Disability deprives children of education
KABUL, 21 October 2008 (IRIN) - Abdul Latif lost
his legs in a landmine explosion in 2002 shortly after
starting primary school in Kandahar Province, southern
Afghanistan. The explosion not only took away his legs
but has also deprived him of an education.
"How can I walk all the way to my school? How can I
move up the stairs? How can I play with other boys?
Who will take me to the toilet?" he asked IRIN in
He only recalls a big bang when, on a sunny day, he
stepped on a hidden landmine. Surgeons told Abdul
Latif that in order to save his life they had no
option but to amputate his legs.
"I was sad but doctors assured me that they would
give me artificial legs and that I would be able to
walk easily," he said pointing to his prostheses.
In practice, however, he can hardly walk a short
distance, even with his crutches. He is permanently
dependent on a wheelchair, which he propels with his
hands. His prostheses, crutches and wheelchair prove
unhelpful, however, when he has to walk up stairs or
jump over a gully, he said.
Barriers to education
There are at least 200,000 children in Afghanistan
living with permanent disability (physical, sensory
and/or mental impairment), according to a 2005 survey
by Handicap International - a non-governmental
organisation supporting people with disability.
Three decades of conflict have left the country
strewn with landmines and other explosive remnants of
war which kill and/or maim about 60 people, mostly
children, each month, the International Committee of
the Red Cross has reported [http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/EDIS-7KGKMZ?OpenDocument].
Afghanistan has yet to join 134 other states that
have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities, which asks signatory states to
ensure that "children with disabilities are not
excluded from free and compulsory primary education,
or from secondary education".
Lack of resources and awareness, and weak political
support have, however, contributed to creating a
situation whereby schools do not have even minimal
facilities for disabled children, officials said.
"About 75 percent of disabled children do not go to
school," Parwin Azimi, an expert on children's issues
with the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural
Organization in Kabul, told IRIN.
Officials at the Ministry of Education (MoE) said
the lack of facilities for disabled children was a
major impediment to their education.
"Due to a lack of resources and expertise, our
strategy for the promotion of disabled children's
education has only remained on paper," Azim Karbalaye,
planning director of the MoE, told IRIN.
While the exact number of Afghans living with
disability is unclear, Handicap International's survey
estimated there were 800,000 in 2005 - over half of
them under 19. Since 2005 the widening conflict and
the influx of returnees has probably increased these
figures, say experts.
Despite this, the government does not have policies
in place to promote employment among people with
permanent disability; and has been perceived to have
done too little to ensure their rights.
Disability is hard enough to cope with in wealthy
countries, but when over half of the population lives
on less than US$2 a day as in Afghanistan, things are
"We feel excluded from society," said Hazrat Gul, a
disabled man in Kabul.
"Everything - jobs, education, transport,
entertainment - is for the able-bodied… We're only
left on the road to beg and survive," he said.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
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the views of the United Nations or its agencies.