The Post-2015 Education Sector Plan (2018–2030) defines inclusive education as a "process that aims to increase participation and reduce exclusion by effectively addressing the different needs of all learners. It addresses the individual educational and learning needs of all marginalized and vulnerable children and young people: street children; girls; children from ethnic minority groups; children from financially disadvantaged families; children from nomadic/refugee/displaced families; children living with HIV or AIDS; and children with disabilities. Inclusive education aims to ensure that these children have equal rights and opportunities in education."
The plan is based on the guidelines for inclusion established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2005): "[Inclusive education] involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision which covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children."
The Post-2015 Education Sector Plan (2018–2030) defines special education as all education and training activities for persons with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, or people experiencing difficulties with personal adaptation and social integration, in order to facilitate their adaptation and social integration. Benin still has special schools. These schools follow the Integration Programme for Out-of-School Minors with Learning Disabilities (PINS in French) to manage learning disabilities. Special educational institutions for children with learning disabilities include the Centre for Research and Documentation (CED) and the Saint François d’Assise centre. However, Benin aims to progressively work towards making state schools inclusive, with the support of special centres.
In addition to these centres, there are other private facilities that care for and support children with learning disabilities, such as: Chrysalide; Cercle des Oliviers; Colombe Hibiscus; and the inclusive schools, Sainte-Jocelyne and Paix et Joie. There are also other private institutions that accommodate learners with hearing and visual impairments. Some children are referred to private inclusive schools where the team monitors their schooling.
Act No. 2003-017 stipulates that schools must "safeguard equal opportunities for all". It affirms that strategies must be implemented to ensure that children with special needs are included in the system. The strategies outlined in this section focus on supporting the initiatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities to educate these children. These initiatives provide support to integrate children into mainstream schools, depending on the degree of disability and the facilities available for children with special needs. The Education Sector Plan 2018–2030 provides for strategic options for educating children with disabilities in a mainstream school environment. It also stipulates that special centres will only receive children with multiple disabilities.
Act No. 2017-06 on the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Benin stipulates that all persons with disabilities shall receive psychosocial support, rehabilitation and functional education. Furthermore, it indicates that the State must ensure the right to education, teaching and training for persons with disabilities. Children and adolescents with disabilities are entitled to receive free and inclusive education at a mainstream public school. No school can refuse access to a person with a disability on account of his or her disability. In parallel, the Children's Code (Act No. 2015-08 of 23 January 2015) emphasizes the integration of children with special needs. There are still no implementing decrees for Act No. 2017-06 on the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Benin.
In terms of policies and action plans, the Ten-Year Education Sector Development Plan 2006–2015 identifies some specific programmes for persons with disabilities. For example, persons with disabilities benefited from literacy and education programmes during this period. A feasibility study was conducted with a view to establishing literacy centres for persons with disabilities, and 12 literacy centres were opened on an experimental basis to accommodate persons with disabilities in particular. The Post-2015 Education Sector Plan (2018–2030) and the National Policy on the Protection and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities plan to provide grants to facilities developing relevant educational initiatives for children with special needs, and to organize coaching sessions for centres and facilities with relevant inclusive educational initiatives. A draft Multi-Year Partnership Agreement (2018–2021) supervised by the French Development Agency also aims to build the country’s capacities to plan, implement and monitor inclusive education. Benin should also receive support to develop sectoral plans, strategies and policies for inclusive education. Finally, regarding the integration of children with special needs from remote areas, no targeted measures have been taken to address the territorial disparities that exist between departments and communes and, especially, between urban and rural areas.
