International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Learning Left Behind: Post-COVID Struggles of Children with Disabilities in Education

Roughly 240 million children, constituting one in every ten worldwide, live with disabilities. Regrettably, these children frequently encounter barriers that impede their fundamental rights, particularly access to education in schools. The importance of education for children is widely recognised, but children with disabilities continue to stay behind, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Target 4.5 of the SDGs highlights the importance of eradicating gender disparities and inequalities in education whilst placing emphasis on guaranteeing educational access for individuals with disabilities. Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also notices the importance for children with disabilities of accessing “inclusive, quality and free primary education”.

Despite the widespread recognition of the importance of education for children with disabilities, in 2020, only 68 per cent of countries incorporated inclusive education definitions into their policies. Broken Chalk recognises the urgent need to address the lack of inclusive education for children with disabilities. The lack of inclusive policies from the governments lifts many barriers for children with disabilities. Many of them face societal stigma or poverty, which, paired with insufficiently trained educators, inadequate learning resources, and inaccessible infrastructure, increase their chances of either never enrolling or dropping out of school.

UNICEF Innocenti’s Research Library presents compelling evidence that amidst the profound impact of COVID-19, the pandemic introduced the prospect of a universally accessible learning approach through open and distance learning initiatives. These initiatives hold the potential to offer more equitable educational opportunities for all children. However, realising this potential hinges on access to essential technologies, internet connectivity, and educators equipped with the competencies to provide remote education systematically, especially for children with disabilities.

While promising, the provision of remote learning often overlooks the accessibility needs of children with disabilities, resulting in a widening educational gap between those who can access education remotely and those who cannot. Online learning initiatives offered by national education ministries are reportedly inadequately accommodating for disabilities, leading adolescents to experience heightened anxiety or discontinue their studies altogether. Broken Chalks strongly supports the creation of accessible and high-quality educational materials. This includes advocating for flexible curriculum delivery methods that account for differences among learners.

Gender and poverty further compound these challenges, creating systemic discrimination at the intersection of multiple factors.

The evidence underscores gender as a critical social determinant of exclusion, particularly impacting women and girls with disabilities. Relative to boys with disabilities, women and girls around the world experienced higher risk factors for gender-based violence, increased barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health and/or loss of access to healthcare, education, employment and other necessary supports. Broken Chalk believes that education is crucial to working towards the elimination of violence against women and girls with disabilities.

Moreover, poverty is a significant barrier, restricting access to the internet and affordable quality technologies like cameras, screens, and internet bandwidth. This limitation often impedes access to distance learning, notably in humanitarian settings. Poverty significantly amplifies the challenges faced by children with disabilities in their educational journey as families grapple with the added expenses of sustaining their children’s education. Prevailing negative perceptions regarding the abilities of children with disabilities can further intensify this financial strain. Consequently, families might hesitate to enrol their children in schools, perceiving limited advantages.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in mental health disorders, exacerbated existing psychosocial disabilities, limited access to crucial healthcare services, heightened obstacles to social protection and elevated the risks of stigma, discrimination, neglect, violence, and abuse among individuals with disabilities.

Broken Chalks advocates for the collection of valuable insights to fortify programs and enhance partner capabilities.

The active engagement of parents in their children’s education stands out as a crucial and reliable predictor of academic success. Despite the evident advantages of parental involvement, children with disabilities often lack equal support for their learning compared to their peers without disabilities. Parents may encounter difficulties in adjusting their communication and interaction styles to cater to their child’s disability-specific needs, consequently feeling less equipped to engage in their child’s education and sometimes withdrawing their support.

The decision to leave school prematurely limits the future prospects for education and employment among these children, denying them the necessary skills and knowledge essential for advancing their careers. Broken Chalk firmly advocates for increasing inclusive education as a pivotal means to enhance the prospects of numerous children with disabilities through the educational challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic. Inclusive education embodies the enhancement of conditions and capacities within the education system to accommodate all learners, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic background, nationality, place of residence, or disability status, among other characteristics. It fosters meaningful and successful engagement within the educational framework. This concept encompasses various community and school infrastructure elements, norms, attitudes, and behaviours at the family, community, and school levels.

Broken Chalk calls for urgent investments to lower the educational gaps of children with disabilities that have exponentially grown after the COVID-19 Pandemic through promoting inclusive education all around the world. Moreover, Broken Chalk calls for taking on an intersectional perspective to diminish the societal stigma around children with disabilities throughout education.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.


Broken Chalk