Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which this year focuses on the theme ‘Making the Millennium Development Goals Inclusive’. The second Millennium Development Goal is universal primary education by 2015, but an estimated one third of those who remain out of school have a disability, and these children still face massive barriers to participation in education.
Yesterday the UK Parliament acknowledged this issue:
In a written parliamentary question Labour MP for High Peak Tom Levitt asked the Department for International Development (DFID) what steps they are taking to ensure children with disabilities have access to education in the developing world.
Responding for the Department, Mike Foster MP said that they will set out their approach to ensuring access to education for the most marginalised children, including children with disabilities in the forthcoming Education Strategy, which is due to be published early next year. This is the first public indication that the Department is planning to thoroughly tackle the issue of disability within the Strategy – a crucial step to better UK support for inclusive education worldwide.
In addition, Mr Foster said that DFID currently use their position as a key donor to the Fast Track Initiative (FTI), which is the main multilateral mechanism to provide funding for education, to ‘leverage greater attention from partner governments to the needs of the most excluded children’.
Mr Foster’s comments are very welcome. A forthcoming report from RESULTS UK will recommend that the UK government incorporates much more attention to the issue of disability within its education work. Mr Foster should ensure that DFID’s involvement with the FTI supports the routine use of the ‘inclusion tool’ produced by the FTI last year. As yet this has not been widely implemented, and donor support is crucial to ensure that a change occurs.