Project Aims to Get Disabled Burmese Children Into Mainstream Schools

By San Yamin Aung 30 May 2014

RANGOON — A two-year education project for disabled children, promoting inclusive education, will begin in Burma’s Irrawaddy and Rangoon divisions next month, an organizer said.

The Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (Myanmar-ILI), a rights group advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, will implement the project with the help of the Myanmar Education Consortium.

“Our project will begin in June at Yay Kyi in Irrawaddy Division and Dala in Rangoon,” said Yu Ya Thu, operation manager of Myanmar-ILI.

Explaining the chosen locations for the project, she said that Irrawaddy Division has the most disabled people in the country, and Dala—which is across the Rangoon River from the center of the former capital—misses out on the development taking place nearby.

“Children with disabilities have very limited access to education. We want an education system in which all disabled people can attend mainstream schools,” Yu Ya Thu said.

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.

“Mainstream schools pose many challenges for students with disabilities. For example, teachers who can explain with sign language are needed for the deaf in schools,” she said.

She said that the project will provide teaching and learning tools for students with disabilities, funding to attend school, training for teachers and other educational programs.

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.

“In some places, if a child is blind, deaf or intellectually disabled, mainstream public schools will not allow him or her to enroll. Parents are also important because most think disabled children don’t need to go to school,” Yu Ya Thu said.