20 caregivers and 13 children). The children were all on Plan’s sponsorship database and had a range of reported disabilities with an age range of 6-16 years. For contextual background, 19 key informant interviews were conducted and visits to two special schools and one integrated school.

Main findings

The reasons children with disabilities are not attending, progressing through or completing school are complex, often involving a mixture of individual, family, school and community level factors. These are shaped by wider social attitudes that reinforce the exclusion of people with disabilities.

Barriers to enrolling, staying in and regularly attending school

Twelve of the 21 children were currently attending school. Eight children had dropped out, and one child had never enrolled in school.

Barriers included:

  • Caregiver and teacher attitudes particularly if the child had an intellectual impairment.
  • Transportation to and from school was a challenge for children with physical impairments.
  • Economic factors, including direct costs of schooling, the opportunity costs of caregivers’ time to take their children to and from school, and wanting children to stay at home to work.
  • Children often missed school, dropped out or never attended due to poor health or the need for ongoing treatment and rehabilitation that interfered with schooling.
  • Children with intellectual impairments who had behaviour problems were often asked by teachers to leave the schools. Teachers reported being overwhelmed and felt the behaviour was distracting to other students.

The research highlighted the negative psychosocial impact of dropping out of school; at home all day there are more limited opportunities to be with peers, which further compounds their social exclusion. There were worryingly two reported suicide attempts by young girls who had recently dropped out of school.

Even when children with disabilities were enrolled in school, many faced difficulties that impacted upon their quality of education and general well-being while at school.

  • Poor physical accessibility within schools could hamper the independence of children with physical impairments, particularly if they lacked assistive devices.
  • Many children repeated grades or, more frequently, were upgraded without passing, putting into question whether these children were receiving a quality education despite being physically present at school.
  • Barriers to receiving a quality education included the lack of specialist resources, adapted curriculum and teacher training, particularly in mainstream schools, made it difficult for many children to learn.
  • Violence, bullying and discrimination, by peers and teachers alike, was a pervasive experience in schools, as well as in community and home life.
  • Sexual violence perpetrated against children with disabilities also emerged as an issue and requires further research.

Both this qualitative research and the original quantitative analysis indicated that children who have communication impairments, such as a hearing or some types of intellectual impairments, are particularly vulnerable to exclusion. These children often have trouble advocating for themselves – at both school and at home – and may have trouble learning without adaptations to curriculum, mode of instruction or teaching materials.

Enabling factors that help to access and succeed in school

Even in sometimes extremely challenging circumstances, the majority of children wanted the opportunity to learn, to attend school and to be included with their peers. Factors that helped the children with disabilities included:

  • Children’s attitudes towards school and resilience in the face of obstacles.
  • Caregivers who invested in their child’s education, doing the best they could in often difficult circumstances.
  • Supportive teachers and peers who encouraged children and provided support when they could.
  • Plan and other NGOs played valuable roles in helping children with disabilities access education, such as by providing school supplies, information about different schooling options and other direct and indirect support.

The way forward

Recommendations for action and advocacy at community and national level

  • Conduct awareness-raising at the family and community level about the rights to and benefits of education for children with disabilities in order to address many of the attitudinal barriers which exist.
  • Increase the capacity of all schools to provide inclusive, quality education so that children with disabilities can learn in the communities in which they live. Specific areas for improvement include facilities, resources and teacher training, as well as measures for addressing bullying and discrimination, in order to support full participation of children in and out of the classroom.
  • Combat stigma, abuse and violence perpetrated against children with disabilities. Furthermore develop and test interventions to reduce violence.
  • Improve access to health and rehabilitative services, including provision of assistive devices, to increase overall well-being and independence of children with disabilities. Their health needs must be addressed in order to achieve improved educational outcomes.
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Youth empowerment, Children with disabilities