UNICEF survey says one in five children with disabilities does not attend schools

Children with disabilities in Armenia continue to be one of the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups of the Armenian population, facing numerous inequalities in access to education, family care, inclusion and participation, a UNICEF commissioned “It’s About Inclusion” Report launched today in presence of high-level policy- and decision-makers says.

“During the past years, more and more people in Armenia have increased their understanding of the fact that a society, able to include children with disabilities, is a better society for everyone.  Learning in inclusive kindergartens and schools is the passport to living in a society where every member can lead a dignified life,” UNICEF Representative in Armenia Henriette Ahrens said.

Children with certified disabilities represent one per cent (8,000) of the total child population ofArmenia. The survey was conducted with the families or caregivers of 5707 children, 5322 in the care of families and 385 in orphanages.

The report reveals that although 70% of children with certified disabilities in the care of their families attend regular schools, the percentage of children with intellectual disabilities and hearing impairments in mainstream schools is much lower – 48% and 56% respectively.  Approximately one in four children with motor and intellectual disabilities does not go to school.  Moreover, children with disabilities living in institutions are almost left out of education process, with 72% of them not attending any type of school.

Children with disabilities are more at risk of institutionalization compared to other children. According to the report, out of almost 6,000 children with disabilities involved in the research 13% were institutionalized (in orphanages or special schools), while 23% of children with disabilities have never left the premises of the institution, or leave when for visiting a doctor.

Data produced by the survey have also demonstrated gender inequalities. Thus, girls with disabilities are  more at risk of institutionalization than boys, and are more likely to be left out of school than boys, especially in regional towns.

Significant inequalities also exist among children with disabilities living in urban and rural areas. In particular, 23% of children with disabilities living in rural areas do not attend school compared to an average of 18% for all children with disabilities. Similar discrepancy is observed in preschool attendance and use of pediatric care.

Of the children with disabilities participating in the survey, 12% do not have friends at all and 33% do not participate in any event organized in their communities. Children with intellectual and combined disabilities have the lowest rates of participation in community and cultural events, and sports and are more likely to have no friends.

The report comes as the first major research initiative in the last decade that sheds light on the situation of children with disabilities inArmeniaand the accessibility of a spectrum of services to them.

The launch of the report will be followed by a major parliamentary hearing that will be held on 3 December 2012, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

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