Equal opportunities in education are vital for the effective realization of other human rights. While the legislation of Georgia explicitly provides the fundamental right to education and prohibits discrimination on any ground, the inclusive education system in the country still has a lot of room for improvement. That is why we took action to have this law amended to include children with disabilities and provide support which is accessable to them. We worked steadily to showcase the stories of thousands of children with disabilities- those who are prevented from exercising their right to education due to the absence of legislation and a clear policy- one that ensures true inclusiveness for them in the school settings.
Mariam*, a girl with disabilities in Georgia, is one of the beneficiaries of our implementing partner, Anika’s Day Care Center. As a result of dire financial conditions, her family could no longer provide wheelchair- bound Mariam* with the chance to continue her studies at school after seventh grade. However, as a result of the Day Care Center’s efforts, she not only regained the status of a school student, but with the support from the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, she managed to pass her exams for the two years that she had missed and became a student of the ninth grade. Representatives of the DCC’s multidisciplinary group helped her teachers to ensure that the learning process was directly tailored to her individual needs. Now she has graduated from the ninth grade, with a certificate and an aspiration to continue her studies at a vocational education institution.
We want to help more children like Mariam*. However, achieving sustainable systemic changes in the field of inclusive education is virtually impossible without a solid legislative framework. Starting from 2016, Save the Children in Georgia actively advocated for amending the Law of Georgia on General Education – a legal act that outlines the main principles of management and terms of provision of general education in Georgia.
Why did the law in Georgia need to change, and how did we achieve this?
Prior to changes, the law in Georgia failed to properly address the needs of children with disabilities (CwDs) and Children with special educational needs (SEN) within the education system. Therefore, whilst advocating for adoption of the Inclusive Education Strategy, Save the Children in Georgia promoted the idea of reflecting the main principles of inclusive education within the law on 'General Education'.
Signing a formal MoU with the Ministry enabled SCI to provide technical assistance to the government in the drafting process, a thematic working group (the WG) was established. During the working process that the group was making, it became clear that provisions of the law on 'General Education' often posed a barrier towards achieving genuine inclusiveness in the education process.
After 2 years of slow but steady progress, on July 5, 2018, new provisions were finally introduced to the Law on General Education. SCI, as a partner of choice of the MoES, advocated for elaboration of amendments. This not only granted the specialists engaged in the inclusive education with the status of 'teachers', but it also envisioned relevant social guarantees. SCI also provided technical assistance to the Government on the regulations of the Law related to transition of special boarding schools into resource-centers. As a result of the Organization’s advocacy efforts, this law also sets definitions for integrated and special classes.
Shortly after the introduction of amendments to the Law, the Ministry of Education and Science launched public hearings of Inclusive Education Strategy and Action Plan 2019-2022.
Why is this new law a great win for inclusive education in Georgia?
This achievement is groundbreaking for Georgia, since this is a first law that creates a solid basis for building a truly inclusive education system. A system which involves professional special teachers, resource centers which act as expertise hubs, and also puts a legally binding obligation on the government to remove barriers in the way of children with disabilities. This will also involve combatting social prejudices.
SCI aims to continue provide capacity building to relevant stakeholders including teachers, which will eventally remove the social prejudices against children with disabilities which exisit amongst wider society.