On Monday Mike Foster MP, Minister of State for International Development, responded to 7 Parliamentary Questions on his department’s support for education for children with disabilities, tabled by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP the Shadow Minister of International Development for the Conservative Party.
Mr Foster said that the Department for International Development (DFID) ‘recognises the importance of supporting primary aged children with disabilities to receive an education, as well as other children who have been denied access, for achieving the Millennium Development Goal.’ He also made several commitments, including:
- To tackle the problem of lack of data on access to education for children with disabilities by working with national partners (most likely country governments and statistics agencies) through DFID’s bilateral aid programmes, as well as work at an international level with the Global Monitoring Report and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics;
- To advocate for the right to education of children with disabilities in all international fora including the G8, G20 and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Review Summit, which will be held in September;
- To support the use of the Education for All Fast Track Initiative‘s (FTI) ‘equity and inclusion framework’ (a guidance document that helps donors to ensure that education sector plans approved for support by the FTI address the barriers facing marginalised children’s access to education) in DFID partner countries where education sector plans arebeing assessed under the FTI;
- To produce the ‘toolkit’ on inclusive education for DFID country offices that was announced in DFID’s recent education strategy by the end of March, disseminate it to country offices over the following three months and to encourage country offices to use the toolkit and share it extensively with other development partners.
These are significant commitments to ensuring that DFID’s country programmes and international activities help to support education for children with disabilities. The commitments address several of the issues raised in our recent report ‘DFID, disability and education: bridging the implementation gap’ and key areas that RESULTS has campaigned on over the past year. It is now crucial that the implementation of these commitments is tracked to ensure that DFID deliver.
While it is clear that this area is receiving greater attention from DFID than in the past, it is questionable whether these steps will be enough to ensure that they are systematically addressing the exclusion of children with disabilities in all DFID country offices. Further pressure from the public and political figures alike is needed to raise this issue further up DFID’s agenda.