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A study on children with disabilities and their right to education: Madagascar

Jacqui Mattingly and Lila Ratisifandrihamanana

This study is one of a series of three case studies conducted in Madagascar, Comoros and Rwanda into the right to education of children with disabilities

The Malagasy Constitution stipulates that every child has the right to free primary education, and this is reflected in the government commitment to achieve the international Education for All (EFA) targets. While Madagascar made significant progress towards achieving EFA over the past decade, the country has been significantly impacted since 2009 by a period of political unrest which resulted in falling financial support from donors. If the situation has now normalised, about 90% of the population lives nowadays on less than USD 2 a day, and the financial cost of schooling to be borne by households hence represents one of the main barriers to enrolment in school. The net enrolment rate at primary level decreased from 96.8% in 2005 to 69.4% in 2012, with an estimated 1.5 million children of primary school age currently out of school.

Within the education system, pre-primary education is a newly emerging subsector, with just 3.6 per cent of the cohort aged children enrolled in 2010/2011. Primary education is mostly provided by the public sector, where schools work under difficult circumstances with a severe lack of resources and the majority of teachers are untrained and appointed by the community. There are high repetition and drop-out rates, and many over-age children in classes, especially in rural areas. Enrolment in lower secondary school is less than a quarter of that in the primary sector.

Education for children with disabilities has historically been provided through specialist centres organised by the churches, and this continues to be the case, particularly for children with sensory impairments. There is one government school providing for children with intellectual impairments, many of whom also have physical disabilities and an increasing number of private providers offering placements for children with intellectual impairments. With the adoption of the 2009 Decree on inclusive education guaranteeing the right for all children with disabilities to be enrolled in ordinary schools, there have been a variety of both government and NGO initiatives piloting inclusive education programmes and integrated classes over the past few years, but these have suffered from the curtailment of donor funds during the crisis.