COCO and Disabilities – Emma Silvester

COCO’s vision is a world where every child has access to quality education, and that includes children with disabilities. The UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities UNCRPD (2006) estimates indicate that only between 1 and 5% of disabled children attend any form of school in developing countries. The vast majority are still largely excluded from education and from society.

(Disability was defined at the UNCRPD as: "those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” and this is the definition used in this report.)

COCO has already provided security fencing for a school for disabled children in South Africa, and wheel chairs and wheelchair access for children in one of their existing partner schools. COCO has also recently partnered with an organisation called Building Caring Communities (BCC) who are based in Moshi, Tanzania. BCC have offered to provide training on support services for children with intellectual disabilities and their families, In return for sustainable agriculture training,  (For more information on these services please see:

My research looked into what more COCO can do to cater for children with disabilities in East Africa. First it addresses the debate around inclusion, and outlines the theory and research on how best to support children with disabilities get access to quality education. The International Policy Guidance advocates an “inclusive education system at all levels” so that “persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system to facilitate their effective education.” (UNCRPD, 2006, Article 24). However, children with disabilities have very diversified needs. Thus there is real debate over what an ‘effective education’ means for children with different kinds of impairment and whether it is possible to facilitate their effective education within mainstream settings which have (amongst other things) much larger class sizes. The debate is explored in much more depth in the report but as Frederickson & Cline put it, the “rights of a child to have maximum access to mainstream education need to be balanced by their right to an effective education, appropriate to their needs” (2009, p. 78).

no one is to be left behind, particularly with regards to education. However inclusion (as the UNCRPD defines it) is at is nascent stage in these countries. Provision for children with disabilities is primarily limited to special schools, integrated schools and special units attached to regular schools. However, these governments have made concerted efforts towards increasing access to educational provision for children with disabilities. By adapting curriculums and examination conditions, creating educational resource centres, and giving schools capitation grants for students with special educational needs. In Uganda they have also allocated a Special Educational Needs Co-coordinator to each cluster of 20 schools.

Analysis of current research and National Policy documents revealed that the main barriers to inclusion and effective education of children with disabilities are: