Most mainstream schools in BiH are not yet ready to accept children with disabilities. They normally lack basic facilities (ramps, support bars, adapted furniture and accommodated sanitary facilities) to ensure accessibility for children with disabilities. Teachers are not familiar with the process of inclusive education and lack abilities to work with children with special needs. They are not trained to give individual support for the children who would need it and they lack enough school assistants to support them in this task. The lack of adequate transportation is another obstacle to facilitate the education for children with special needs.
In many cases, children with disabilities are removed from regular classes to be placed on special classes or separate institutions, where their learning outcome is likely to be lower, in addition to which they are more likely to suffer from stigma and discrimination. All this affects their development negatively with consequences when pursuing higher studies and looking for employment opportunities.
In order to expand inclusive education in BiH, there is a need to raise awareness of teachers, directors, parents and the communities on the importance of education for children with disabilities, entailing institutionalized training on inclusive education for teachers and school management staff. Authorities should be encouraged to promote individual support for children with special needs in order to facilitate their enrolment and attendance in mainstream education. Moreover, inclusive education needs to be promoted at all levels, starting with pre-school education. The process of social inclusion must begin as early as possible – in this early developmental phase, children with disabilities benefit the most from inclusive education and children without disabilities learn to embrace people’s differences in an early age.
UNICEF has been implementing training programmes in close collaboration with Ministries of Education, schools and NGOs (such as Duga) to advance quality of education for all children, including children with disabilities. Efforts are also made to further institutionalize these programmes in order to ensure future sustainability.