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World Down syndrome Day: What Inclusion in Education Means to Us

World Down syndrome Day: What Inclusion in Education Means to Us

by | Mar 21, 2022 | Uncategorized

The 21st of March may pass for just any other day for the majority of people across the world, yet it is a day that we are all called upon to celebrate diversity; and affirm our commitment(s) to the cause of the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, specifically those with Down syndrome. It is a day where voices are amplified, commitments made, concerted efforts, discussions, and actions towards promoting inclusion catalyzed.

Down syndrome is a congenital condition characterized by a distinctive pattern of physical characteristics including a flattened skull, pronounced folds of skin in the inner corners of the eyes, a large tongue, and short stature, and by some degree of limitation of intellectual ability, social and practical skills. Down syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability and may involve delayed growth, additional health problems, difficulties in carrying out activities of daily living, as well as intellectual deficits (Chapman and Hesketh, 2000).

The general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) call for “full and effective participation and inclusion in society” and “Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity”

The theme of this year’s World Down Syndrome Day provides us an opportunity for us to reflect on what Inclusion Means to Us. Globally the spotlight is cast on pausing and having a reflective moment on what inclusion means in a bid to ensure that we are on track in promoting the rights of persons with Down syndrome.

While the call to action puts the onus on all of us to undertake actions geared towards promoting the inclusion of persons with Down syndrome, it is worth acknowledging that the issue is not a homogenous one. Critically evaluating the vulnerabilities that certain groups such as children with Down syndrome face is required.

Children with Down syndrome do not benefit from full and effective participation and inclusion in society. While there may be many reasons for this, it is worth noting that one of the reasons is that there has always been a lack of agreed understanding about what inclusion is, and what inclusive systems look like in practice, more so in the education field.

In day-to-day life do children with Down syndrome take part in activities learning and play in school, and in public life, alongside other children? Are they included? Do they have the same opportunities as their counterparts/peers without disabilities? Do they face barriers? Do they participate in inclusive activities? Or are they segregated?

With funding from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), through the grant agent Oxfam IBIS under the Education Out Loud (EOL) program, Kesho Kenya is implementing a project focusing on the awareness gap, and the disconnect between inclusive education policies and implementation called Pamodzi For Inclusive Education in South- East Africa.

This is supporting one of the Education Out Loud Operational Components on creating a stronger global and transnational enabling environment for national civil society advocacy and transparency efforts.

Taking an advocacy approach we are sparking conversations on inclusive education policies, and catalyzing actions geared towards bridging the gap between existing policy frameworks in inclusive education and their implementation.