Children with Special Needs Excluded from Education in Lebanon

By Tracy Makhlouf |

Education is essential for every individual. It matures a perspective of looking at life, as well as helping shape opinions and point of views. Children have the right to be educated appropriately and in good condition, regardless of their diverse abilities.

While the Lebanese law No. 22, passed in 2000, assures the right of education and other services for people with special needs, reality shows otherwise. A report released in March 2018 by Human Right Watch, a humanitarian organization, states “Lebanon’s public education system discriminates against children with disabilities. They are often denied admission to schools because of their disability. And for those who manage to enroll, most schools do not take reasonable steps to provide them with a quality education.”

The above case is not as simple as it seems. While some schools enroll individuals with disabilities, they tend to forget major aspects like equipping schools with reasonable accommodations, training teachers and school staff, the extra costs of further support and often are exclusive institutions or classrooms. All of the above leave children with special needs at home because their families simply cannot pay this amount of money or because available schools are so scarce and far.

“I couldn’t find one school to accept my son, they all said they do not have the appropriate resources for him.” Razan said. Her son Amir, has had a hearing loss since he was a child, and not a single school has accepted to take him. The schools who are equipped to do so are either too expensive or too far away making this nothing more than a discriminatory case.

According to Dr. Ahmad Oueinny, a professor of education at the Lebanese American University, “Public schools are not fully equipped and ready to welcome children with disabilities yet. They lack certain resources and funds which hinder their way in welcoming these children.” Oueinny adds that even if this type of education is available it is not inclusive since children with disabilities and special needs are placed in separate departments where they are not being prepared for further employment and independent living which must have been the intentional purpose of education from the beginning.

Even if you find some schools that are fully equipped to welcome children with disabilities, they are often isolated environments and classes as if not every individual is eligible to integrate in society. This type of marginalization resembles the Lebanese people and government’s attitude toward equality. “The aim of educating everyone equally is not just to pass on information but also to find your unique way of contributing to society and live self-sufficiently” Queinny comments.

In an inclusive education system, all students study in the same schools in their communities regardless of their abilities. Inclusivity demands modification of educational content and methods in a way that the system provides support, as needed, to meet the diverse needs of all learners. Thus, this strategy is not only significant for the education of students with disabilities, but should benefit all children and education professionals because it requires teachers and classrooms to adapt, rather than for a child to change.

There is no clear data on the total number of children with disabilities in Lebanon nor on how many are in school. According to human Rights Watch, of the 8,558 Lebanese ages 5 to 14 registered with the Social Affairs Ministry as children with disabilities, 3,806 are in government-funded institutions, with a few others spread among public and private schools.

However, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization, and World Bank estimate that 5 percent of people under age 14 has a disability, which would put a conservative estimate of the number of Lebanese children ages 5 to 14 with a disability at 40,000.

The Lebanese government is accounted and hold responsible to implement and enforce existing disability rights legislation, Human Rights Watch said. The Education Ministry should provide inclusive education in all its schools in a way that achieves maximum inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream public and private schools and the Ministry of Social Affairs must assign adequate assets for the progress and sustainability of a range of services and support for them.