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Being Differently Abled Should Not Mean You Get Left Behind

Education that caters to the special needs of the differently abled is in a crippled state in Pakistan. People with disabilities are not supported with appropriate tools to identify and integrate them into mainstream society. However, with a Special Education Policy in the works, the Government of Punjab aims to move towards a more inclusive education system. The policy aims to categorize disabilities into four main groups which are mild, moderate, severe, and profound, and strengthen public policy regarding people with disabilities. However, the use of this new pedagogical approach is challenged by the existing stigma and taboo attached with ‘disability’ and this is aggravated with an inefficiency in recognizing and targeting those who suffer from it. Thus, it becomes challenging to create a feasible support system to assist those with disabilities in Pakistan.

Article 25A in the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees a right to education for all. However, focusing on the school level, there is still a sense of confusion regarding what it means to be inclusive. According to the National Education Policy of 2017 “Inclusive education is seen as a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures, and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education. It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures, and strategies, with a common vision which covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children.” This concept of inclusion is valuable to all children, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, personality characteristics, or socio-economic status.

Nonetheless, children with disabilities are still 10 times less likely to attend schools compared to children their age who do not have disabilities. For those who attend mainstream schools, the dropout rates are much higher for those with disabilities. This perpetuates a never-ending cycle where lack of education increases the disadvantage that accompany a disability. This becomes another obstruction towards the rehabilitation of PWDs.

Moreover, the discrimination against those with disabilities manifests even more after school. With poor employment prospects and lack of government support, they lack the means to sustain themselves. Their distress was apparent in the protests in March 2020, at Mall Road, Lahore, where the visually impaired came out on the road to demand the Government to fill in the 8,000 vacant positions for the disabled in Punjab’s public sector alone. Thus, people with disabilities need to be integrated from the very beginning and the way they receive school-level education is crucial to this.

If we try to look at the way forward, The ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health) model classifies disability as a three-fold issue based on an individual’s biological, psychological, and social condition, which helps to create nuanced insights regarding the instances of disability in Pakistan. Thus, when we are trying to construct policies or regulations to assist those that are differently abled, all 3 of these factors must be considered.

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i think a very big problem with Pakistani system is that the rights would have been granted in the constitution but they are not actually given to people. the policies made at state of provincial levels, as you have mentioned, would of course be challenged by the society when it comes to working on sensitive issues. especially when it might change the way certain people are used to live and require them to accommodate others. same is the issue with the education of disabled people. the individuals of this society are not ready to change their attitude toward them and its also because it is instilled in our brains that the way they are is not "normal". but what is…

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Iman Asif
Iman Asif
Dec 10, 2022

Education and inclusivity are basic human rights, however, as mentioned in the post not everyone is privileged enough to actually receive them. People with disability not only face issues of access but also have to face discrimination and social stigma which further sidelines them from education and consequently the socio-economic ladder of society. Looking through an intersectional lens, such persons would be at a greater disadvantage in a conflict setting. How then do we cater to their needs? What policies can help enable their education in a conflict setting and how do we bring about these policies in implementation? Is this already a part of conflict education agenda-setting? Why or why not?

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You mentioned that the government is working toward policies to help the disabled, however I feel like more than the policies it is the actual implementation that matters. Similar to how you pointed out that even the constitution guarantees education to all but Pakistan still has a very low literacy rate. So, I believe that though policies are important but we need to start implementation on existing policies rather than simply drafting new ones. We seldom see the government willing to make an effort to actually include people in the education system, especially disabled people. Children having disabilities find it much more difficult than other children because even basic access to schools is made difficult for them.

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It would be idealistic to believe that the right to education for all as promised by the Constitution of Pakistan is implemented. Although there are efforts to incorporate specially abled children into the education sector, the specific tools and methods required to socialize students with disabilities are not adequately present in teachers and schools in Pakistan. The issues start with the mere admission and attendance of the children, convincing the families and guardians of disabled children to send them to school and integrate them into society is very difficult due to social perceptions. Nevertheless, great efforts have been made to educate specially abled children, many schools and associations work towards these goals, for e.g.: Parents Voice Association and their school,…

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