More effort is needed to provide education for mentally and physically disabled children and youth in Afghanistan, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
In the first study of its kind, researchers surveyed and interviewed children and adults in Afghan villages to assess the impact of more school opportunities in post-Taliban Afghanistan. One survey was taken in 2005 and another in the same villages in 2013.
They found that despite progress in increasing the number of schools, teachers and student enrollment, access to school and literacy did not improve for children and youth with disabilities, and both outcomes were worse for girls with disabilities and those with a mental learning or associated disability. The encouraging finding was that disabled children and youth reported less mental distress over time, perhaps because the stigma of disability was being increasingly challenged and expressed less often publicly.
“A concerted effort is required to intervene at the community level to break the vicious cycle of attitudes, beliefs, prejudice and discrimination toward children with disabilities,” said lead author Dr. Jean-Francois Trani, associate professor at the Brown School. “At the school level, promoting a conducive learning environment in which the teacher is valorized by good working conditions and training to address the various needs of children might contribute to make school an undisputable protective environment for all children.”
The study was published June 10 in PLOS One.