Ensuring equitable access to education for all children, regardless of circumstance, is one of the Cambodian Government’ strategic goals. Supported by the Global Partnership, Cambodia has increased the enrollment of children with disabilities through targeted, evidence-based interventions.
The story of Chung Lang
Chung Lang, a 13-year-old 5th grader lost vision in her right eye due to vitamin D deficiency. Poor vision in her left eye made it very difficult for her to see the teachers’ writing on the blackboard. She persevered in school mostly relying on her hearing. But eventually, she dropped out of school. Now, with a pair of new eye glasses, Chung Lang says, “I really enjoy reading.” A $2 pair of glasses determined whether or not this young girl goes to school and receives an education.
The Challenge: Ensuring universal access
Support from the Global Partnership for Education has allowed Cambodia to make significant progress in education, including a substantive jump in the primary school completion rate. Yet, reaching the most marginalized--including ethnic minorities and disabled children--remains a challenge to achieving Education for All. In 2007, some three percent of all primary-aged children were out of school, with high levels of grade repetition and high dropout rates.
The Solution: A better understanding of the numbers and needs of disabled children
Supported by a GPE grant of US$57.4 million (2008-2012), the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport did a survey to better understand the needs of marginalized and disabled children who are excluded from education. The Out of School and Disability Survey piloted a state-of-the-art methodology for screening and referring for services children with disabilities and impairments, and provided them with much needed devices, such as eyeglasses. In addition, the survey provided, for the first time, high-quality data on disability, which enabled the ministry to plan and budget for appropriate interventions.
The Result: Children with disabilities given high priority in policy actions
This GPE-funded project helped make children with disabilities more visible and given higher priority on the education ministry’s agenda. A better understanding of the needs of children with disabilities paired with hard data from the survey enabled the Cambodian education ministry to set goals, monitor progress and, ultimately, integrate these children into the education system. Indeed, the out-of-school population was halved between 2007 and 2011 in large part because of these targeted policies and interventions.
Since joining the Global Partnership in 2006 the Cambodian government has increased its public education expenditure as a share of the GDP by 23.5 percent.
“Knowing the situation about children with disabilities will allow Cambodia to plan and provide quality education for ALL of Cambodia’s children. Thanks to the Global Partnership for Education we have the needed information.” His Excellency Nath Bunroeun, Secretary of State for Education, Youth and Sports.
The results of the GPE-funded survey were shared with various ministries and development partners, prompting a number of education programs to support children with disabilities and impairments. These programs range from inclusive teacher training, to disability awareness campaigns, and vision and hearing screenings for children in primary schools.
For example, the Global Partnership collaborated with a number of partner organizations to support a vision screening project for some 13,000 students in 56 elementary schools in Siem Reap, with many children receiving eyeglasses, surgery, or other vision-related treatments. For most, a US$2 pair of glasses was instrumental in ensuring their attendance and success in school.
Thanks to GPE’s support, Cambodia is now planning to make vision screening part of its national school-based health program. Other GPE developing country partners have requested support to establish similar projects in their countries.