NGOs, Political Parties to Discuss Inclusive Education for Disabled Children

By San Yamin Aung 20 June 2014

RANGOON — Burmese groups advocating for the rights of disabled people said they plan to meet with Rangoon Division lawmakers and political parties on Saturday in order to discuss how the government can improve access to education for disabled children.

Thiha Tun from Rangoon’s Eden Center for Disabled Children said that even though current education policies are inclusive on paper, disabled children struggle to gain access to education because schools in Burma often refuse to accept students with disabilities.

“Some schools’ management thinks that disabled children should just stay home and don’t need education,” he said, adding that children with disabilities often need extra time and attention during their studies, a requirement that public schools are often unable or unwilling to meet.

Eden Center has invited five lawmakers and members from the ruling and opposition parties to a workshop at the Yangon Education Center for the Blind, in Rangoon’s Mayangone Township, where they will discuss pedagogical best practices and policies in mainstream education for pupils with disabilities.

“We are doing this to discuss how we can build the inclusive education system for disabled children through politics,” Thiha Tun said. “The government has the right policy but it needs be enforced properly.”

The Eden Center runs a Disabled Children’s Inclusive Education Project that supports disabled children who are attending public schools and it advocates for stronger education policies for disabled pupils.

Nyo Nyo Thin, a lawmaker in the Rangoon Division Parliament who will participate in the workshop, said there is a strong need to address the educational challenges facing disabled children.

“Only 2 percent of all disabled people graduate so this share is very low, and the government has a duty to address that,” she said.

“The government is doing more on the disability issue than in the past. The draft law for a disability law is being prepared,” Nyo Nyo Thin said. “But it is also important to include the representatives of disabled people in the decision-making” by the committee that will implement the new law.

According to a national survey conducted by the government, 50 percent of all people with disabilities, including physical and intellectual disabilities, have never attended school, largely because they were denied entrance at the government’s mainstream public schools.

Outside mainstream schools, disabled students have few options, with just 15 special education schools in the entire country for the deaf, blind, physically disabled and intellectually disabled, including those with autism.

There are also seven vocational training schools for people with physical disabilities. Some are run by the government while the others were established by NGOs.