Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, denounced 'special education' and championed inclusion for disabled children at a briefing on 'Access to Education for Children with Disabilities', presented by World Vision.
Arguing "we are on the threshold of a new era" thanks to progress in inclusive education, Mr Muñoz Villalobos insisted the paradigm of education should be that "all children learn together," and that "the only perquisite to being a student is to breathe."
People with disabilities represent ten per cent of the world's population and approximately 150 million children are disabled. Mr Muñoz Villalobos said disability for children usually means exclusion. They invariably suffer stigmatisation and discrimination, which is reinforced by special education. Indeed, the schooling rate in developing countries is as high as 86 per cent, yet only one to five per cent of those are children have disabilities.
He added: "If we want to include all children, the whole school must change. We cannot just change just the physical set up to eliminate the physical barriers, but also change the mentality of children and teachers."
His recommendations to States were:
v States must not interfere in the enjoyment of the right to education
v States must protect against discrimination in all its forms
v States should use the maximum available resources for improving the content and quality of education for all children.
v States must recognise inclusive education is a human right
v States must identify the meaning and standards determining the right to education
v States should develop a transition plan that can guide the training of teachers, advisors, and develop support resources to eliminate physical barriers.
Ms. Hitomi Honda, Disability Advisor for World Vision International, then spoke. She acknowledged disability mainstreaming had only just begun, and said World Vision realised disabled people has been left out of the development process. Her recommendations included to recognise that all children can learn, to promote inclusive environments, including parents and to prioritise teachers and train them effectively.
Responses from country delegates included Costa Rica, which argued States should focus on funding education and spend less on arms. Meanwhile, Cameroon said it has a fully inclusive education system and Malaysia is formulating a plan to address schooling for disabled children.