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30 years of inclusive education – HI participates in the UNESCO event


Advocacy | Inclusion | Laws | International | PUBLISHED ON March 11th 2024
All children learn sign language in the classroom, in an inclusive education project.

All children learn sign language in the classroom, in an inclusive education project. | © R. Binard / HI

30 years ago, at the UNESCO International Conference, global leaders and education stakeholders adopted the Salamanca Statement, which laid down the fundamental principle of inclusion at school.

From 13 to 15 March 2024, UNESCO organises a high-level meeting and a forum in Paris, marking the 30th anniversary of the Salamanca Statement. Humanity & Inclusion, which has a strong partnership with UNESCO, will be there with a partner from Benin to take part in the discussions on the progresses and challenges in making education truly inclusive.

International commitments towards inclusive education

The Salamanca Statement recognised that all children should learn together, regardless of any difficulties or differences they may have, in schools that recognise and respond to their diverse needs. This principle was further developed in the Cali Commitment adopted at the UNESCO conference in 2019: inclusive education is a transformative process that ensures full participation and access to quality learning opportunities for all.

While access to and inclusion in education has improved in the past 20 years, the amount of children and young people excluded from education systems is still a major issue.

Children with disabilities still face obstacles to access education

Globally, about 50% of children with disabilities are estimated to be out of school, representing up to third of “out of school children”. Unfortunately, even when children can access school, this does not necessarily mean they have effective access to learning. When multiple factors combine, this exacerbates educational exclusion for millions of children with disabilities. For example, girls with disabilities living in low-income families face multiple barriers to education which often go unaddressed in education policies and programmes.

The 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report also pointed out that in more than 40% of countries in the regions of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean children with disabilities are attending school in separate environments.

The event organised by UNESCO on the 30th anniversary of the Salamanca Declaration will thus be a great opportunity to showcase the practices and approaches that have proven effective and, at the same time, to call for stronger commitments and investments for ensuring the inclusion of all learners, in particular persons with disabilities, in education.

HI presence during the event

The Humanity & Inclusion’s delegation at the UNESCO event on 13-15 March will voice these concerns. Julia McGeown, Humanity & Inclusion’s Head of Education, will intervene in the panel on the topic of ensuring access to assistive technologies and inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Our partner Odette Agontinglo, Training Counsellor in the governmental agency dedicated to training in Benin, will speak in the panel on the transition from school to labor market, where also Céline Trublin (HI Economic Inclusion Specialist) will speak.

There is still a way to go for the inclusion of all learners. We remain committed to work on and advocate for it, alongside our partners and organisations of persons with disabilities.

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