Children with Disabilities

Education is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of discrimination and poverty that children with disabilities often face.

According to the World Report on Disability approximately one billion people in the world are living with a disability, with at least 1 in 10 being children and 80% living in developing countries. Among marginalized groups, children with disabilities remain the most excluded, discriminated not only because of their disability but also because of lack of understanding and knowledge about its causes, implications and stigma.

Children experiencing multiple forms of discrimination, particularly girls with disabilities, face a double disadvantage, because of their disability and gender. Girls with disabilities are not only confronted with stigma but are also constrained by traditional gender roles and cultural barriers.

Children with disabilities are less likely to start school and if they do, they are unlikely to transition to secondary school. Access to school for children with disabilities is often limited by a lack of understanding about their needs, lack of teacher training, unconducive school environment, classroom support and learning resources and facilities.

Denying children with disabilities their right to education has a lifelong impact on learning, achievement and employment opportunities, hence hindering their potential economic, social and human development.

To ensure that all children enjoy their basic human rights without discrimination, disability inclusion should be mainstreamed in all policies and plans. This applies to education systems, which need to promote inclusion by ensuring the presence, participation and achievement of all children, including children with disabilities.


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Who are the children with disabilities?

Children who are not enrolled in school but who could participate if schools had the capacity in terms of knowledge, skills and equipment to respond to their specific needs.

 Example: Inaccessible school infrastructure which prevents children with physical disabilities from going to school; or lack of accommodating teaching methods and instruction for children with learning difficulties.

Children with disabilities enrolled in school but excluded from learning because the curriculum has not been adapted to their needs or teachers do not have the capacity or time to make the necessary adaptations, and/or they do not have access to assistive devices necessary for their learning needs.

 Example: Children with low vision who are unable to see the blackboard without eyeglasses.

Children with severe disabilities who require additional specialized support, whether in school or not. This group is relatively small (2-3% of all children with disabilities).

 Example: Children with moderate to severe disabilities or children with multiple disabilities

The challenge

  • Between 93 million and 150 million children are estimated to live with disabilities.
  • An estimated 90% of children with disabilities in the low income and lower-middle income countries do not go to school.
  • Millions of children with disabilities are left out of education sector plans due to poor data collection and a lack of knowledge on how to include them in education planning and implementation.
  • Children with disabilities are often overlooked in humanitarian action and become even more marginalized as fewer resources are available in the midst of an emergency.
  • Children with disabilities, especially girls are often at a higher risk of being victims of violence than their peers without disabilities.


GPE's response

Fergana region, Kuva town Nematilla Tojimatov (14) – disabled boy; Anora- a teacher of the school #1 of Kuva town in Uzbekistan. Credit: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

GPE’s vision calls for inclusive and equitable quality education for all, and aims to reach the poorest and most marginalized, including children with disabilities.

GPE provides developing country partners with funding and guidance to undertake education sector analysis, and develop and implement robust education sector plans that include strategies to respond and close the gap between access, participation and learning that marginalized children can have access to school.

In partnership with UNICEF and the World Bank, GPE is developing guidelines on inclusive education. Guidelines to support education sector analysis, for planning, preparation and development of national education sector plans will include strategies to ensure that marginalized children, including children with disabilities, can exercise their right to education.


Read about how GPE’s funding supports inclusive education initiatives in partner countries:

  • In Eritrea, the government is piloting a program to enroll disabled children in school and learn from it before scaling up.
  • In Zanzibar, introducing inclusive education and awareness-raising activities is resulting in a positive shift in attitudes towards disabilities.
  • In Cambodia, the government is screening children to detect those with vision problems and give them eyeglasses, ensuring they can continue to stay in school and learn.