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Positioning Children with Disabilities in National Human Capital: Review of relevant national policies and practices Aynur Nabiyeva

CIE Policy Unit and Center for Social Policy Development1 Policy discourse in Azerbaijan has emphasized human capital development as the key to longterm and sustainable growth, with nearly every development document including the 2003 Poverty Reduction Strategy. However, the primacy placed on human development for economic growth risks ignoring effectively exercising of full human rights by persons with disabilities (PWD), particularly children with disabilities (CWD). Although development of human capital as an important segment economic and national growth has been recognized in several national development policies, lack of social model of disability remains a major obstacle to fully realizing of the potential of PWD thus leading to their exclusion from human capital development. The approximate cost of the exclusion of people with disabilities from employment is estimated at US$ 1.37- 1.94 trillion that is lost in worldwide GDP every year (International Labour Organization (ILO), 2012). With the adoption of national and international legislation framework the State has recognized its obligation to respond to the needs of people with disabilities and to ensure that they can realize their full potential. However, according to the findings of a recent study 74% of PWD in Azerbaijan between the ages of 16-64 are unemployed (McCabe, 2011, p. 32) and the proportion of the PWD involved in labor activity has decreased from 8.8% in 2001 to 6.7% in 2010 (International Labour Organization, 2012, p. 35). Studies also indicate health impairment from birth or childhood, and lack of education and vocational training as the two major reasons for unemployment among PWD (O'Reilly, 2007). It can therefore be inferred that early intervention and education provision to CWD would directly increase employability and should therefore be part of State strategy for CWD. Against this font, the recent Development Concept Azerbaijan 2020-Outlook for the Future (Official website of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2012) outlines several strategic foci in human capital development. Whereas the full ensuring of all human rights and freedoms and a sound environment and extensive opportunities for every citizen are outlined among the key priorities for future national development, the following analysis questions the effectiveness of these policies in thecoverage of all human rights of CWD. As part of its outline of the general education system, the Development Concept document also considers applying various developing, correcting and inclusive education programs for children with needs of special care and those with limited health conditions (CWLHC) (Official website of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2012, p. 26). However, discussion on out-of-school, vocational and higher education levels makes no mention of how or whether the inclusion of CWLHC into these levels of education is considered. The 2010 United Nations Development Assistant Framework (UNDAF 2011-2015) recognizes the importance of ensuring equal access of vulnerable groups, including CWD to education services -as a priority to achieve long-term national development goals. Within this policy framework, one of the key steps to be taken towards social development is to increase the share of CWD in mainstream schooling, which in itself can be seen as contributory to developing social model of disability in Azerbaijan. Historically, the medical model of disability has been predominant particularly during Soviet period. The result has been segregation of PWD from the

The CIE Policy Unit ( and the CSPD ( are newly forced think tanks focusing on providing better solutions for social policy in Azerbaijan.

rest of society in providing different public and social services. The medical model presents in itself discrimination against this group of PWD based on their disability. However, the human rights approach to disability is based on a dramatic shift in perspective that has taken place over the last twenty years and is largely advocated among international community. The human rights approach ensures equal enjoyment of human rights without discrimination and sees the creation of equal opportunities for people with disabilities as a fundamental human right, rather than an impulse motivated by charity. Most importantly, the human rights approach replaces the medical model of disability with a more social perspective. Such a social perspective views disability not primarily as a medical condition specific to an individual, but as occurring in the way an individual interacts with society. In a social perspective disabilities become limitations only when social processes fail to accommodate the differences between individuals. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper committed to tackling structural exclusion such as installing necessary facilities for the disabled in transport and public places (PRS 2004: 55). Physical accessibility in general education institutions is indeed a huge problem and is evaluated as one of the major barriers to inclusive education in Azerbaijan (McCabe, 2011). However, developing the proper conditions for successful implementation of inclusive education should be thought of in a more holistic way, encompassing not only physical infrastructure but all of the technical and human needs. Center for Innovations in Educations (CIE) focus group discussions (FGDs) with a range of stakeholders in the field of education provision to CWD found providing assistant teachers, specialists in inclusion, and changing attitude and knowledge of current teachers as the most salient issues. The quotation below describes the many human and material needs that combine to create the needed inclusive educational environment. Lack of special equipments is another serious problem. I think, the most important problem is special education. Home school is inherited from the Soviet times (special schools and home education). In these classes lessons are conducted in a usual way and children's capacities are not taken into consideration. Their abilities are not revealed and no mechanism exists for this. This results in nonattendance in upper classes. Very few, nearly 10% of children graduate 9th grade. (Representative of an NGO in inclusive education, CIE FGD 2011) Significant amount of work and pilot projects were implemented towards improving education provision for CWD in Azerbaijan over the past years. However, measuring outcomes of these projects is challenging because of several key factors, one of them being invisibility of CWD in official statistics. While discussing policy issues related to the CWD one of the major obstacles that researchers grapple with is the fragmentation of data collection by different ministries and the lack of any sort of comprehensive compilation system where child health and education can be looked holistically. For example, reports by MoE (The Ministry of Education of the Azerbaijan Republic , 2009) 48,500; Azerbaijan NGO Alliance for Childrens Rights 56,000 (Azerbaijan NGO Alliance for Children's Rights, 2011) ; Statistical Committee 61,693list the total number of CWD. According to the 2012 statistics (The State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2013) 575 children with limited health receive education in general schools, 6092 of them in special schools and boarding schools for children with limited health, and 9,195 through home education (Adigozelov, 2013). This data suggests that the educational arrangements nationwide for only 15,862 (26 %) CWD have been accounted for, likely disproportionately excluding the rural poor and those with more severe disabilities.

