Inclusion Now 47

Costing Equity – Creating a global disability-responsive education financing environment

2017 could mark the beginning of serious efforts to fund inclusive education for disabled children and young people in low and middle income countries (LMIC).

The Inclusive Education Committee of the International Disability and Development Committee (IDDC, a consortium of NGOs in disability and development), has published the Costing Equity report, important research into what it will take to deliver Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. The report’s recommendations were launched at the UN last October with huge interest, but on 22nd March the full report was launched at the Open Society Foundation (one of the funders), attended by CEOs from twelve NGOs and representatives of other organisations. Nafisa Baboo, a visually impaired South African who is the Inclusive Education Lead for Light for the World, played a key role in promoting this work.

The context:

  • Half of the world’s 65 million children not in elementary school are disabled.
  • Many more disabled children and students drop out and do not move on to secondary and tertiary education.
  • The cost of exclusion from education is significant. In Bangladesh the lack of schooling and employment for disabled people is costing the country US$1.2 billion annually or 1.74% of Gross Domestic Product.
  • Global funding for education is declining. To deliver SDG4 more equitable and inclusive approaches to budgeting are required.
  • Progressive universalism is required, investing more in reaching those on the margins and less on elite education.
  • NGOs, disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and parents’ organisations have long been the main supporters of disabled people’s education.
  • Governments are not providing adequate or the right funding. Only 31 out of 76 LMIC have specific budgets and these are nearly all focussed on special education.
  • Governments are failing to collect taxes and are not spending enough on education.
  • A survey of nine leading bilateral and multilateral education donors was carried out and an emerging commitment to disability inclusive education was found (USAID, DFID-UK, World Bank, Global Partnership on Education, European Union, JICA(Japan), Germany, Australia, Norway, France and Canada ranked by volume of aid to education).
  • “Leave No One Behind” is the slogan of the SDGs. The General Comment on Article 24 provides guidance on how to develop inclusion: now we need a big increase in funding to implement it.
  • There are still big gaps in data, especially disaggregated by type of impairment, gender or economic circumstance, but several projects are addressing this.

Costing Equity makes 64 recommendations to address this situation. Some of the most important include: governments to develop their tax base, improve existing resource use, increase percentage of spend on education and develop twin track budgeting to match a twin track approach.

Track 1: invest in changing policies, practices and attitudes at all levels of the education system to remove barriers and create enabling situations for all children via disability inclusive teaching.

Track 2: offer learning and participation opportunities for individuals via differentiated teaching methods and reasonable accommodations, sign language and materials in accessible formats. The decline in external funding needs to be reversed, and funding needs to be disability responsive and harmonised in national plans. The Global Partnership for Education invests £2 billion a year and is committing to focus more on disability inclusion.

Capacity building is crucial especially around understanding the UNCRPD General Comment No. 4 on Inclusive Education Article 24. This needs to be for DPOs/NGO staff, ministry of education staff, teachers and education administrators, parents and donor organisations. This must be based on the paradigm shift at the heart of the UNCRPD from disabled people as objects to subjects – from the medical to the social model.

The report points to many innovative approaches: involving the private sector, public campaigns, cash transfer programmes for attendance in education, reasonable accommodation funds, provision of assistive devices and more involvement of DPOs in budget planning.

The spirit of the report was picked up by Priti Patel MP, Secretary of State for Overseas Development at the Bond Conference for development organisations, on 20th March 2017.

“We will also strengthen our work on disability … Disability is shamefully the most under-prioritised, under-resourced area in development. But with the help of your organisations, we can change this.”

She went on to announce a small charities challenge fund for charities with a turnover of less than £250,000 and recognised the valuable work carried out by smaller NGOs such as Exeter Ethiopia Link who help thousands of disabled children go to school by providing wheelchairs, training teachers and providing support for teachers.

With thirteen years to go to 2030 when the SDGs are to be implemented, a major change is necessary. Building the campaign for disability responsive inclusive education and securing the changes and resources to make this happen is now one of the great struggles of our age. Make sure you do what you can to ensure the right outcome locally, nationally and internationally.

The Costing Equity report is here.

Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion