Armenia transforms lives of children with disabilities through inclusive, quality education
YEREVAN, 23 June 2014 — UNICEF Armenia today brought together six of the brightest minds and boldest change makers to present their experience on how to tackle some of the key challenges that children with disabilities face in accessing inclusive, quality education.
The TED-style event at Ayb school in Yerevan, called ‘Activate Talks’, was the first in a series of talks in the region and part of UNICEF’s celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). UNICEF has also declared 2014 the “Year of Innovations and Equity”.
“UNICEF is using its convening role to encourage the government, civil society, businesses, academics and others to drive change on the most pressing challenges confronting the most vulnerable children,” said Henriette Ahrens, UNICEF Armenia Representative in Armenia. Hence, the group of change makers featured included an entrepreneur, an educator, a political scientist, doctor, a mother and choreographer.
The first speaker, Zara Batoyan, has worked extensively in advancing the awareness and acceptance of people and children with disabilities, as well as promoting an accessible environment for people with disabilities. “When your rights are being violated, fight for your rights, be more proactive, change comes from within,” she said. Deputy Director of the State Institute of Education of the Armenian Ministry of Education and Science Anahit Bakhsyan discussed education reform and policy-making and shared her experience as the director of one of the first Armenian inclusive schools.
UNICEF Armenia / 2014
Artak Beglaryan, a prominent young political analyst, discussed attitudes towards students with disabilities in Armenian and oversees academic institutions. “Very often, the issue is not about lack of financial resources or infrastructure problems, but the wrong perceptions that people have about the capacity of students with disabilities. We need to ensure that teachers and specialists work with children with disabilities on a case by case based approach.” The head of traumatology service at Arabkir medical institution Garen Koloyan also advocated for love towards children with disabilities as the key underlying factor for an inclusive society.
Participants also heard from Meri Martirosyan, a single unemployed mother of a daughter who has cerebral palsy and a son with autism. She highlighted the plight of mothers like her who have been abandoned by their husbands and other challenges of raising children with disabilities. She urged for more support from the government and the society to realize the full potential of all children. “Children with disabilities in Armenia are still described as desperate, miserable, lost, and unfortunate but I describe my children as a source of joy, amazement, admiration and happiness,” she said.
UNICEF Armenia / 2014
The talks were concluded by a performance of Armenia’s first and newly established inclusive dance group, headed by Teni Matian, a professional choreographer. In her speech, Teni highlighted that arts and dancing can be the right start to integrate new children with disabilities in schools.
Highlights of the ‘Activate Talks’ events and presentations in Armenia and other countries in the world will be featured in this year’s State of the World’s Children report, which will be launched on 20 November 2014, the actual 25th anniversary of the CRC.
Watch the full #UNICEFActivate talk (in Armenian)