Challenges in Paradise: Inclusive Education in the South Pacific

Rebekah McCullough

There are many challenges in the islands of the South Pacific: isolation, lack of access, little or no resources, lack of information and training. However the focus on Education for All is a goal that cannot be ignored now that accurate and useful information is being gathered, shared and used to benefit adults and children with disability.

Since 2001, a project called 'Disability in the Pacific' (initiated by Inclusion International with funding support from NZAID) has been conducting individual surveys to identify adults and children with disabilities in Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Vanuatu.

Local people have been trained to identify types of disabilities and then assisted to conduct individual interviews throughout the country. The local people who volunteer, or are recruited, often include people with disability, parents of children with disability, local teachers and health workers. The training enables them to learn identification and interview skills as well as how to run community awareness workshops. This has raised awareness and the visibility of children and adults with disability. The surveys are also showing some of the real challenges regarding education for all!

In many Pacific countries, children with disabilities have been supported by NGOs who have tended to set up 'special schools'. Typically, these are in the main urban areas and do not reach those in rural areas or outer islands. However, inclusive education is now being discussed and in some places is beginning to be implemented as the most efficient and effective way of including children with disabilities and other 'at risk' children into school life. Inclusive education is mainly understood as a way to include children with disabilities into their local schools. This is still a very important goal as they represent the highest number of children not going to school. However, inclusive education is beginning to be understood to include those children who are 'at risk' because of issues such as needing to work, inability to pay the school fee, chronic illness, etc.

As more information is gained and shared about the numbers of children not attending school, some wonderful local initiatives are happening. For example:

Rebekah McCullough
Disability in the Pacific - Project Co-ordinator
Inclusion International/New Zealand International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID)
4 Hatherly Lane
Christchurch 8
New Zealand


Title: Challenges in Paradise: Inclusive education in the south Pacific
Author: McCullough, R
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2005
Published in: Enabling Education 9