Editor’s note: This article is part of an editorial package that includes another article, “How Some Arab Children Are Shut Out of School.”
In Jordan, one-third of children go to schools without sanitation facilities at all, a barrier to education for girls who begin menstruation. In Lebanon, school officials often shut children with disabilities out of regular classes despite laws ensuring their right to an education. In Morocco, some disabled children don’t even bother trying to go to school as they know they won’t be let in.
Meanwhile, more than half of gay students in the Arab region are afraid to be in school.
Across the Middle East and North Africa region and the rest of the world, millions of children and young adults are excluded from education for reasons of gender, religion, ability, sexual orientation, poverty and other factors, according to Unesco’s 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report: Inclusion: All Means All. The report, released this week, was accompanied by the launch of a website, PEER, with information on the laws and policies regarding who is included and excluded in education in every country in the world.
And over the past few months, the effects of Covid-19 have shut out millions more young children and adolescents everywhere, deepening the inequalities, the report said. (See a related article, “The Shift to Online Education in the Arab World Is Intensifying Inequality.”)
These inequalities urgently need to be addressed, said those responsible for the report.
“To rise to the challenges of our time, a move towards more inclusive education is imperative,” said Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay in the report. “Rethinking the future of education is all the more important following the Covid-19 pandemic, which further widened and put a spotlight on inequalities. Failure to act will hinder the progress of societies.”
Step 1: Define ‘Inclusion’
The report explores the issues behind exclusion and offers some solutions.
The starting point for inclusion is having a broad, ambitious definition, the report says; otherwise, a country starts with a flawed foundation. This definition is key to creating policies, laws and practices that ensure “every learner feels valued and respected, and can enjoy a clear sense of belonging.”