Living with disability obstacle to education

Persons with disabilities are five times more likely to have never attended school compared to persons without disabilities. 

This is according to the 2018 Samoa Disability Monograph, which is an analysis of the 2016 Population and Housing Census report, which was approved by the Samoa Bureau of Statistics Government Statistician and C.E.O., Ali’imuamua Malaefono Tauā T. Faasalaina, and U.N.I.C.E.F. Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. 

“Children and adults with disabilities face many challenges to full participation, are often the poorest and most marginalised members of society and therefore are most at risk of being left behind.”

According to the report, about 10 per cent of persons with disabilities had no education compared to 2 per cent of persons without disabilities. It said primary education was the highest level of education for 42 per cent of persons with disabilities compared with 32 per cent of persons without disabilities.  

The analysis further stated that only 37 per cent of persons with disabilities had attained secondary level education compared with 51 per cent of persons without disabilities. 

Persons with disabilities, the report said, face challenges in progressing beyond the secondary level education with only 7 per cent attaining higher education compared to 14 per cent of those without disabilities. 

The report says persons with disabilities living in rural areas, particularly in Savai’i, were more likely to face these challenges.

“Attendance data for the age group of 5–24 years showed a sharp decline at age 13 years, suggesting bottlenecks that impede the advancement of persons with disabilities to secondary education. 

“Only about 38 per cent and 35 per cent of persons with disabilities could read and write without any difficulties compared with 68 per cent and 66 per cent of persons without disabilities, respectively.” 

Date in the report also showed a low proportion of persons with disabilities or about 2 per cent attending special needs education activities. 

“In the home environment, parents tend to prioritise education for the children without disabilities over the children with disabilities on the belief that the former stand a better chance of achieving the success required to support the family,” the report added.   

“The prevalence of the concept of ‘fa’alavelave’ in the Polynesian language, in which cultural and religious financial commitments supersede other needs, can act as a barrier to continued school attendance.” 

The report also noted the importance of improving partnerships between Government and Ministry of Health (M.O.H), Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.), Nuanua O Le Alofa (N.O.L.A.), Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.), Samoa Qualifications Authority, National University of Samoa, Australia Pacific Technical College, development partners, special schools and inclusive education service providers.

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