Various programmes have been set up for this group. The country provides financial support to young persons with disabilities for vocational training. The Post-2015 Education Sector Plan (2018–2030) also gives the example of the "Integrating Children with Disabilities into Schools" project developed in nine communes in Zou through the Benin Basic Education Sector Support Project (PASEB) under the coordination of Équilibre Benin (which provides education and sponsorship for children with disabilities and vocational training). The project, which mainly focuses on special education, has provided school equipment, functional re-education and surgery to 300 pupils with severe disabilities or cerebral palsy. The Programme to Support the Integration of Children with Disabilities into Schools (PAISEH) was created within the Ministry of Nursery and Primary Education, but few activities have been carried out under this programme since its creation. It does not focus on special education, but on integration into schools. Another project was carried out at Louho School for deaf children in the suburbs of Porto-Novo, where 212 hearing people live with 150 pupils who are deaf. Teachers have been trained in sign language to educate children through bilingualism. The "Integrating Children with Disabilities into Schools" project funded by Denmark has made it possible to educate 300 children with disabilities, with a 70 per cent promotion rate each year. Cercle des Oliviers provides psychoeducational care for 200 children, most of whom have special needs. Children with disabilities are placed with children without disabilities and are made aware of human rights, the rights of the child, minimum accessibility standards, and preventing accidents that could lead to disability. Coalition béninoise des organisations pour l’éducation pour tous [the Beninese Coalition of Organizations for Education for All – CBO-EPT] provides tools for parents of pupils with disabilities. The Programme to Support the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PAIPH) supports this group through awareness-raising and training activities. It is responsible for installing (portable) ramps and other modifications in schools. This programme has also established an Action Committee for the Inclusive Development of the Village/Neighbourhood (CADIV). The Service des Soeurs pour la Promotion Humaine/Oblates
Catechistes Petites Servantes des Pauvres [Service of Sisters for Human Promotion/Oblate Catechists, Little Sisters of the Poor – SSPH/OCPSP]< aims to support pupils with disabilities, mostly girls. Handicap International has implemented a project to improve the inclusion of 780 children with disabilities in primary schools in urban and rural areas. It provides health care, guidance on education and careers, teacher training and so on. The Promoting the Full Participation of Children with Disabilities through Education (APPEHL) project aims to integrate children with disabilities in 42 primary schools in Benin's departments of Atlantique and Littoral into the education system. Another project, Educate a Child (2016–2019), targeted out-of-school children with disabilities. It sought to increase their access to and retention in school, make their school environment more inclusive, and change policies through advocacy for inclusive education. Finally, the association MIWADAGBE offers various programmes for pupils with learning disabilities, including the aforementioned Integration Programme for Out-of-School Minors with Learning Disabilities, which aims for individualized educational planning and the establishment of a monitoring system. Other initiatives in favour of inclusive education carried out by CBO-EPT should also be noted. The organization organizes training for parents, teachers, inspection bodies, supervisors and school inspectors.
Acts No. 2003-017 and 2005-33 ensure gender equality in education, with a particular focus on girls and the most vulnerable children (articles 3, 5, 12, 13). A policy to improve girls’ opportunities to access and stay in the education system has also been implemented by the Directorate for the Promotion of Education (Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education). This directorate made it possible to set up the National Network for the Promotion of Girls' Education, train teachers on their responsibilities in girls' education, create a focal unit for HIV and AIDS control in schools, organize awareness-raising campaigns on girls' education, and provide school supplies and uniforms to disadvantaged pupils. It should be noted that as of 2016, this body no longer exists. The Post-2015 Education Sector Plan (2018–2030) aims to strengthen girls' access to and retention in basic education by establishing measures to promote the recruitment and retention of female teachers in rural areas. It also seeks to exempt girls from paying secondary school fees. In addition, it aims to select texts on sexual harassment, the fight against child marriage, and other forms of violence, and to set up listening units for girls in schools. Previously, the Ten-Year Education Sector Development Plan 2006–2015 aimed to promote girls in agriculture and industry, including by awarding scholarships. In the early 2000s, women's literacy centres were built throughout the country, and the Girls' Education through Women's Literacy project helped significantly reduce the gender gap in school enrolment rates. The ten-year plan also provides for action-research activities to be introduced in communities with significant gaps in terms of girls' enrolment and care for children with special needs. However, it is difficult to assess the impact of these programmes.
Other initiatives implemented by NGOs to promote girls' education have also been introduced, including exempting girls from school fees. The most effective measures have been reducing costs for families (particularly through free education) and sustained advocacy and awareness-raising activities.
Finally, from a gender inclusion perspective, it should be noted that at the beginning of 2013, there were at least nine gay associations in Cotonou, Porto-Novo and Parakou. These include Benin Synergies Plus (BESYP); Union pour la solidarité, l’entraide et le développement (USED); Les Amis de Sans Voix; Hirondelle Club Benin; and Tous Nés Libres et Egaux.
