On 28 and 29 July, global leaders from more than 80 countries gathered in London at the Global Education Summit to discuss financing the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
The pandemic has created an unprecedented global health crisis, but it has also exacerbated the global learning crisis and the existing inequalities for children with disabilities – especially girls.
The Global Education Summit (GES), and the G7 Summit in June that preceded it, have been the focus of our Equal World campaign, which calls for disability rights to be upheld worldwide.
Through our Equal World campaign, our call has not only been for adequate financing for education (through aid as well as domestic financing at a country level), but also for financial pledges to be unpinned by policy commitments on equity and equality that ensure the rights of children with disabilities are fulfilled and they are included in education so no child is left behind.
An estimated 33 million children were out of school before the pandemic. As Sightsavers’ global technical lead for inclusive education, Liesbeth Roolvink, wrote in her blog hosted on the GPE website: “Building a truly inclusive education system is the only way to respond effectively to the current learning crisis and to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all children and learners, wherever and whoever they are.”
21,526 people from 119 countries backed our campaign by signing our open letter that called on global leaders to meet their commitments on inclusive education for children with disabilities.
Children with disabilities are being left behind in #education. Join @Sightsavers’ calls asking @BorisJohnson, @StateHouseKenya and others at #GES2021 to #FundEducation so that every child can go to school. #EqualWorld https://t.co/3wRa2QUGMg
— Natasha Kennedy (@Kennedytasha) July 28, 2021
Through 15 Sightsavers country offices, with the support of disability organisations and other civil society partners, we called on national governments participating at the Summit to ensure children with disabilities were included in their commitments.
Some of the key highlights included:
One In every 3 out of school children has a disability -Charles Odol @Sightsavers
there is need to invest in early childhood education and assessments for learners with disability, not as an afterthought but a priority for inclusion #GES2021 #EYCPolicyForum #FundEducation pic.twitter.com/SLZWEpSJIy
— VSO Kenya (@VSOKenya) July 22, 2021
Alongside some of our partners, we participated in two side events that looked at different aspects of the education experience. One considered the challenges to learning that are experienced by girls with disabilities and the second looked at ensuring that young children with disabilities access early childhood education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first side event, on gender-responsive and disability-inclusive quality education for all, featured Tiangay Gondoe, Sightsavers’ programme manager in Sierra Leone and Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, Sightsavers’ organisational spokesperson on social inclusion and member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
@tgondoe @Sightsavers speaks about the #InclusiveEducation program in #SierraLeone that prioritizes pan-disability, gender-focused, & community-based approaches to ensure that girls with #disabilities are able to attend school #GES2021 #AllMeansAll https://t.co/y4B4jTQF5V pic.twitter.com/pKsqO3mGoU
— GCE-US (@GCE_US) July 21, 2021
The second side event, Reopening the future – Prioritizing pre-primary education featured Ben Chikaipa, Sightsavers’ project coordinator in Malawi.
Our Equal World campaign fights for the rights of people with disabilities to go to school, find a job and take part fully in society.More on the campaign
On financing: ultimately, no. Governments failed to meet the US$5 billion target that the GPE set out to achieve. It is worth noting this figure is only a small amount of what is required to fund the overall education financing gap.
On equity for children with disabilities: While there were some positive commitments, the GES was disappointing, particularly as few donor governments recognised the intersecting barriers experienced by children with disabilities and made specific commitments to promote their inclusion.
As Sightsavers’ deputy CEO Dom Haslam said after the summit: “While there were some promising commitments to disability from countries including Tanzania and Malawi, the lack of specific commitments from others shows that disability inclusion is still being sidelined.”
All eyes on the @GPforEducation summit today. World leaders need to put rhetoric into action now and make sure children with disabilities are not left behind. #FundEducation inclusive education so ALL children can learn.
#GES2021 #EqualWorld #RaiseYourHand https://t.co/zr6vZ4vkss
— Takyiwa Danso (@Tatch09) July 29, 2021
The fight for the right to education for all children with disabilities continues. Investing in inclusive education doesn’t just benefit children with disabilities, it makes education stronger for everyone.
Ahead of the Global Disability Summit taking place in Oslo in February 2022, governments have an opportunity to put people with disabilities at the heart of their agendas to build back better and more equally – not just in education, but in all areas of life. Alongside partners and people with disabilities, we call on governments to realise just how urgent this situation is and to take the chance to fulfil their promises in the Sustainable Development Goals to build back better and make sure no one is left behind.
You can join us by signing up to the Equal World campaign.
Ross McMullan is Sightsavers’ global campaigns manager, Liesbeth Roolvink is global technical lead for education systems, and Hannah Loryman is head of policy.
Sightsavers’ Boubacar Morou Dicko shares the obstacles Mali faced on the road to eliminating trachoma, and how the country was able to overcome them.
In 2018, Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper took to the TED stage to talk about the importance of eliminating trachoma. Since then, 14 million people have been protected from the disease, but further progress hangs in the balance.
Sightsavers’ Edwin Maleko shares the impact of an inclusive eye health programme on communities and eye care services in Singida and Morogoro.