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Inclusiveness of educational facilities for children with disabilities in Azad Jammu & Kashmir

Azad Jammu & Kashmir has a much higher literacy rate (64%) compared with Pakistan (58%), but situation of children with disabilities in AJK is not very different from children with disabilities (CWDs) from other parts of Pakistan. No policy on disability or education of children with disabilities exists in AJK.  Children with disabilities and their families in AJK constantly experience barriers to enjoyment of their basic human rights and to their inclusion in society. The barriers they face are more frequently as a result of the environment in which they live than as a result of their impairment. Schools are not inclusive, teachers are not sensitized and trained, physical access to schools is difficult and policy makers are not sensitized about the issues of children with disability.

Today, Local NGO in Azad Jammu & Kashmir launches the 2014, research report on inclusiveness of educational services in Azad Jammu & Kashmir. As accelerate efforts towards realizing MDG 2 and achieving education for all, the new report draws attention to a large segment of children who are not in school and have long remained invisible, hidden and forgotten: children with disabilities.

Children with disabilities are significantly less likely to be in school than their peers without disabilities. A 2014, research study found that a child with a disability was twice as likely to have never attended school as a child without a disability and also 50% less likely than their peers without disability to complete primary school and progress to higher levels of education.

The 2014 Inclusiveness of Educational Facilities Report of Azad Jammu & Kashmir highlights the strong link between poverty and disability. Gender, health and employment issues can make poverty and exclusion even worse. The report findings revealed that not a single school public sector educational facility visited in this survey has a completely inclusive infrastructure, only a small number fulfill one or two requirements of inclusiveness, e.g. only 9% of the sampled schools in AJK have ramps at entrance for the children, only 16% schools buildings are accessible from the road, only 9% schools have some kind of handrails to support the children with disability, only 3.5% schools have ramps inside the schools and just 9.3% provide easy access to canteen and library to CWDs. 71.5% schools do not have proper bathroom facilities designed to accommodate students with physical disabilities. 24% schools have tables with proper height. 81% class rooms do not have appropriated desks for the children with disability. Supportive and facilitative sitting arrangements are available in only 32% of the class rooms. This lack of supportive and enabling environment makes it extremely difficult for CWDs to access these educational facilities or to continue studying in the. This is reflected by the fact that only a small number of public and private sector schools have CWDs studying in them. On the other hand no funds are allocated by the state government in the annual budgets to improve the inclusiveness of the structure. There is an immediate need to improve the existing educational policy to change it into inclusive educational policy for making the structure of the schools more inclusive.

Children who are disabled are more likely to be poor and remain poor throughout their lifetimes, due to lack of education and job opportunities. Ensuring that children with disabilities have access to inclusive and quality education is critical to reverse the cycles of poverty and exclusion.

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