Kazakhstan criticised over education of pupils with disabilities
Most Kazakh children with disabilities are not being properly educated in an inclusive fashion, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Kazakhstan’s government has taken important steps to protect the vulnerable group’s rights but much more needed to be done to ensure equal access to education, the US-based NGO said.
The HRW report, On the Margins: Education for Children with Disabilities in Kazakhstan, said the education system isolated pupils with disabilities.
Thousands of children were confined to special schools, often far from their homes, the report said. Many were being educated at home, with a teacher visiting for a few hours per week at best, the rights NGO reported.
“Children with disabilities have a right to a quality, inclusive education, with reasonable support to facilitate their learning, on an equal basis with others,” said Mihra Rittmann, an HRW researcher who wrote the report. “Yet in Kazakhstan, many children with disabilities remain on the margins of the education system, and of society as a whole.”
HRW said it interviewed more than 150 people, including 49 pupils with physical and intellectual disabilities.
The report said government organisations through the Psychological Medical Pedagogical Consultations (PMPK) conducted an evaluation of a child with a disability and decided what kind of school they could attend.
“Instead of focusing on efforts to make schools or school buildings ‘inclusive’, the authorities can focus their efforts on the support needs of individual children,” Rittmann told the media. “For many children with disabilities, the supports they need to be able to go to school on an equal basis with others are not out of reach. It could be moving a particular class to the first floor or giving children extra time to do tasks at school.”
Some parents described the PMPK assessments of their children as “rushed, hostile and superficial”, HRW said.
Misha, 13, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, is educated at home in a village near Almaty. He told HRW that he dreamt of going to a school with other children: “I’d want to go to school, of course. It’s fun there. It’s way more interesting at school – you get to go to all the classes. There are a lot of kids. It’s better to study at school,” Misha said, suggesting the grass really is always greener.
In 2015, Kazakhstan signed the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), which guarantees the right to education. This entails ensuring children learn together in mainstream classes with reasonable accommodation.
Kazakhstan has coffers swelled by oil and gas revenue. Picture credit: Flickr