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EXPLORING THE EDUCATIONAL ASPIRATIONS AND EXPERIENCES OF ADOLESCENTS WITH A DISABILITY IN URBAN AND RURAL ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1204-08]
This paper explores the perceptions and experiences facing adolescents living with a disability in urban and rural Ethiopia and seeks to contribute to the current, but very limited evidence based on adolescents and disability in the country. It draws on findings from a baseline quantitative survey with 6700 adolescents, and qualitative research with over 200 early (10-12 years) and older (15-17 years) adolescent girls and boys, including a sample of adolescents with a disability, and their peers and caregivers in 2017 in Afar, Amhara and Oromia regional states. The data collection is part of the new DFID-funded multi-country Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) longitudinal research programme which aims to better understand what works to enhance adolescent development trajectories, including the most disadvantaged adolescents. The paper discusses the lived experiences of adolescent girls and boys with different impairment types (mobility, hearing, visual) who are in and out of school in rural and urban settings. In the case of those in education, it pays particular attention to the perceptions of adolescents in the governmental Special Needs Education (SNE) centres within the first cycle primary (Grades 1-4), and the educational and psycho-social challenges they face as they progress to inclusive education within second cycle primary education (Grade 5 onward). Our findings indicate that resource shortages and limited specialised teachers notwithstanding, the existing governmental four-year special needs programme is positively viewed by participants and by teachers, and particularly when juxtaposed to the absence of educational opportunities for adolescents with a disability in more remote rural locales where such services are often lacking. However, adolescent respondents highlight challenges in the wider environment including community stigma and limited awareness of the rights of all persons with a disability, inadequate social protection, limited family support, a dearth of effective inclusive education programming and limited education to employment pathways as key barriers to realising their educational and broader aspirations. The paper concludes by reflecting on the implications of the findings for the implementation of the National Plan of Action for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 2012 – 2021 and the Master Plan for Special Needs Education/ Inclusive Education 2016 – 2025. It discusses ways in which adolescent perspectives and experiences could be harnessed to inform policy and programmatic dialogues aimed at promoting adolescent well-being and resilience, and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring that no adolescent is left behind.