UNICEF condemns the discrimination against the 11-year-old student from Gostivar, as reported in the media, and urgently calls for greater collective effort to ensure all children can fulfill their right to quality and inclusive education, the UNICEF Office in North Macedonia said in a press release after parents staged a boycott not letting their children study alongside an 11-year-old with Down’s Syndrome.
UNICEF believes that national and local authorities should consider conducting an investigation to ensure accountability of those who failed to respect the rights of the child with disability and prevent such developments in the future. “In the last decade, the country has made tremendous efforts to build an inclusive society and introduce measures to support inclusive education.
Preventing a child with a disability to attend classes with their peers in mainstream schools and isolating a child with disabilities from their peers are violations of their right to quality and inclusive education, guaranteed with the Law on Primary Education and human rights instruments including Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Convention on the Rights of the Child both ratified by the country,” the press release reads.
According to UNICEF, the country has introduced laws to ensure the rights of children are upheld, and while there is a lot of experience and positive examples of inclusion in the country, making the laws a reality for every child requires a collective effort to remove the barriers that prevent children with disabilities from realizing their right to education. “This includes ensuring school management, teachers and communities provide a supportive environment and are held accountable if failing to do so,” says UNICEF.
Global evidence, adds the press release, clearly shows that children with disabilities have greater overall gains in academic outcomes and behaviours in mainstream schools compared to their peers with similar disabilities in special schools.
“Research also shows that inclusion of children with disability helps all children in the classroom to learn more about empathy, fairness, collaboration and social solidarity and that these values in turn drive up grades and school outcomes and thus greatly contribute to the prosperity of the country.
“Like any child, children with disabilities carry the promise of happy, meaningful lives, of vital community participation, and of making contributions to build inclusive and sustainable societies. A society cannot be equitable unless all children are included, and children with disabilitiescannot be included unless the environment around them changes to support their participation,” reads the press release.
UNICEF is calling on all stakeholders, school managers, teachers, local governments, education authorities and communities to uphold children’s rights and see them through in practice.
“UNICEF recognizes the challenges towards a more inclusive society and reminds that duty bearers have an obligation to ensure children with disabilities take up their rightful place to learn side by side their peers in mainstream schools,” UNICEF says.