Children with disabilities receiving education, 2011-2012

1% 10% 15% special schools and boarding schools home-based education no education 74% general education schools

Considering the 74% of CWLHC are not exercising one of their fundamental human rights right to education, it is important to develop meaningful policies that respond to the diverse needs of all children with disabilities. Social protection and support plays a crucial role in the provision of education to all children without any discrimination based on disability. The idea that educational success for children with disabilities is influenced by equipment, teacher skills, and the practice of special education itself, speaks directly to the social model of disability. In other words, CWD are not limited exclusively, or even mainly by their particular disabilities, but by the inability of society and the state to create the necessary conditions for their development and opportunity to realize their full potential. A medical model of disability is not only present in the provision of state services, but also influences the attitude of society, and particularly of parents, in often limiting the potential of CWD. H. Clarke in her research report focusing on preventing social exclusion of disabled children and their families emphasizes the role of social model in developing anti-discrimination legislation and policies, but also in the influence of familial relationships on providing CWD equal opportunity to the public space and public roles (Clarke, 2006, p. 6). Although, some parents encourage their children to pursue opportunities in society, the CIE FGD also conveyed teachers attitudes as problems for inclusive education and parents lack of understanding and trust in the system as reasons for limiting their childrens public access.
As parents do not know this system[inclusive education], they doubt about it. Sometimes parents do not allow their children to go to school and they prefer home education in order to control their children themselves.(A leader of NGO working for the rights of people with disabilities, 2011)

Findings by CIE on inclusive education studies suggest that although there remain many obstacles to integration, the limitations of children with disabilities are located in their environment as much as with the disability itself. Redefining disability with a social model can help develop understanding about the aspirations, potential, and future of the child with disabilities within parents, society, and state institutions (Clarke, 2006, p. 7). From state development standpoint, achieving long-term and sustainable growth by benefiting all segments of Azerbaijani society is considered as one of the most important policy challenge for the country (Hopkins, Lawrence, Stephens, & Webster, 2006). However, the overall idea behind developing national policies should be ultimate provision of full human rights of persons without

any discrimination based on their disability and the principle that, People are to be valued not just because they are economically or otherwise useful, but because of their inherent self-worth (Quinn & Bruce, 2002, p. 9).

Conclusion This paper demonstrated how lack of responsiveness from States end towards different needs of vulnerable groups lead to social exclusion in the examples of IDP and CWD as vulnerable groups. Failure to design appropriate and holistic national policies to the needs of these groups undermines the core fundamental rights. There is a powerful link between the social approach to disability, securing basic human rights of all people, and building an inclusive society (Quinn & Degener 2002:10). The human rights model focuses first on the inherent dignity of human being, and secondly on the persons medical characteristics. It places responsibility for creating an atmosphere of respect and equality for persons with disabilities on society and the state. In this way it shares the idea of inclusion that the onus of creating an inclusive society falls not on the vulnerable or excluded groups, but on mainstream society, civil society, and the state.

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