Handicap International’s (HI), an international non-governmental organisation which aims to make comprehensive, high quality community-based rehabilitation available to people with disabilities by providing support and training to national authorities and local service providers, launched a week-long awareness campaign in Egypt.
Education for All was conducted under the auspices of All Citizens Together (ACT) — Maan in Arabic — which is funded to the tune of 350,000 euros by the EU.
Part of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), ACT began work in the summer of 2016. Its projects are scheduled to end in December this year, says ACT project manager Safaa Sayed.
Education for All was organised in cooperation with civil society associations and Terre des hommes, Asmae Egypt, the SET Centre and Caritas Egypt.
Celine Abric, head of Handicap International’s mission in Egypt, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Education for All campaign aims to encourage the parents of out-of-school children to enrol them for the 2018-2019 school year.
HI has supported the creation of a network of eight organisations working with disabled people from five governorates — Assiut, Minya, Beni Sweif, Giza and Cairo — analysing the situation of children with disabilities and defining a common position the network can push in its advocacy with education authorities.
Meetings included staff from the involved organisations, parents of children with disabilities and representatives of the education authorities who discuss the situation of children with disabilities and what can be done to ensure they can access schools.
The week-long campaign, which ended on Monday, involved a bus that toured governorates.
Awareness sessions, says Abric, were implemented by people with disabilities who joined the bus in each governorate. They organised two sessions, one for children and the other for parents, explaining the importance of allowing marginalised children to enrol in school.
Parents of children who do not attend school were encouraged to register their kids and children to welcome their peers whatever their differences.
Parents of children with disabilities are often afraid their children will be abused at school and those who have girls fear their daughters will be unsafe, says Abric.
There is also a lack of information among parents of their children’s rights to schooling, and concerns among some parents that standards will fall because of the presence of children with special needs in the class.
The campaign confirmed that there is a need for more awareness among parents and communities but also for the school staff. It emphasised the need for more field visits before and during the school year to know what are the obstacles that children and the families face during the school year and how they evolve, says Abric.
“We believe that change will come through the dialogue that was created during the past two years through the network from the five governorates who have developed a roadmap for education and access to work,” says Abric.
“The project cannot achieve this alone. There is a need for more cooperation between all the NGOs in the community, the education authorities and school staff to complete each other and provide effective support to the children and the families,” she says.
The main aim of the campaign, says Sayed, is to allow all children to enjoy their right to education.
“Education plays a very important role in spreading tolerance, accepting the other and supporting the concept of equality according to gender.”
* A version of this article appears in print in the 13 September 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: ‘Education for all’