12 October 2022


Over the past two decades, remarkable progress has been made internationally in terms of expanding access to education. Worldwide, more than 90 per cent of primary school-age children have been enrolled in school. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, net enrolment in primary has grown to 79 per cent as of 2018, compared with 60 per cent in the year 2000 (UNICEF, 2019; World Bank, 2020). Despite this progress, gains have not been equally distributed among all groups, with some of the most vulnerable still being left behind. Persons with disabilities are one such group who continue to be excluded from education more than any other demographic group (WHO and World Bank, 2011). Previous research shows that disability is more strongly associated with being out-of-school than with sex, place of residence or even socio-economic status (UNESCO UIS, 2017; Mizunoya et al., 2018). Low and middle-income countries with near-universal primary education also report high ratios of children with disabilities who are out-of-school compared to children without disabilities. This suggests that educational policies that improve overall attendance have not necessarily addressed the challenges faced by children with disabilities (Mizunoya et al., 2018). The following report leverages a set of newly available qualitative and quantitative data to help fill the information gap around children with disabilities and their access to education and learning in the West and Central Africa Region (WCAR), thus establishing best practices for future work in this area. It is the first-ever regional report in the WCAR that applies a common disability measurement based on the UNICEF/Washington Group Child Functioning Module (UNICEF/WG CFM or CFM). This was jointly developed by the UN Washington Group of Statistics and UNICEF and released in 2016, representing the most holistic approach to identifying children with disabilities in household surveys. This report also features significant qualitative data on national policy and programming for disability-inclusive education in the WCAR.