Students who fall through the cracks


Aisha Sarwari
You are only as strong as your weakest link. This common adage is now the cornerstone of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s education ethos. It has designed an equity strategy to ensure students with disabilities get a shot at a well-rounded education. The philosophy behind the equity strategy doesn’t simply provide students services and infrastructure but actually defines a path to ensure these children who have previously fallen through the cracks are now brought into the formal education system.
This is done by a commitment to Article 25A of the constitution that stipulates compulsory education of all children, no exceptions — and that distance from school, gender, or disability shouldn’t preclude them from accessing an education. To this end more schools are being built in remote and underserved areas, families are being given vouchers to access low-cost private education where there are no alternatives, the government is building new community girls schools and also providing stipends to support girls to complete school.
The equity strategy also sets out steps that government will make to ensure that there is no discrimination within schools on the basis of disability.
The government prioritises collecting accurate data on disabilities in KP, which helps ESED make viable education policies to aid disabled children and young people
According to the Elementary and Secondary Education Department (ESED) of KP, there are thousands of students with disabilities in public schools in the province. Data on the types of disability which children of school-going age experience is being collected as part of the Annual School Census and includes full visual impairment; partial visual impairment; full hearing; partial hearing; full speech; partial speech; hand/arm disability; foot/leg disability and mental/psychological disability.
Across KP, for decades, there has been a general neglect of these children. It is clear that without an education these children grow up to be dependent on their families. Early intervention in these cases can make or break their lives. It can make them independent and productive students who will eventually merge into a productive workforce.
Schools have previously been unable to enroll disabled children because the school infrastructure does not support their easy access to and from classrooms. Across many schools in KP infrastructural upgrades for ramps, disability-friendly toilets and other structural improvements are being made.
The objective is to do it across the province. E&SE department has decided to include the provision of ramps for disabled children in all the new schools of the province. A policy is also being made to add these ramps as part of missing facilities to the existing schools.
The government prioritises collecting accurate data on disabilities in KP, which helps ESED make viable education policies to aid disabled children and young people. Very crucial data on disabilities is being collected through the Annual School Census and will be added to questions asked as part of the Out of School Children Survey.
This guides and informs both policymakers and lawmakers to execute important adjustments to KP schools and make them more accommodating of students with disabilities. There are also several other initiatives targeted at removing other barriers for students with disabilities to access the education they need.