UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Henrikh Mkhitaryan urges to welcome children with disabilities in schools

A new video featuring UNCEF Goodwill Ambassador, Armenian National Football Team Captain and Manchester United Player Henrikh Mkhitaryan was released today calling upon our society to welcome children with disabilities this September back in their classrooms and highlighting the importance of inclusive education for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

The video features Mkhitaryan’s June meeting in with a group of adolescent children from various regions of Armenia, briefing him about education, their dreams and challenges.

‘Every child, regardless his/her abilities has the right to quality inclusive education,’ said Mkhitaryan. ‘And it is the ability, not the disability that defines what a child can accomplish.’

UNICEF Representative in Armenia Tanja Radocaj said: ‘Armenia has made a significant progress in advancing inclusive education in the country. However, much needs to be done in terms of readiness of schools and support from parents and community.’ ‘In UNICEF we know that children with different disabilities can do amazing things if they are given the chance and that they have the same right to education as anyone else,’ added Radocaj.

In 2013 and 2015, UNICEF and the Civilitas Foundation conducted a nationally representative survey on attitudes towards children with disabilities. The survey demonstrated  that although there is tolerance towards social inclusion of children with disabilities in the society and in the mainstream school setting, the degree of tolerance differs with regard to the notion of disability both of physical or intellectual nature, with the majority of the population- 71%- still thinking that children with intellectual disability should attend a special school.

Children with disabilities are one of the most excluded and deprived groups in Armenia, lacking amongst other things, quality inclusive education. As of 2017, there are 208 inclusive schools and the number is steadily increasing.  The number of special schools has reduced from 40 to 21 and further reductions are anticipated. Nevertheless, the situation is desolate for children with disabilities currently living in childcare institutions.

UNICEF supports the Armenian Government so that every child is Armenia in included in mainstream education from early childhood to adolescence. The interventions include:

–          training form mainstream school teachers to foster commitment to inclusion;

–          transforming special schools into centres that can support mainstream schools in becoming inclusive;

–          revising identification of disability according to the international classification of functioning, disability and health;

–          setting up mechanisms for early identification and intervention of disabilities and developmental delays among children 0-6 years old,

–          collecting data about disability to fill gaps and monitor progress,

–          Improving policy legal framework to support social inclusion of children with disabilities.

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