Act No. 2003-17 stipulates that the State must progressively ensure free state education and interregional balance. Act No. 2017-06 on the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities affirms that the State and decentralized regional authorities must organize information, education and communication campaigns with a view to preventing disabling diseases.
Act No. 2003-2017 gives particular attention to children from deprived areas and vulnerable groups. As part of the Ten-Year Education Sector Development Plan 2006–2015, the Government has taken steps to redress imbalances, including taking affirmative action for disadvantaged regions and making strong budgetary commitments. Currently, the Post-2015 Education Sector Plan (2018–2030) aims to implement a policy of targeting interventions to educationally disadvantaged communes. This will include conducting research into the causes of low access to education in these areas and providing quality educational supplies and services in the 25 communes.
The NGO Divine Connexion Worldwide’s activities enable greater inclusivity of albino students. The State has committed to offering written exam papers in font size 20. The State will also include training on how to care for students with albinism in training for teachers in mainstream schools and will train teachers who are already in service.
Benin's education sector is administered by three different ministries: the Ministry of Nursery and Primary Education; the Ministry of Secondary Education and Technical and Vocational Training (which also manages the literacy subsector); and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The National Education Council helps coordinate the entire national education system, ensures compliance with the broad educational guidelines (especially for inclusive education) and helps implement the framework act on national education. It can provide opinions and formulate proposals on the pedagogy, curricula, organization and results of the education system and teacher training.
Various aforementioned NGOs, such as Handicap International and CBO-EPT, to name but two, are improving vulnerable people’s quality of life and helping them to be more included in the education system. Plan International Benin, Educo Bénin and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) also promote vulnerable children’s integration into schools.
Article 13 of Act No. 2003-17 states that "the school must have infrastructure that meets school architecture standards and must be equipped with appropriate furniture and equipment". This act provides for inclined ramp access for learners with disabilities. Similarly, Act No. 2017-06 on the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities states that any training institution accommodating persons with disabilities must make reasonable adjustments considering their needs and must provide the support required to facilitate effective education tailored to the disability. Finally, the same act (article 35) stipulates that learners with disabilities are entitled to extra time and special arrangements during tests throughout their education.
Act No. 2017-06 on the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Benin aims to employ staff and teachers (including teachers with disabilities) who have specialized training on the various types of disabilities.
The shift towards inclusive education requires teacher training. In the transition period while all teachers in mainstream schools are gradually being trained on educating children with special needs, the Post-2015 Education Sector Plan (2018–2030) and the National Policy on the Protection and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities plan to appoint teachers with specialized skills in specialized centres.
For initial training, the University of Abomey-Calavi offers a Master 2 (second year of master’s degree) course in educational systems management. The "education and development" course offers the following modules: education and gender; national languages; education and poverty eradication; and education and AIDS (15 hours each). Plan International offers in-service training for teachers and educational staff on gender equality in education and inclusive and gender-sensitive teaching methods.
In special schools, teachers are supported by a multidisciplinary team (which may include a nurse, a social worker, a psychologist, a special education educator, special education teachers, guards, speech and language therapists and remedial teachers). The team may also include physiotherapists, educational psychologists, occupational therapists, neurologists and psychiatrists, etc., but this support has not yet been implemented in special schools in Benin.
Benin does not have a national education monitoring report. However, the annual Education Joint Sector Review report can be used as a tool for monitoring education. In 2019, CBO-EPT produced a voluntary national report to monitor the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 during 2016–2018. In addition, a study on the level of SDG 4 implementation in five communes in Benin was conducted in 2018.
With the specific aim of ensuring equitable and inclusive basic education for children aged 3 to 15 years, students aged 15 years and above, and students at the post-secondary level, the Post-2015 Education Sector Plan (2018–2030) identifies certain indicators, including:
the gender parity index based on the gross enrolment rate in general, secondary and technical education
the proportion of girls in the fields of agriculture, science and technology, and industrial science and technology
the proportion of children with disabilities enrolled at primary school
the dropout rate of persons with disabilities in special institutions (from 2.2 per cent in 2016 to 0 per cent between 2021 and 2030).
In its Voluntary National Review of Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals 2018, the country has identified other indicators of inclusive education, including the parity index (rural/urban) of the gross enrolment rate in primary/secondary education. Finally, the Benin Data Portal presents some data on all levels of education, poverty, literacy and social inequalities.