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Making the Society and Education System Inclusive for Disabled Persons

Global Call for Inclusive Education

The post 2015 development agenda envisions providing inclusive and equitable education to all by constructing and revamping the education facilities that are ‘child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all’[1].

UN Secretary General’s Report, ‘One Humanity – Shared Responsibility’, released in February 2016 for the World Humanity Summit to be held in Istanbul in May 2016 has also called for a global resolve to ensure safe, quality and inclusive primary, secondary and vocational education opportunities specially for ‘children and youth with disabilities’[2].

Education for All (EFA) Report also observed that disability was a worse form of marginalization in context of education[3]. Disability and poverty have a bidirectional relation. Poverty may cause disability due to lack of preemptive medical aids, malnutrition and hectic nature of work and disability can induce poverty by restricting the person with disability to get proper education and proper job opportunity.

Defining Disability

International Definition

Considering the harmful effects of disability on access to education, it is imperative to have a glance at the definition of disability before embarking upon the status of disabled children and youth in Pakistan.

According to the International Classification of Functioning[4], disability can occur at three levels:

  1. an impairment in body function or structure
  2. a limitation in activity, such as the inability to read or move around; and
  3. a restriction in participation, such as exclusion from school.

Then, CRPD[5] defines Person with Disabilities (PWDs) as ‘persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’.

Pakistan’s Definition

In Pakistan, Disabled Persons Ordinance[6] defines PWD as ‘a person who, on account of injury, disease or congenital deformity, is handicapped for undertaking any gainful profession or employment in order to earn his livelihood, and includes a person who is blind, deaf, physically handicapped or mentally retarded’.

Disability Stats in World and Pakistan

Approximately one in seven persons of the world has some form of disability, with 93-150 million being children[7]. It is estimated that one in every five children develops a special education need in life [8].

According to 1998 Census, disability prevalence in Pakistan was at 2.5 percent of population. Then World Health Survey (2002-2004), reported in World Disability Report (2011) revealed disability prevalence of 13.4 percent of population which suffered an average loss of 9.6 years of life due disability[9]. According to Persons With Disabilities Statistics, 2012, 5.035 million PWDs - 2.78 pc of estimated total population of 180.7 million in 2012[10] - exist in Pakistan and the number is growing at 2.65% per annum as compared to 2.03% per annum growth rate of total population[11]

Legal Covers for Disabled Persons

On international front, Pakistan is signatory to Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which explicitly acknowledge the rights of children with disabilities in Article 2 (para 1) and Article 23[12]. It also ratified Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention[13] 1983 which defines disabled persons as “an individual whose prospects of securing, retaining and advancing in suitable employment are substantially reduced as a result of a duly recognized physical or mental impairment.” It is also obliged to protect PWDs under Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities[14].  In 2012, the Directorate General Special Education and Social Welfare (DGSE&SW) has established a cell which is called UNCRPD Secretariat for the implementation of the Convention.

On the national front, Article 38 of Constitution of Pakistan talks about providing basic necessities of life to all the citizens including those who ‘are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment’. In the post 18th amendment milieu, Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education was devolved which used to liaise with the concerned bodies and departments in Pakistan for the care, education, training and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.

Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981 was the first ever legal framework formed exclusively for the disabled persons. Under the ordinance, Provincial Councils for Rehabilitation for Disabled Persons (PCRDP) are responsible for registration of the disabled persons and their socio-economic security. Punjab had adopted the ordinance in 2012 as Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Act, 2012. Punjab also amended the Section 10 of the Ordinance in March 2015 and increased the job quota for disabled persons from 2 pc to 3 pc[15].  The Official Notification by Chief Minister Punjab [S.O.(A-III)1-83/2012, dated January 7, 2016] specified that the ‘disabled persons’ would be called ‘special persons’ in all over Punjab.

Disabled Persons Employment and Rehabilitation (Amendment) Act, 2014 called for amending the building by laws to ensure that the existing government buildings and the buildings to be constructed provide an easy access to the disabled persons.

Social Protections for PWDs

Disabled persons in Punjab have access to a monthly stipend of Rs. 1200 which is given to them in lieu of Khidmat Cards. They are exempted from institutional fees charged by various government departments. There is no age limit for them to get admissions in educational institutions. There are seats reserved for them for higher education (MPhil or PhD) in public sector universities.

A study by Sustainable Development Policy Institute on efficiency of social protection programs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa identified that it is not easy for disabled persons to have access to benefits of social welfare/protection programs[16]. Another study highlights the fact that the K-P government takes men and women with disabilities for granted in the budgetary allocations[17].

Disability and Education in Pakistan

An estimated 90 per cent of children with disabilities in the developing world do not go to school[18]. In some cases, non-enrolment in schools has closer relation with disability rather than with income level, geophysical position and gender[19]. Girls with disabilities can be especially marginalized and are at particular risk of abuse, including forms of sexual violence[20].

