Including the Excluded

A circle of students, abled and disabled
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Positive Learning from the Pandemic

Introducing unwarranted challenges for all aspects of life, COVID-19 has certainly unmasked the reality of all situations, laying them bare. As learning becomes remote and institutions turn to digital platforms to continue education, the notion of social inequalities has been put to question. While it is promising to see solutions being proposed and put into action, it is no surprise that we have failed to recognize the highly excluded category of Children with Disabilities. When combined with numerous structural inequalities, such as poverty, gender, religion, etc. children with disabilities are more vulnerable to the exclusion from education, and this just isn’t right.

During this time, we finally see the genuine challenges these children face. The children with compromised immunity and chronic conditions are more susceptible to the virus. A large percentage of children with multi-disabilities are emotionally weak too. They’re stuck at home with no social interaction beyond their family members, and while that may be comforting, there is a disruption in their routine interaction with familiar surroundings and environments. While we may be getting frustrated with the boredom and situation, children may face severe behavioural issues that may be caused by lack of occupation, change in routine and by and large, the inability to comprehend a sudden shift in their structured schedule and learning environment.

Many of these students may not be able to adapt to remote learning and online schooling, increasing complexities and pressures for the parents working at home too. The dependence on their caregiver is paramount and the inability to continue with them shifts the responsibility onto the family. Learning from these situations, one can agree that while this pandemic has certainly caused a myriad of challenges, it has urged us, as humanitarians, to introspect and innovate.

Equal access to education for Children with Disabilities has been neglected and prevalent apathy can be identified when concerned with it. Delving into the implications that COVID-19 has brought, this should be an opportunity to enable this inclusion for children by building common bases in education. Deploying e-learning methods permits special educators and students to maximize learning opportunities. More than that, experts need to go beyond providing just physical access, by finely tailoring policies for children across the disability spectrum. Transforming teaching methods to aid the inclusion of diverse learners, shattering the stigma and developing positive disposition towards others, both in the classroom and beyond, is the way to go forward. I hope that from this crisis, governments realize the need to take an active interest to make education truly inclusive and widespread – an approach that encourages and empowers the children to access and benefit from education, health, social services and beyond. I hope that they could learn to comprehend the paramount importance of including the excluded.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, from prekindergarten to elementary and secondary, to special education, to technical and higher education and beyond."

- Jim Jeffords, Former US Senator