International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021: Leadership and Participation of Persons with Disabilities

December 3, 2021 9:02 am

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD)!

In line with this year’s IDPD theme, “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world, Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) is celebrating the gains made in promoting disability inclusive education in South Sudan over the past two years.

Disability inclusion has become an integral part of GESS, cutting across all activities. It is based on a human rights approach that underpins the whole programme and focuses on upholding and safeguarding the equal rights of persons with disabilities to access education and services, enabling their full participation in society.

Despite restrictions in place due to COVID-19, GESS managed to raise awareness through radio broadcasts and community-embedded disability champions. This work is helping to combat stigma and discriminatory attitudes towards those with disabilities. These efforts, alongside more effective data collection, have resulted in increased enrolment figures of girls and boys with disabilities, amounting to 30,170 learners across South Sudan. Previous enrolment figures for children with disabilities amounted to only 3,895.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we conducted remote training of GESS’ School Officers, Community Mobilisers and ten Disability Champions across all states. The trainings aimed to build disability confidence at all levels of the system, right down to school management and classroom levels and to mobilise local communities and families to enrol girls and boys in school. Increasingly, children and youth with disabilities, such as Johnson Reech (see video – link), can attend their nearest schools and receive support and encouragement from the teachers and the community.

GESS contributed to the Ministry of General Education and Instruction’s (MoGEI) revision and finalisation of the National Policy on Inclusive Education which was launched in July 2021. This came about through a broad consultative process of various South Sudanese stakeholders, including the South Sudan Union of Persons with Disabilities. GESS supported the efforts to strengthen voices of persons with disabilities in the furthest corners of the country to be co-creators of policy.

As explicitly stated in the National Policy: “While the process of building the capacity of educators and other key stakeholders is taking place, schools must accept and welcome children with disabilities and other children at risk of exclusion, from the beginning of this policy being approved and communicated.”

GESS also influenced the education system by collaborating with MoGEI. We have helped to incorporate the Washington Group Questions (WGQs) into the Pupil Admission Registers, introduce inclusivity standards in the school budget pack.

The WGQs allow us to collect valid, reliable and cross-nationally comparable data on disability. Their use can help to inform and promote evidence-based policy that will go a long way to ensuring no one gets left behind.

By continuing to work with the South Sudanese Radio Broadcasters and the South Sudan Union of Persons with Disabilities, we are finding multiple ways of fostering a disability-inclusive nation. For example, GESS is working with Radio Broadcasters to ensure that persons with disabilities are heard; including persons with disabilities in community dialogues and decision-making is a vital step towards guaranteeing an inclusive nation.

As we move forward into 2022, we will continue to increase the visibility of persons with disabilities when we develop our communications, advertisements, speeches, news bulletins, reports and stories. Through this increased visibility we remove the first barrier to social inclusion.

Watch the short video that introduces Johnson Reech, a learner, singer and activist with a visual impairment:

For information on how the Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) programme supports learners with disabilities, go here.

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