Laws work only on paper and children are paying for it

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According to the laws and regulations written in black on white, all opportunities are open for children with disabilities to learn and develop in our country. In particular, numerous orders, decisions, and regulations have been issued on inclusive education of children. Specifically, in 2019, there was a procedure for creating materials and learning environments suitable for students with disabilities in educational institutions of all levels, and procedures for the equal inclusion of disabled children in general education schools. Before that, in 2016, the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was passed. Article 15 of that law contains provisions to create conditions suitable for people with disabilities in all levels of educational institutions and vocational training centers. However, the results of the research conducted by the Reaserch Institute of Labor and Social Protection have proven that the implementation of these laws and regulations is not sufficient in reality. 

There are a total of 9,495 children with disabilities who are kindergarten and school age nationwide. Statistics show that 70.3 percent of them study in schools and kindergartens. The attendance rate was the highest in Khuvsgul province, with 91.7 percent attendance at school and kindergarten. But in Tuv Province, the figure is 29.4 percent, which is the lowest. In general, only three out of 21 provinces have high percentage of children with disabilities in education than the national average. All others are below the national average. There are 1,453 kindergartens and 848 general education schools operating in Mongolia. Of these, 1,065 children with disabilities study in kindergartens and 5,606 in general education schools. Judging by the results of the last five years, the number of children with disabilities studying in schools and kindergartens has slightly decreased.

According to the research results of the institute, the lack of understanding and knowledge about disabilities at all levels is the main obstacle to children’s equal access to education. For example, the lack of education in that sector, and the cooperation of the commission, teacher, school authorities, parents and guardians are extremely low in the sector of these children show that the laws related to them are not implemented in reality. As a result, children with disabilities cannot participate in education as equal as the other children and are left outside the circle.

The Research Institute of Labor and Social Protection interviewed 100 citizens with children aged two to 14 years attending schools and kindergartens. Around 60 percent of those children are female. In terms of disabilities, 30 percent of those children have down syndrome and autism, 25 percent have paralysis, and the remaining percent have visual, speech, hearing, and movement disabilities and impairments. The parents and guardians who participated in the interview emphasized that the concept of inclusive education of children with disabilities has not been formed in kindergartens and schools. The teacher who leads the class is responsible for including the child in the training. However, many teachers do not know how to teach these children. The school staff also said that they do not have enough understanding about this. In addition, the government and related organizations increase the workload of teachers several times. For example, too many children with disabilities are assigned to one teacher. Also, there is unrealistic pressure on teachers to teach 40 to 50 children studying together without falling behind. 

The parents who participated in the study said, “Schools and kindergartens do not have an accessible environment. In addition, educational institutions often leave out children with disabilities when organizing public activities. Because of the inaccessibility of the environment, the child cannot attend all the classes.” This problem was also confirmed during the research. B, who has a child with disabilities said, “The school organizes various social activities. However, when it comes to participating in races and competitions, my child gets sad because he can’t run and jump. I myself as well come out saddened. Children who cannot run or jump can be good at drawing and thinking. But, there are no measures to develop what they are capable of alone.”

But on the other hand, a school teacher said, “We are doing more activities for children with disabilities in order to help them become more independent. Such as, self-toileting, eating, and drinking water. Whilst helping them, other children are easily distracted while I often take them to the bathroom. The work plan is planned for the entire year and carried out according to the instructions. Families are weak in cooperating with teachers and supporting their children’s development. They don’t pick up their child when I call saying, ‘Can you pick up your child from school an hour ago, the child is tired and unable to cope with the load?’ It is often imposed as a teacher’s duty,” they said.

A branch responsible for the development of disabled children based on the characteristics of their problems works in every province. However, the operation of these commissions is not optimal, which hinders the inclusive education of children with disabilities. On December 21, 2016, Government Resolution No.200 approved the rules of the Commission for Health, Education and Social Protection of Children with Disabilities and defined the direction of its activities. According to this, from 2017, a full-time commission was established at the central state administrative organization responsible for the issue of people with disabilities, and a part-time branch commission for health, education, and social protection of the children was established at the Social Policy Department of the Provincial Governor’s Office. The commission should have certain responsibilities for the equal inclusion of children with disabilities. However, the study revealed that mothers, fathers, and guardians of children with disabilities do not know much about the activities of the branch commissions in their communities. They understand that the branch commission has no other role than to determine and extend allowances for children in permanent care. In other words, fathers, mothers and guardians gave a bad assessment of the activities of the local branch commission.

As for the members of the branch, they defended themselves saying that their members are not full-time and cannot work effectively due to the heavy workload. Not only that, the members of the branch do not have a common understanding and information about disabilities, and there have been occurrences where their activities are unstable, and where they do not know the work they should be doing. For example, Government Resolution No. 235 from 2020 states that “Equal inclusion of children in kindergartens and general education schools regardless of the nature of their disabilities should be carried out and creating educational alternatives and mobile tutoring services for children who cannot participate in classroom education due to health reasons. Although more than two years have passed since the adoption of the resolution, no mobile teachers have been employed until now. Also, the provisions on the mandatory study of teaching methods and mastery courses for students studying the profession of working with disabled children, and the special training of teachers and employees in the field of working with disabled children are not fully implemented. In addition, the Minister of Education, Culture, Science, and Sports’ Order No. A/155 from 2018 on the approval of the model and methodology states that “The teacher who approves the methodology and instructions for developing an individual plan and evaluates the child’s progress will be paid an additional salary.” Unfortunately, 50 percent of teachers surveyed said they did not receive this raise. Also, many of the teachers had no idea or information about the possibility of receiving the additional fee.

Starting from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the Government Agency on Developing People with Disabilities, and branches in 21 provinces and nine districts, there is a sizable structure that can support and develop people with special needs in all aspects in our country. However, in reality, their work does not translate from paper to reality, and the examples mentioned above can be proof. In particular, the orders, regulations and decisions related to the equal education of disabled children are not at all implemented.

Amarjargal Munkhbat