A Step Towards Disability-Inclusive Education

June 14, 2022 1:29 pm

Girl’s Education South Sudan (GESS) is an inclusive programme that is helping to create an enabling social-cultural environment for supporting girls’ education across South Sudan, including learners with disabilities.

Inclusion is the action or state of including or being included within a group or structure. It is also the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.

Despite widespread awareness creation on girls’ education, many barriers still prevent girls with disabilities from going to school and staying in school. Evidence has shown that awareness of the importance of girls’ education alone is not enough; rather, there needs to be a process of behavioural, practical, and social change.

Girls with disabilities face double discrimination due to their gender, which places them at higher risk of sexual and gender-based violence, neglect and exploitation. Without challenging the stigma around disability and changing existing discriminatory practices, children with disabilities will continue to be excluded from classrooms in South Sudan.  GESS is therefore seeking to remove the harmful stigma surrounding disabilities so that all girls and boys can access quality education.

The GESS Programme is incorporating disability sensitisation messaging in its behaviour change communication interventions (community outreach activities and radio programming), tackling the stigma that prevails in communities across the country.

Many children with disabilities are seen as a burden to the family in Unity State and Ruweng Administrative Area. Many children are kept at home and are not allowed to go to school. Those that can attend school often come into contact with teachers who are not trained to identify children with disabilities and support their needs, and many hold the same negative attitudes that prevail in their communities.

Nyabeer (16) is a girl living with a physical disability. She became disabled when she was five years old. She is currently in Primary Eight in Liech Primary School in the Bentiu Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, where she resides with her mother and siblings. Her father is a soldier who stays in the military camp. “Living in the PoC and without our father near us is not very easy, but (sic) we keep on going,” Nyabeer said.

“As now I am in Primary Eight, I will work very hard to do my best in this coming examination to pass very well. I will continue with my studies and be a very responsible person in the future so that I can help my parents, and my siblings and give good services to people in South Sudan, and beyond,” she continued.

“I am grateful for the support that is given to us through the (GESS) Cash Transfer Programme, which is helping us a lot, especially we who are living with disabilities”

Nyabeer’s mother was very happy with the support given to the girls. “I am grateful for the support given to all the girls through the Cash Transfers which is reducing costs from us the parents. I am requesting that the support should continue so that all the girls who are staying at home will go back to school, and it will encourage all the parents to send their children to school, especially those who are living with disabilities.”

“I would like to thank all the teachers who are preparing us for the upcoming examination. They are doing a lot for us and we are grateful for all of them,” Nyabeer said

Despite the support Nyabeer feels she receives, one of the teachers in Liech Primary School raised the following concerns: “Children living with disabilities are very difficult to handle in a class. These children need to have special schools with special teachers. We are not trained on how to handle children with disabilities in an inclusive school or class and we are not getting paid for the work we are doing”.

The GESS State Anchor Team Leader for Unity State, Samuel Kute, believes that “all teachers should be trained so that they can handle children living with disabilities. This will reduce the negative attitudes that they have towards children with disabilities”.

GESS is leading change in partnership with the Ministry of General Education and instruction (MoGEI). School management collects enrolment data through a Pupil Administration Register (PAR). Previously, disability data was collected by type of disability, meaning teachers and administrators collecting the data would need to have some knowledge of disability types, which, more often than not, they didn’t have. Therefore, the data collected was scarce and unreliable.

To help tackle these issues, the following year GESS incorporated the Washington Group Questions (WGQs) into the PARs. The Washington Group Questions are designed to identify people with functional difficulties they might have rather than emphasizing on their physical conditions. For example, one of the WGQs is phrased thus, ‘Do you have difficulty seeing, even if wearing glasses?’

The introduction of the Washington Group Questions has produced some good initial results, since being incorporated in mid-2021. Approximately 30,170 children with disabilities have been identified in schools in South Sudan, out of a total of 2,583,130 children.

The South Sudan National Disability and Inclusion Policy was introduced in 2013. If incorporated effectively, this policy can help to reduce stigma and discrimination and ensure children with disabilities go to school. All stakeholders must be on board with the policy to help to reduce barriers that are hindering learners with disabilities from accessing school and completing their education.


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