A Sightsavers report on education provision for children with visual impairments in sub-Saharan Africa has been published as a background paper to the 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report.
Research commissioned by the GEM team and conducted by Sightsavers found that children who are blind or with low vision across the region are not getting the education they need, and many do not go to school at all. However, the paper also provides solutions and recommendations for policymakers and educators.
An estimated one third of the world’s children with visual impairments, more than 400,000, live in sub-Saharan Africa. But the paper shows that many of these children are often denied the chance to learn basic skills. This can have hugely detrimental effects on their long-term quality of life – limiting their employment prospects and sometimes trapping them in poverty.
The background paper drew on data provided by ministries of education in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia, as well as studies from other countries. Disability activists across the region also contributed to the writing of the report.
It shows that rates of primary enrolment, completion and literacy in these countries are significantly lower among boys and girls with visual impairments than their fully sighted peers. The gaps between these children have also not narrowed over recent decades despite improvements. The paper concluded that these gaps are the result of under-investment in education systems, including specialist support for children with visual impairments, along with disabling social attitudes and practices.
Despite this, the paper notes that significant progress has been made in recent decades. For instance, data shows that more children with visual impairments are enrolling in and completing primary schooling than ever before.
Guy Le Fanu, lead author of the report from Sightsavers, said: “All children need the opportunity to realise their potential and have access to good quality education. This report shows that there is still much work to be done in including all children in education. But thanks to the collaborative efforts of communities, governments and disabled people’s organisations, change is happening.”
The background paper, Education of children with visual impairments in sub-Saharan Africa: challenges and opportunities, was commissioned by the Global Education Monitoring team to assist them to draft the 2020 GEM Report, which was published in June 2020. The report assesses progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education and is focused this year on inclusion in education.