Nepal has made great strides to improve education on a broad scale and currently boasts a net enrollment of 97%. However, issues of inequity persist especially in terms of factors such as gender, economic status and location. A group that has been neglected more than the average is the large population of disabled children in Nepal. Of the approximately 200,000 disabled children 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 disabled students, and those who do not attend school are provided with very few basic skills. For these reasons, the government and various organizations have focused 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 disabled students. In that year, both the Disability Rights Act and the Inclusive Education Policy for Persons with Disabilities were created. Both aim to put a focus on the issue and ensure that no student is discriminated against in school based on their disability. In addition, the Disability Rights Act seeks to have a curriculum set by 2030 and allow disabled students to get their education in community schools or independently.
However, weakness in 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 disabled children still have no prospect of receiving some form of formal education. Some of the clearest factors that are causing the slow change in inclusive education include:
Lack of funding: The Nepali 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 it 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 conditions that many disabled students will require.
Lack of educators: In-line with low funding, many schools are having problems training and retaining educators that will teach disabled students. Some schools utilize “resource classes” with advanced teaching curriculums and trained teachers to cater to specific disabilities. However, the prevalence of such classes has been limited, with only 380 of the roughly 30,000 schools in Nepal offering them to disabled students. Training of teachers has also been slow, and currently, there are issues even ensuring that there are enough educators for these students. Often, this will mean that students with similar disabilities will be taught in over-packed classrooms, or more likely will have no school able to teach them.
Lack of materials: Lastly, many schools are still having trouble acquiring enough materials for all disabled students. 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 all students are being provided for.
Programs Making a Difference
Nepal Youth Foundation: The Nepal Youth Foundation is a scholarship organization that assists families of physically disabled children with the cost of boarding school. They are aware of the hardships in finding affordable inclusive education in Nepal, especially for the poorest of the nation. They aim to alleviate some of the strain on Nepal families, providing financially for students with added 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 deploys training and other materials today. 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, they aim to create a working response to the COVID-19 outbreak that will still allow disabled students 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, this Society ensure that more disabled young people have at least some options to pursue an education.
While relief to disabled students has been slow to begin, it is clear that the Nepal government and outside groups are determined to find a solution. Continued support for inclusive education in Nepal and added funding to structural improvements and accommodating materials in the country could allow for faster development across the country.
– Matthew McKee