 In Pakistan, nearly 1.5 million children face minor disabilities[21]. 1.4 million PWDs are of school going age and have no access to inclusive education opportunities[22]. 23.09% of children aged 5-14 needed some sort of special education[23]. Approximately 4% children with special needs have access to schools[24].

Pakistan is one of those countries which have separate department for special education[25]. At the Federal level there is Directorate General of Special Education which ratified the UNRCPD in 2011. It has also established a center that monitors the implementation of UNRCPD.

In Punjab there is a Special Education Department. It regulates the special education schools in Punjab. It released funds of 210 million rupees in the second quarter of FY 2015-16 for construction of new buildings in special education institutes of 9 districts[26]. Similarly, Sindh Education Department also added 25 new special education institutes to the existing stock of 50 special education institutes last year[27]. In Sindh, disabled children are the most marginalized ones. Out of total children enrolled in Sindh, only 4% are the disabled ones[28].

Another issue worth debating is that in what form the disabled children can be included in the mainstream education. Whether there should be separate schools for special children or there should be separate classrooms for them in normal children schools or they should be adjusted in the same classrooms with the normal children? When parents and students asked about their choice then they prefer inclusive education in normal children schools instead of separate special children schools[29]. Financial viability necessitates that instead of building separate schools, special children should be educated in ordinary schools[30]. Also that, in special institutions, the children at the disposal of caregivers  are more prone to abuse in that isolated environment[31].

Way Forward/Actions to be Taken

Keeping in view the severity and scope of disability in Pakistan amongst children and significance of inclusive education opportunities to disabled children it is imperative to take such initiatives that they can feel themselves a potential, meaningful and substantial part of the community. It is urgent to up-grade and improve early childhood initiatives for special children by:

  • including them in mainstream policy making endeavors,
  • launching specific programs targeting them,
  • sensitization and capacity building of the society for them,
  • holistic studies for collecting and collating data – especially when the only credible disability data is available from an outdated 1998 Census,
  • translating political ambitions into concrete workable plans and then executing the plans,
  • increasing public spending on special education – preferably progressive investments on marginalized/excluded/disabled children according to the extent of marginalization, and
  • keeping special focus on increasing transition rates of special children from primary to secondary and then to higher levels.


[1] Sustainable Development Goals – The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

[2] One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, 2016

[3] Education For All - Global Monitoring Report, 2015

[4] The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health: Children and Youth Version(ICF-CY).

[5] United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. New York, United Nations, 2006.

[6] Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981

[7] WHO and World Bank. (2011). World Report on Disability. Geneva, Switzerland/Washington, DC, World Health  Organization/World Bank.

[8] OECD. 1999. Inclusive Education at Work: Students with Disabilities in Mainstream Schools. Paris, Organisation    for Economic Co-operation and Development

[9] WHO and World Bank. (2011). World Report on Disability. Geneva, Switzerland/Washington, DC, World Health  Organization/World Bank.

[10] Pakistan Economic Survey (2012-13), Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan

[11] Persons With Disabilities Statistics in Pakistan, 2012, Research and Development Department of HHRD, Islamabad, Pakistan.

[12] Covention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

[13] Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention 1983 (No 159), International Labor Organization

[14] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, United Nations

[15] The Punjab Disabled Persons (Employment And Rehabilitation) (Amendment) Bill 2015

[16] Social Protection in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Policy Brief by Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 2013

[17] Khan, A. (2014). Institutional mapping study of social protection schemes in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2013. International Labour Office, ILO Country Office for Pakistan – Islamabad.

[18] Global Initiative on Out of School Children, UNICEF, 2014

[19] Filmer, D. (2008). Disability, poverty, and schooling in developing countries: Results from 14 household

   surveys. World Bank Economic Review, 22(1), 141-163.

[20] Coe, S. (2013). Outside the Circle: a Research Initiative by Plan International into the Rights of children with Disabilities to Education and Protection in West Africa. Dakar, Plan West Africa.

[21] 2015.

[22] 2014.

[23] National Policy for Disabled Persons, 2002.

[24] 2013.

[25] WHO and World Bank. 2011. World Report on Disability. Geneva, Switzerland/Washington, DC, World Health  Organization/World Bank.

[26] 2015.

[27] 2015.

[28] Ali, S. (2011) Policy Analysis of Education in Sindh, Pakistan: UNESCO Pakistan, p.xi

[29] Qayyum, A., Lasi, S.Z. and Rafique, G. (2013)'Perceptions of Primary Caregivers of Children with Disabilities in

    two Communities from Sindh and Balochistan', DCID, Vol 24(1): 130-142.

[30] Examples of Inclusive Education (2003), United Nations Children’s Fund, Regional Office for South Asia.

[31] Save the Children (2002). Guidelines on Inclusive Education. Save the Children UK, London.


Irfan Ahmad Chatha | December Sat 3 2016| 0 Comments

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