Workshop in Brussels: The role of networks in advocating for better social inclusion of children and the right to inclusive education

Press release

Between 12-14 November 2018, ChildPact participated at the 11th edition of the Black Sea NGO Forum that took place in Brussels. The event gathered over 120 participants from the Black Sea Region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey).

The main aim of this year’s edition was to bring more visibility to the topic of CSO resilience in the regional context of the Black Sea, as part of the renewed approach to the Black Sea Synergy as a policy framework at both European and regional level.

ChildPact acted as the convener of the thematic workshop on the role of networks in advocating for better social inclusiveness of children through respect of human rights, particularly the right to education.

The event was moderated by Cristina Rigman (ChildPact Secretary General) and brought together representatives of our members in the region: Stela Vasluian from Alliance of Active NGOs in the field of Child and Family Social Protection – APSCF, Aida Muradyan from the Child Protection Network in Armenia, Ketevan Kalandadze from the Georgian Coalition for Children and Youth and Kamala Ashumova from the NGO Alliance for Children’s Rights in Azerbaijan. During the workshop participants debated on the current regional context on human rights, particularly the right to education and how CSOs can address the main challenges by identifying opportunities for further regional cooperation and synergies.

Stela Vasluian from the Alliance of Active NGOs in the field of Child and Family Social Protection (APSCF Moldova) highlighted the importance of networks practicing the advocacy exercise for a better social inclusiveness in the Republic of Moldova. Mrs Vasluian talked about APSCF’s main advocacy actions on the right to education such as the Global Action Week for Education, event focused on the importance of funding for education, encouraging civic engagement and participation and the “Alexandra Grajdian Throphy for Courage and Innovation”.

In 2018 APSCF called the authorities in the Republic of Moldova to keep their promises on implementing the Agenda 2030 and meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Quality Education and organized various events to raise awareness around the issue of inclusive education. The events were attended by the Ministry of Education, school managers, teachers, and educational policy consultants, representatives of Psycho-Pedagogical Assistance Services and APSCF EFA Group members.

Ketevan Kalandadze from the Georgian Coalition for Children and Youth mentioned that Georgia has created the legislation to ensure access to inclusive education for every child, and nowadays we are able to see children with special educational needs (SEN) in preschool institutions and at school, but still system faces a lot of challenges.

Some of the main challenges Georgia faces today are:

  • the lack of human resources in regions of Georgia
  • the lack of regulation of the multidisciplinary teams of the ministry and monitoring of the quality of inclusive education based on Georgia Law of General Education
  • the absence of a mechanism for identifying children with disabilities
  • the fact that children’s rights topic is less prominent in the public agenda

Out of 871,532 children who live in Georgia, only 10,069 are officially registered as having some type of disability. In the same census data mentioned, it appears that 25,925 children suffer from some kind of disability or health condition according to self-reporting made by their family members and legal representatives.

Mrs Kalandadze also highlighted that the Child Educational needs assessment is based on parents wish and it is not obligatory in Georgia. The infrastructure outside and inside the school is not adapted for children with special needs and there is an insufficient number of special education teachers and poor resources for their professional development. Not only the human resources is insufficient, but also poor material-technical base represents a serious problem. Teachers do not have enough supplementary textbooks to work with children who have SEN and there is no mechanism for monitoring attendance and early school leaving. Mrs Kalandadze mentioned that the non-governmental sector should continue to work more on increasing the public awareness around the issue of inclusive education.

Aida Muradyan, President of the Child Protection Network in Armenia mentioned that child protection is still not priority in Armenia and even when talks about human rights happen at the highest level, we forget about little human beings who are under 18 years old. Mrs Muradyan expressed her hope that the new state officials in Armenia will be open and ready to consult with civil society organizations and take concrete measures in order to reform the child protection system in Armenia.

Participants from Turkey raised, during the debates, their concerns with regard to the content of the education and the limited consultation of stakeholders involved with regard to what the children are actually taught in schools, while participants from Belarus shared their concerns with regard to the situation of the rights of the child in the country and the limited tools and capacities of the active CSOs to provide proper support to families and children to access their rights. Participants from Romania pointed out the limitations of the ‘per student’ funding system which has been adopted also by Republic of Moldova, especially for the children in the rural areas. Based on the Romanian experience with this system, some of the consequences of this funding option include close down of schools in many rural areas and increased distances for children to the nearest school, leading to further limitations with regard to inclusiveness in the educational system.

Notwithstanding some advances in the implementation of inclusive education in our region, ChildPact is concerned that the vast majority of educational units remain inaccessible for children and young people with special educational needs while existing policies, where they exist, are focusing mostly on children with physical disabilities.

There is a need for systemic and effective mechanisms for the advancement of inclusive education. The evolution of the educational paradigm from exclusion to inclusion in our region implies the confinement of systematic interventions on the areas such as:

  • the legal framework and the approval of public policies
  • the financial mechanisms to support inclusive education
  • support services for children with special educational needs, their families and their teachers
  • human resources management for the implementation of inclusive education;
  • changes in the attitude towards the inclusive environment in public perception (children, parents, teachers, decision makers);
  • effective partnerships between central and local authorities and civil society representatives.
  • increased level of regional exchanges between countries where reforms have been implemented