THE Ministry of Education in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) yesterday launched the State of the World’s Children 2013 Report, which focuses on children with disabilities.
Speaking at the launch, which took place at the National Park, Carifesta Avenue, Education Minister Priya Manickchand called on all stakeholders to join in addressing the issue of meeting the needs of persons with disabilities, particularly children, in a more aggressive manner, and assured the Government of Guyana’s commitment in this regard.
Manickchand said that the report is timely and is a good reminder to the world that there is still a lot of work to be done in the area of disabilities.
She made reference to a 1991 World Bank study of Guyana which said that 67% of the persons in the country were living in poverty.
Manickchand further stated that another study in 2008 said that 35% of the persons were living in poverty which indicates that the country, under prudent management, had cut poverty in half.
According to her, while Guyana has been doing well, the true measure of how well a country has done is how it has dealt with its most vulnerable population, and she thanked UNICEF for their partnership over the years.
According to the statistics around the world, she said, persons with disabilities, particularly children from poorer homes, have very little scope of climbing out of this situation.
Manickchand pointed out that not only has Guyana adopted and ratified the convention on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, but the country has also made it into a constitutional guarantee.
She also indicated that the country has spent a significant amount of money and time in ensuring that children with special needs are served, making particular reference to recent countrywide special needs education consultations.
These consultations which were held last year, she noted, were conducted with stakeholders to hear what it is that the ministry can do to make the lives of children with disabilities better.
Five-Year Strategic Plan
Manickchand also informed that they have compiled a report and they are in the process of creating a five-year strategic plan.
Also speaking at the launch, UNICEF representative to Guyana, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh said that the organisation is more interested in the most vulnerable persons who are in need of the most support and assured their support to the government of Guyana in this regard.
According to him, the report, which was launched simultaneously worldwide, states that there are at least 1 billion people in the world with one disability or the other, and at least 10% of those persons are children.
He pointed out that children with disabilities are those humans below the age of 18 who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
Dr.Braimoh informed that 80% of those children with disabilities live in developing countries, and the major challenge rests in ensuring equal participation for the children in these countries.
He maintained that children with disabilities deserve to be a part of mainstream society and all the stakeholders at the various levels of society need to dedicate themselves to ensuring that these children enjoy their rights to the fullest.
According to him, for this to be done, there needs to be the generation of the requisite data with which they can plan and design programmes which ensure that children with disabilities participate to the fullest in society.
He added that in 2005 the National Commission on Disability (NCD), UNICEF and the Office of the President undertook a survey of the persons living with disabilities in Guyana, focusing on Regions Four (Demerara/Mahaica), Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) , Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) and Region Nine (Upper Takutu/ Essequibo).
He pointed out that from this survey it was found that 61% of the children with disabilities were able to attend mainstream educational facilities.
Dr. Braimoh said the country has a total of more than 600 children who are enrolled in special needs schools, but most of these schools are in urban areas.
Meanwhile, at yesterday’s launch of the report there were also performances by the children of the Ptolemy Reid Rehab Centre, New Amsterdam Special School, and the Linden Special School.
The State of the World’s Children 2013 Report states that the fundamentals of inclusion are changing attitudes, supporting children and families, community-based rehabilitation, inclusive health and inclusive education.
Among the items on the agenda for action are ratifying and implementing the conventions, fighting discrimination, dismantling barriers to inclusion and ending institutionalization.
According to the report, 155 countries have signed the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, inclusive of Guyana, and 128 countries have ratified the convention.