Inclusive Education and Early Childhood Community of Practice Update
The Inclusive Education and Early Childhood Community of Practice has expanded membership to include over 190 members from 90 organizations, as of January 2021. We lead online meetings every other month, bringing together professionals, advocates, students, teachers, parents, caregivers, and policymakers from around the world to share their experiences and advocate for quality, inclusive education for all children and youth, beginning in early childhood.
The Community learned directly about how Ugandan children with disabilities are being affected by school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic from Ambrose Murangira, Disability Inclusion Advisor at Light for the World in Uganda, at the May 2020 meeting.
In July 2020, members discussed efforts organizations were taking to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a panel of speakers led by international disability rights advocate Judy Heumann, who highlighted the need for all to keep each other informed of the work that is being done and to work more collaboratively. The panel included Anna Martin from the World Bank’s Inclusive Education Initiative, who presented on the report, Pivoting to Inclusion: Leveraging Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis for Learners with Disabilities, which noted that in many countries learners with disabilities have not been supported adequately during the school closures caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Nafisa Baboo, Light for the World, and Sandrine Bohan-Jacquot, Humanity & Inclusion, presented about how their organizations are adapting their projects and the need to focus on how technology could be used to make education opportunities more inclusive for all children. Mohammed Ali Loutfy, Arab Forum for Rights of Person with Disabilities, shared the hope that the pandemic mobilizes disability communities at local and national levels to collaborate and pressure governments to comply more with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Sustainable Development Goals.
Members of the Community of Practice shared ideas in September 2020 about topics they wanted to learn and share about, which led to a November Presentation on Universal Design for Learning by Community of Practice members Hayley Niad from Inclusive Development Partners and Golnar Abedin of Johns Hopkins University. After the global launch of the Leave No Child Behind: Invest in the Early Years report, the Community met in December 2020 to discuss the report findings with Nafisa Baboo of Light for the World, as well as developments in USAID pre-primary education programming with Koli Banik of USAID, and advocacy work by Delfina Hary, Inclusive Education Project Manager, Light for the World in Mozambique, and Henry Malumo, Campaign Manager, Early Childhood Development CDF Financing Campaign Zambia.
For the first meeting of 2021 on January 13, Valentina Pomatto and Sandrine Bohan-Jacquot, of Humanity and Inclusion presented about their report Let’s Break Silos Now! Achieving disability-inclusive education in a post COVID world and the need to collaborate across sectors to improve access to learning for children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries. The Honorable Mike Lake, Canadian Member of Parliament, shared about how his son, who has autism, graduated from his local high school and the importance of inclusive education for all children. He thanked Education Cannot Wait (ECW) for the Disability Inclusive Education Forum they hosted and introduced Mario Spiezio from ECW, who summarized the recommendations from the forum, asking organizations to sign on to promote them this year.
The Community of Practice has also developed Advocacy Task Teams to focus on inclusive education and early childhood with USAID, the World Bank, Global Partnership for Education (GPE), UNICEF, and Education Cannot Wait. Members of the GPE Task Team collaborated in the development of an Inclusive Education and Early Childhood Education Call to Action letter directed at including all children in the new GPE strategic plan through 2025, and motivated over 100 organizations to support this focus before it was shared with GPE Board members. Deepa Srikantaiah of World Learning, the co-chair of the Community of Practice USAID Advocacy Task Team, collaborated with GCE-US to organize and facilitate a presentation to USAID’s Pre-Primary team, with representatives from World Vision International, Enabling Education Network, Uhambo Foundation and Light for the World providing promising examples of inclusive pre-primary education programs and advocating for the need to expand funding for inclusive early childhood education. Each Advocacy Task Team has actions underway to promote inclusive early childhood interventions and inclusive education.
All who are interested in the issues of inclusive education for children with disabilities and the importance of early childhood education for all children are welcome to join the Community of Practice, participate in our bi-monthly meetings to share knowledge about best practices and to collaborate on important advocacy to expand inclusive education and inclusive early childhood services for children around the world.
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