West Africa: Inclusive education is first step towards full participation of children with disabilities

  • Inclusion
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Senegal
  • Togo

Since 2012, Handicap International has been improving the school enrolment and attendance of 170,000 children with disabilities in nine West African countries through the “Promoting the Full Participation of Children with Disabilities in Education” (APPEHL) project. Sandra Boisseau, who coordinates APPEHL from Dakar, Senegal, explains what the organisation is doing to remove obstacles to education for these children.

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Bénédicte Leguezim is visually impared. She is 12 years old and studies in 5th grade in Loma Kolide, Togo.
Bénédicte Leguezim is visually impared. She is 12 years old and studies in 5th grade in Loma Kolide, Togo.
Bénédicte Leguezim is visually impared. She is 12 years old and studies in 5th grade in Loma Kolide, Togo.

What is the situation like for children with disabilities in West Africa?

Since 2000, there has been a general decreasing trend in the number of children left aside from the educational system,  however, efforts have stalled since 2008. According to UNICEF, out of 58 million out-of-school children, over half live in West Africa and Central Africa. The main reasons for non-attendance are distance to school, family poverty, children’s health, conflicts, gender, violence and social stigma. Being disabled makes a child even more vulnerable in his path to school enrolment and attendance.

Some families neglect children with disabilities or overprotect them, up to not enrolling them in school. Some children with disabilities leave school early because their needs are not taken into account.

In the regions where Handicap International works, we estimate that one in four children with disabilities do not attend school. This is why we need to maintain our efforts to ensure all children are provided the same right to an inclusive and quality education.

Map of areas of intervention of the APPHEL project
Areas of intervention of the APPHEL project

What is Handicap International doing to change this situation?

To improve school conditions for 170,000 children with disabilities, we conduct child-centred activities, such as the identification of out-of-school and in-school children with disabilities, social, medical and educational case-management, and in-school and at-home follow-up. We have run training sessions to raise the awareness of education actors and to train them in case-managing disability, inclusive education and data collection. 

Our initiatives also include organising medical visits to schools in Dakar to identify disabilities or conditions that could cause some students to fall behind or to drop out of school.

What impact have Handicap International’s actions had?

In 2015, we raised the awareness of and trained nearly 2,200 education actors in disability and inclusive education concepts. These were school heads, teachers and education facilitators from more than 500 schools.

We directly impacted the conditions in schools, by improving access, support, participation and monitoring, for more than 10,000 children with disabilities, a quarter of whom were no longer attending school.

Among other actions, Handicap International has put in place innovative initiatives such as promoting mainstream schooling of children with severe intellectual and sensorial impairments.
In Togo, we set up a network of mobile teachers that provides support in mainstream schools for children with disabilities. Some 50 schools in Liberia, Mali and Togo have been provided with adapted teaching aids such as classroom kits containing abacuses, comparison symbols, image cards, slates, etc.


The APPEHL project is supported by the French Development Agency (AFD).

Published 13/06/16

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