Children with disabilities or special needs often experience widespread violations of their rights. The World Report on Disability estimates one billion people in the world are living with disabilities, of which 93 million children aged 0-14 years’ experience moderate or severe disabilities while 13 million children experience severe disabilities. Merely 10% of all handicapped children begin school yet, many drop out due to unpleasant experiences, and only 5% of children with disabilities worldwide complete their primary education. Inclusive education therefore recognizes every child’s fundamental right to learn. It provides equal opportunities to all children and attempt to alter school culture, policies and practices to accommodate differences in learning and physical abilities of children.
Reliable and comparable disability data are under reported in most countries including Sri Lanka. According to UNICEF South and East Asian Regional Report, absence of information on handicapped children is the most significant factor contributing to the invisible status, which often leads to the exclusion of these children from education. Limitations of census and general household surveys to capture household disabilities; absence of civil registries in most low and middle income countries; underreporting due to the stigmatization attached; unavailability of disability assessment and health screening to identify child disabilities and impairments, all underlie this ambiguity.
This article takes a look at the status of child disabilities in Sri Lanka, explores barriers to realizing inclusive education and proposes policy recommendations to integrate them into mainstream economy.