Nepal has made great strides to improve education on a broad scale and currently boasts a primary net enrollment rate of 97%. However, issues of inequity persist especially in terms of factors such as gender, economic status and location. A group neglected more than the average is the large population of children with disabilities in Nepal. Of the approximately 200,000 children with disabilities in Nepal, a study found that around 30.6% of them did not attend any school at all. There are also limited lesson plans for students with disabilities and those who do not attend school have very few basic skills. For these reasons, the government and various organizations are focusing on making inclusive education in Nepal a standard and not an outlier.
Implementation of Inclusive Education in Nepal
Since 2017, the Nepal government has publicly supported legislation that would combat the lack of education services for students with disabilities. In that year, Nepal created both the Disability Rights Act and the Inclusive Education Policy for Persons with Disabilities. Both aim to put a focus on the issue and ensure that no student faces discrimination in school based on their disability. In addition, the Disability Rights Act seeks to have a curriculum set by 2030 and allow students with disabilities to obtain their education in community schools or independently.
However, lack of implementation of the Act has resulted in limited success since 2017. Despite the intent of the Disability Rights Act, inclusive education in Nepal remains very sparse and tens of thousands of children with disabilities still have no prospect of receiving some form of formal education. Some of the clearest factors behind the slow change in inclusive education include:
- Lack of funding: The Nepal government has made acquiring the funds necessary to implement change difficult for many schools. One specific rule indicates that there must be a minimum number of students with a given disability at a specific school before the school can qualify for funding. This lack of funding means that there will be less money to improve the structure of the school, such as ramps and other accessibilities that many special needs students will require.
- Lack of educators: In line with low funding, many schools face issues training and retaining educators to teach students with disabilities. Some schools utilize “resource classes” with advanced teaching curriculums and trained teachers to cater to specific disabilities. However, the prevalence of such classes is limited, with only 380 of the roughly 30,000 schools in Nepal offering these classes to students with disabilities. Training of teachers has also been slow, and currently, Nepal faces issues ensuring that there are enough educators for these students. Often, this will mean that students with similar disabilities will receive an education in over-packed classrooms or will not secure a position in a school able to teach them.
- Lack of materials: Lastly, many schools are still having trouble acquiring enough materials for all students with disabilities. This includes specialized equipment, braille textbooks and audio programs. Without more focus on inclusive education in Nepal’s budget, there will be no effective way to ensure schools provide for all students.
Programs Making a Difference
- Nepal Youth Foundation: The Nepal Youth Foundation is a scholarship organization that assists families of children with physical disabilities with the cost of boarding school. The organization is aware of the hardships in finding affordable inclusive education in Nepal, especially for the most impoverished people in the nation. The organization aims to alleviate some of the strain on Nepal families, providing financially for students with specific dietary and living requirements.
- Inclusive Education Initiative: Launched by the World Bank in 2019, the Inclusive Education Initiative aims to broaden inclusive education in impoverished nations, including Nepal, where it provides training and other materials. As part of the broader initiative, there is also a pilot program that has delivered an additional $2 million in funding for students with disabilities. In the coming year, the program aims to create a working response to the COVID-19 outbreak that will still allow students with disabilities to receive some education.
- Autism Care Nepal Society: The Autism Care Nepal Society is responsible for the creation of daycare centers focused on children and young adults with autism. This includes daily attendance at the centers, education and development assistance and adult supervision. Even now, as the COVID-19 outbreak forces children out of the center, there is still some assistance available online. While not an exact substitute for classroom education, the Society ensures that more young people with disabilities have at least some options to pursue an education.
While relief for students with disabilities has been slow to begin, it is clear that the Nepal government and outside groups are determined to find a solution. Ongoing support for inclusive education in Nepal and added funding to structural improvements and accommodating materials in the country could accelerate development across the country.
– Matthew McKee