Baroness Verma – 2016 Speech on Education for Children with Disabilities in Kenya


Below is the text of the speech made by Baroness Verma, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for International Development, at 1 Parliament Street, Westminster, London on 9 February 2016.

Thank you very much. It really gives me great pleasure to be here. I really want to start by thanking the All Party Parliamentary Group on Education for All. I also have to thank you, Mark [Mark Williams MP – Chair of the APPG for Global Education for All], for this really insightful introduction because it is really about going there [to Kenya] and having a look at what is working on the ground. It really gives us a sense of how what we are doing in the UK impacts positively the lives of people on the ground.

I am also delighted to sit next to my colleagues from the House of Lords – Lord Low and other colleagues I have known for many years, so I am really pleased. And of course as I look across the room, I see many faces that are very familiar and I am pleased that civil society partners are always with us and working hard. These are the partnerships which do develop a real thinking and allow us to make sure that what we are delivering on the ground actually does work. And also, the challenges you rightly bring to us. We do need the challenges so that we can do much better in delivering the services from DFID.

Last year was a really crucial year for everybody who is committed to disability inclusion. As you know, people with disabilities in the past have been unable to benefit from much of the programmes we had globally on tackling poverty. For all of us, seeing disability mentioned in the global development agenda for the first time was an extraordinary moment and no Global Goal, I am so glad, will be considered met unless it is achieved for everyone. And that should really mean everyone. This for me was a major step forward for insuring that those currently left behind, including people with disabilities, are equally benefiting from international development. I would like to use this opportunity to thank all of you in the room who have worked so hard in the last years to make this possible.

At DFID we have pushed for disability to be at the heart of all our programmes and everyone who has worked with DFID has hopefully been a testimony to that. We have learned a lot since the launch of the first Disability Framework in 2014 and the revised Framework of 2015 confirms our vision that people with disabilities need to be put at the heart of our work, which includes our commitment to secure education for everyone.

Education is one of the most crucial instruments a country can make in its people and the country’s future. It is a critical driver in reducing poverty and the importance of making education inclusive of children with disabilities cannot be overstated. It does not only play a central role in fostering development, but also breaks the stigma and discrimination and allows people with disabilities to gain agency over their own lives. Leaving no one behind is not only essential for sustainable development and eradicating poverty, but – and I hope we all agree – for the freedom, dignity, tolerance and respect that all human beings should see as a right. These are fundamental to our all humanity. That is why we are committed to ensuring that all children, including those with disabilities, are able to complete a full cycle of education.

In the last three years, we have invested nearly £35 million in education in Kenya to improve early learning, enhance transparency and drive up enrolment and retention so that Kenya’s poorest and most marginalised children, including those with disabilities, are reached. In 2014 we made the commitment that all DFID-funded educational related construction is fully accessible. In Kenya, this meant that by August 15th, 24 new and renovated classrooms, 12 dormitories and 24 latrine blocks directly funded by DFID were fully accessible for people with disabilities.

I think the basics of having latrines for children with disabilities can sometimes be overlooked. I recently visited another country where I saw latrines developed and when I asked, “What about for those children with disabilities?” they looked at me and said, “We don’t have any children with disability”. I think this is the stigma and taboo we really need to challenge hard. Our Girls Education Programme has undergone an analysis of how well our projects are targeting girls with disabilities. My Department has provided £7 million to fund disability-funded girls’ education programmes in Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone. In Kenya, our partner Leonard Cheshire Disability is working with policy makers, research institutions, teachers and community members to address the key barriers faced by disabled girls in accessing schools.

On a global level, we are working closely with the Global Partnership for Education to ensure that their approach of children with disabilities is inclusive. Our influencing efforts made disability a priority for the June 2015 replenishment of the Global Partnership and it was a great success to see that twelve countries, including Kenya, pledged at this event that they would do more for children with disabilities.

However, we do know that despite these successes, so much more has to be done. And reports like the one you are launching today are crucial reminders that there is still a very long way to go. The study confirms that too many children with disabilities are out of school – 1 out of 6 in Kenya. In light of this, I would like to thank the All Parliamentary Group for Education, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Global Campaign for Education UK, RESULTS UK and Leonard Cheshire Disability for supporting this very important report. One thing which has been clear is that none of this will be easy and it will require a concerted action by governments, citizens, civil society and by business. I am convinced that we are moving in the right direction with the work we have done so far. We at DFID are doing more than we have ever before on disability inclusion and together with the organisations in this room today and beyond, we can really do much to contribute to a better future for people with disabilities all over the world. That is a way of making sure that we speak to the pledges we made to leaving no one behind.

Thank you very much.