2.3 Reasons for exclusion

The reasons that children with disabilities do not attend school in developing countries are complex. It is increasingly accepted that the so-called medical model of disability often serves to stigmatize persons with disabilities while inadequately dealing with wider issues of exclusion from a person’s society, environment and culture. Under the social model of disability, conversely, the main barriers to access for children with disabilities can be summarized as follows:

  • Attitudinal – Social or institutional attitudes that persons with disabilities cannot or should not be educated.49
  • Physical - Most schools are not designed to accommodate the needs of children with disabilities. Inaccessible entrances, toilet facilities, corridors and doorways for people with physical or sensory disabilities make physical access to school buildings difficult and often impossible.50
  • Pedagogical - There is little or no training of teachers in meeting the educational and communication needs of children with disabilities.
  • Infrastructural – No transportation (or inaccessible transportation) is provided to enable children with disabilities to travel to school. One survey in Bangladesh found that parents of children with disabilities saw the absence of a specialized transport system from home to school in rural areas, and the lack of subsidized support for rickshaw transport, as major constraints.51
  • Policy – While most countries have a policy framework to support inclusive national educational systems, many do not have strategies in place to address the barriers preventing children from attending school. Indeed, the grossly inadequate level of support for children with disabilities in general schools often drives parents and groups representing persons with disabilities to demand separate provision of educational services.52


49The WHO report on “Children out of School” stated that children with disabilities in Uganda are often chased away from school. Though no reasons are given for this, another report on attitudes towards persons with disabilities in Nigeria points to a general belief in most ethnic groups that a person’s disability is a result of a curse from God or an act of witchcraft. EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010 http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001866/186606E.pdf

50 For example, in 2005, just 18 per cent of India’s schools were accessible to children with disabilities, in terms of facilities such as ramps, appropriately designed classrooms and toilets, and transport. EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010 http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001866/186606E.pdf

51(Ackerman et al., 2005).cited in EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010

52(Lang and Murangira, 2009). Cited in EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010