Section 30 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia states, “All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with a view to achieving the full realization of that right- (a) basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all; (b) secondary education, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education.”
It is without doubt that the Gambia has been working toward this constitutional provision and has registered a significant gain in the area of education. The enabling environment has been created to make this fundamental right realistic by acceding and ratifying enormous international conventions such as the African Charter on Human and People Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discriminations Against Women, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child to name just a few; and there are also domestic legal frameworks in addition to the Constitution such as the Children Act 2005 and Women Act 2010 all geared toward promoting right to education among others.
Notwithstanding of the government of The Gambia active role in promotion of children’s rights to education which is translated into the promulgation of the above named laws and building adequate schools in all the four corners of the country. There is yet a huge gap or disparity that needs to be addressed. Children with disabilities in The Gambia are confronted with challenges such as discrimination and marginalisation both in formal and informal institutions. It is therefore urgent to draw the attention of the government into the plight of these children as they equally have right to education as enshrined in the supreme law of the land and the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Author: Tejan Deen
Barrister, Republic of Sierra Leone; LLM Candidate at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa
It is now eighteen years since the National Policy on the Care for Persons with Disabilities was adopted in Botswana and to date people with disabilities have only this policy that speaks to their issues. Children with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable groups of children in Botswana, are still being handled in a ‘medicalised’ manner. These children are segregated especially in the educational system which lacks any form of inclusive education. They have an opportunity to gain formal education only in special schools, most of which are owned by non-governmental organisations such as Cheshire Foundation and Camphill Community Trust. This is completely contrary to the right to inclusive education as guaranteed in international human rights instruments particularly the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Inclusive education is a method of education that gives equal opportunity to children with disabilities by guaranteeing their rights to education and creating an amiable environment to realise that right on an equally basis with other children.
Botswana currently has a Draft Reviewed National Policy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which has remained a draft since it was drafted in 2010. There is also the Inclusive Education Policy of 2011 which has not had any positive impact on the lives of these children as they are still completely ‘out of the picture’ of mainstream schools, and very little provisional mechanisms have been instituted to address their needs. Camphill Community Trust, for example, is located out of the city of Gaborone, which is an indication of how children with disabilities are treated in Botswana: Not fit for mainstream schools. The policy currently in force is the 1996 National Policy on Care for People with Disabilities. This is a policy with a purely medical approach that focuses on the ‘disability’ as in need of cure and rehabilitation instead of providing the necessary conditions in the society to enable children with disabilities to realise their full potentials. The word “care” implies people who should be taken care of; a social encumbrance which should be remedied through social welfare initiatives and goodwill. This situation is made worse by the fact that Botswana does not have a National Human Rights Institution which could have championed the course of the rights of these children.
Inclusive education advocates for educational systems with an approach that serves the needs of all learners while identifying and overcoming barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from being included in the educational system. Lesotho has a high literacy rate of 87%. In spite of this commendable figure, about 40% of children with disabilities (CWDs) between the ages of 5 and 10 do not attend primary school while 23% of children with disabilities between ages 10 and 20 do not attend high school. These figures are significantly higher when compared to children without disabilities in the same age groups.
The Constitution of Lesotho recognises education as a directive principle of state policy under Chapter 3 of the Constitution and not as a justiciable right. However, the Child Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 and the Education Act of 2010 expressly affirm the right of children with disabilities to education. In addition, Section 4(2)(b) of the Education Act imposes an obligation on duty bearers to ensure that children with disabilities are included in the educational system. The right to education is also protected under Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This provision also places an obligation on state parties not to exclude children with disabilities from free and compulsory primary education, and that the inclusion is complemented by accessibility, reasonable accommodation, and effective individualised support aimed at maximising academic and social development. Lesotho ratified the CRPD in 2008 and adopted a free universal primary education in 2001 as a means of achieving education for all. Lesotho has a National Disability Policy of 2011, the Education Sector Strategic Plan 2005-2015, and the Special Education Unit all geared towards achieving inclusive education for people with disabilities. The legal implication of these laws and policies is that the government of Lesotho has obligations under international and domestic law to ensure that children with disabilities are not excluded from the general educational system and that children with disabilities can learn on an equal basis with abled children. However, children with disabilities still do not attend primary school. There is a huge gap between the legal framework and the practical implementation of inclusive education in Lesotho.