The right to learn

Perkins International is partnering with governments to ensure more children with disabilities receive the education they deserve.

Head shot of Michael Delaney in front of the Perkins globe.

Michael Delaney is the executive director of Perkins International, which works with global partners to improve educational opportunities for an estimated 46 million children and young adults with visual impairment.

April 30, 2018

Education is a human right.

It’s a simple credo that has guided the work of Perkins International since its inception.

Everyone has the right to reap the life-changing benefits of education – including the estimated 6 million children and young adults around the world who are visually impaired with
additional disabilities.

Tragically, however, far too many of our most vulnerable citizens have never set foot inside a classroom. In developing nations, where resources for special education are scarce and the stigma of disability remains strong, they are falling through the cracks. 

In 2016, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities specifically identified individuals with multiple disabilities and deafblindness among those “more at risk of exclusion” from high-quality, inclusive education services.

Our own expert special educators agree. While Perkins International has helped our partners in dozens of developing countries expand and improve their multiple disability programs, today the vast majority of this population remains out of school.

So what can be done to make the right to education a reality for all?

The onus lies on governments. They are the duty bearers charged with ensuring that individuals with disabilities are afforded basic human rights. And thankfully, with the worldwide adoption of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), chances are they’ve already signed up to be part of the solution.

Under the SDGs, global leaders have committed to providing a quality education for all children – including those with disabilities – by the year 2030. To achieve this ambitious milestone, the U.N. is calling for a substantial increase in the world’s supply of qualified teachers, among other strategies.

As a global leader in special education, Perkins International is eager to help achieve this goal. Last year, we launched Perkins International Academy in an effort to equip more teachers with the specialized knowledge and skills required to teach learners who are visually impaired with multiple disabilities, including deafblindness. Already we are seeing the fruits of this effort inside classrooms from El Salvador to Nigeria to Indonesia.

Achieving anything on the scale of the SDGs requires strategic partnership. Without the cooperation and commitment of our government partners, the first Perkins International Academy courses would have never been possible.

Helen Keller famously wrote, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Together with the governments of the world, our collective goal is clear: to ensure the human right to education is realized by all learners, everywhere.