Insisting on Inclusion: Institutionalization and Boundaries to Schooling for Kids with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan [EN/KY] – Kyrgyzstan
(Berlin) – Thousands of children with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan are segregated in dormitories where they can experience neglect, inappropriate medical treatment and discrimination, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today on International Human Rights Day.
The 74-page report “Insistence on Inclusion: Institutionalization and Obstacles to Education for Children with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan” documents how children are often denied high-quality, inclusive education in which children with and without disabilities study together in mainstream schools. Children with disabilities are subject to discriminatory government assessments that, according to Human Rights Watch, often result in segregation in special schools or at home. Kyrgyzstan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2019.
“The Kyrgyz government is committed to providing access to inclusive education, which means children with disabilities can study in mainstream schools in the communities where they live,” said Laura Mills, researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the Report. “The government has yet to make this promise a reality for children across the country.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed 111 people between October 2019 and July 2020, including children and young adults with disabilities, teachers and workers in residential and special schools, parents and disability activists. Human Rights Watch also visited six residential facilities and schools for children with disabilities in four regions.
Human Rights Watch found that facilities were insufficiently staffed to care for children with disabilities, resulting in neglect or lack of individual attention. Children have been segregated according to disabilities, which is discriminatory.
Human Rights Watch also documented that facility staff regularly use psychotropic drugs or forced psychiatric hospitalization to control and punish children’s behavior.
A doctor at a facility for children with disabilities described sending a boy to a mental hospital because the facility staff were unhappy with the boy’s behavior. The doctor recognized the dangerous use of drugs in children and said: “There you can even overdose on tranquilizers, but [the hospital] has an intensive care unit so they can resuscitate her. “
None of the six facilities visited had accessible and confidential grievance systems so that children cannot report abuse or neglect there.
Since 2012, the Kyrgyz government has pledged to close 17 home facilities for children, including three for children with disabilities. But 3,000 children with disabilities are staying in institutions, and the government has only closed one special school.
Two panels evaluate children and can make recommendations based on a child’s disability that block access to general education or any education. The Psycho-Medical-Educational Consultations (PMPC), made up of doctors and education specialists, often recommend children with disabilities to study at special schools or get home education. Another body made up only of doctors can make similar recommendations, including the fact that some children should not be educated.
While the ratings from these two bodies are only formal recommendations, Human Rights Watch found that mainstream schools often refuse to enroll children recommended for special or home education.
Human Rights Watch found that home-living children, including those whose parents have removed them from an institution, face significant discriminatory barriers to their education in mainstream schools.
A major obstacle to inclusive education is that mainstream schools are physically inaccessible or that children with disabilities do not provide the necessary support. Due to the lack of support or shelter, many parents may feel compelled to accompany their children to school to help them move between floors in school, use the toilet, or read the blackboard.
While many children with disabilities are homeschooled, parents say the teachers come for very few hours and are often not trained to teach a child with a disability.
Children in care homes and special schools either receive poor education or no education at all.
Restricting access to mainstream schools for children with disabilities is discriminatory and violates Kyrgyz and international law, Human Rights Watch said. Government agencies should stop separating children and identify and provide individual support known as reasonable accommodation to ensure a child’s education. As part of Kyrgyzstan’s international human rights obligations, children with disabilities have the right to live in a community and grow up in a family.
The Kyrgyz authorities should make the provision of inclusive education for children with disabilities a priority despite the country’s current political and constitutional crisis.
The government should abolish or reform the institutions that block access to quality, inclusive education for children with disabilities. It should establish a clear, time-bound plan for closing facilities for children, including children with disabilities, and develop community-based services to help children grow up with their families. As long as children are in institutions, authorities should protect them from neglect and inappropriate medical treatment and provide accessible complaints systems.
“In order for Kyrgyzstan to successfully close housing facilities for children with disabilities, the barriers that keep them from schools in their communities need to be removed,” Mills said. “The government should ensure that children with disabilities learn with their peers and provide them with the tools they need to be successful.”