Afghanistan is a country challenged by poverty. Because of poverty, many healthy children in Afghanistan don’t go school, but the situation is worse for the one-fifth of Afghan households that include a child with a disability.
Disability is an issue all over the world, but in a war-torn country like Afghanistan, factors like landmines and war injuries add to the numbers of disabled. The question we need to ask is: Should disabled children be attending schools along with non-disabled students? And if so, how can the schools make accommodations for them?
The government needs to decide how much funding to allocate toward the education of disabled students and how Afghan and international agencies will provide support for them.
A Swedish committee in Afghanistan is running a comprehensive rehabilitation program called Rehabilitation of Afghans with Disabilities (RAD) in 43 districts in 13 provinces of Afghanistan. The most important point of the program involves the inclusion of the disabled in education. Currently, RAD is working in the areas of training special teachers and improving social acceptance of the disabled. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also has been working for many years in this field, and they spend about $10 million annually for treatment, recovery, wheelchairs, physiotherapy, and prostheses, with a goal of physically enabling students to go to school and participate in society.
The United Nations and USAID also have budgets for rehabilitating disabled Afghans.
If the groups all worked together with the government, wouldn’t they be able to achieve results?
According to an Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) report from 2010, some 800,000 Afghans are disabled out of the total population of 24.5 million. Most of them also are illiterate, according to IRIN.
A 2005 report by Handicap International said that more than one-fifth of the families in Afghanistan included one disabled person, and that more than half of the disabled population were children between the ages of six and nineteen—in other words, eligible for school.
These tragically high numbers reflect the many people who were disabled as a result of landmines or other consequences of war.
In particular, more funding is required for disabled children. Unfortunately our government has not done enough.
We also need to make Afghan society ready to accept disabled students as independent people—people who require some assistance and help. There are many disabled students whose disabilities were accommodated by schools, but after a period they left school due to bad emotional situations.
We need to provide support for disabled students and teach society to accept them so that they don’t feel excluded but instead can be productive members of society. It is not just a funding issue, but a question of creating lasting change.
Photo: UPI/Hossein Fatemi