The country does not have an explicit definition of inclusive education. However, the Support Programme for the Central African Education System’s Transition Plan (PAPT in French) (2018) maintains that its commitment is "inspired by a humanistic vision of education and development based on human rights and dignity; social justice; inclusion; protection; cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; and shared responsibility and accountability" (p. 15–16).
Special educational needs
The Central African Republic identifies the groups that it considers to be "vulnerable populations", i.e. children from disadvantaged backgrounds, orphans, girls and children with special needs (persons with visual impairments, deaf people, etc.). The Support Programme for the Central African Education System’s Transition Plan (2018) also mentions "adolescents and young people who are out of school, have dropped out of school or are associated with armed groups and forces, and children with special needs" in its definition of alternative education models (p. 24–25).
The country's motto is "Zo kwe Zo", which means "every human is a person". However, inclusive education is still at a very early stage.
There are very few special schools that cater specifically to the needs of children with disabilities. Those that do exist are mostly run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (or the Ministry of Social Affairs) and rely on financial support from donors. A public education and training centre for students with sensory disabilities is also operational, but training stops early (at the last year of primary school), with no option for further study. There are also a few centres for students with motor disabilities, including in Bangui. There are no specialized centres for children with learning disabilities; these learners are often excluded from the system.
Accessibility issues may prevent children with disabilities from attending school. In 2015, Human Rights Watch stated that "very few children with disabilities are enrolled in schools in camps like M’Poko" (only 14 children out of around 3,800 are enrolled).
The Central African Republic ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Constitution of the Central African Republic, promulgated in 2016, guarantees the right to education in article 9, which states that "everyone has the right to access sources of knowledge. The State ensures that each citizen has access to education, culture and vocational training. The State and other public authorities are obliged to establish and ensure the smooth running of state institutions to educate and teach young people. Education is free in state institutions for the various types of education." Article 6 adds that "the State ensures greater protection of the rights of minorities, indigenous people and persons with disabilities."
Framework Act No. 97/014 of 10 December 1997 on national education also states that "access to education, culture and vocational training is ensured to children and adults, regardless of sex, social standing, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation."
The National Education Sector Strategy 2008–2020 aims to develop and improve early childhood education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
Education is free. To revitalize education, the Support Programme for the Central African Education System’s Transition Plan (2018) plans to provide more than 2,500 students with "exclusively endogenous" school canteens (i.e. 80 per cent reliant on local food production), "based on the United Nations World Food Programme vulnerability criteria" (p. 22).
Act No. 00.007 of 20 December 2000 provides a framework for special assistance for pupils and students with disabilities in education and vocational training. Article 26 of this act stipulates that "mainstream schools or special education centres shall ensure the education of children and adolescents with disabilities." Article 27 states that "children with hearing impairments, visual impairments and/or learning disabilities shall receive special education so that they can become independent enough to enrol in mainstream schools. This education is provided in special education centres." Finally, article 28 states that "mainstream schools accommodating children with disabilities shall be provided, if necessary, with specialized staff and teaching materials tailored to the requirements of their learning environment." Articles 22, 23 and 24 regulate schools’ architectural plans, layouts and accessibility standards. Article 29 pertains to educational support for students with disabilities.
The Constitution ensures equal rights for men and women in all areas, and article 4 of Act No. 97/014 of 10 December 1997 states that education contributes to the promotion of equality between men and women.
The National Education Sector Strategy 2008–2020 aims to increase children’s access to and retention in primary education, especially girls, and to care for students living with HIV, and orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS. To this end, the State aims to raise the population’s awareness through opinion leaders and NGOs. With the support of the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Ministry of Education also aims to reintegrate girls who have dropped out of school into the formal education system by founding community schools.
The Support Programme for the Central African Education System’s Transition Plan (2018) notes that the crisis "has exacerbated gender inequality in access to education, and girls’ vulnerability to exploitation and abuse" (p. 8–9). One of the anticipated socioeconomic impacts of the Global Partnership for Education funding is improved learning environments in order to "increase girls' enrolment thanks to the installation of latrines and water points" and the provision of "dignity kits to over 6,000 girls" (p. 17).
Ethnicity and languages
The National Education Sector Strategy 2008–2020 aims to increase children’s access to and retention in primary education, particularly for undereducated ethnic minorities, including Fulani and Pygmy children. This will be achieved through awareness-raising actions and by abolishing fees and printing costs.
The National Education Sector Strategy 2008–2020 supports the development of community initiatives in rural and suburban areas. These measures are especially geared towards girls' access to education in these areas with low enrolment rates. One measure aims to abolish school fees for girls in rural areas.
There is no national welfare programme or social funding for disadvantaged students. All school expenses must be covered out of parents’ own resources, which leads to significant non-enrolment. However, the Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (June 2016) provides for the opening of an observatory to combat poverty. This observatory will collect necessary data on persons with disabilities, which are essential for drawing up suitable policies and strategies, and for monitoring and evaluating actions in education in this regard.
Currently, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper aims to achieve universal primary education; improve the quality of secondary and higher education; develop literacy programmes and short vocational training programmes; and professionalize higher education courses. The National Education Sector Strategy 2008–2020 aims to increase the percentage of schools with canteens or a dry ration system in areas, with low enrolment rates.
The Central African Education System’s Transition Plan 2015–2017 focuses primarily on the response to the crisis, education system management and children’s education in the Central African Republic. However, while coordinating the response to the emergency, the objective is to get children back into schools. Due to the civil war, measures are being taken to educate displaced children and provide education in emergency situations. The Global Partnership for Education is overseeing the building of classrooms; and the provision of teaching materials and meals, and water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. The World Bank is providing accelerated learning programmes for 5,000 out-of-school children aged 12 to 15 years. ATD Fourth World organizes street libraries with children, especially in refugee camps. Moreover, the National Association of Persons with Albinism in Central Africa (Anaca) speaks out against the stigma that they suffer, but no act has been passed to date. Furthermore, the Support Programme for the Central African Education System’s Transition Plan (2018) mentions that increased conflicts have displaced "around 270,000 children of preschool and school age, of whom approximately 116,000 are reported to be out of school."
There is no policy for inclusive education and, without coordination by a given organization, initiatives remain unclear. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Promotion of the Family and Persons with Disabilities is responsible for special education. The Government currently subsidizes associations and organizations for persons with disabilities.
The National Organization for Persons with Disabilities (ONAPHA) defends the interests of its members to exercise the creation of education and training centres for persons with disabilities (deaf and/or blind people). As the country has been experiencing a sociopolitical crisis since 2012, a "cluster" has been set up, managed by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. It ensures the right to inclusive and quality education for all, provides temporary educational solutions for displaced children and supports the resumption of normal activities.
However, the Transition Plan’s recommendations include "revising the current configuration of ministries responsible for education for greater coherence and efficiency in programme and project implementation." Moreover, education in emergencies has been institutionalized by the Ministerial Decision of 15 March 2017, amended by the decision of 8 May 2017 creating the Emergency Unit of the Ministry for Primary, Secondary and Technical Education and Literacy. The mission of the latter is "to ensure access and accessibility to emergency quality education in a protective environment for all children (girls and boys) aged 3 to 17 years whose education has been disrupted by crises" (p. 22).
Since 2013, according to the United Nations, around one third of the country's schools have either been struck by bullets, set on fire, looted or occupied by armed groups. As a result, around 400 primary schools have been closed. According to the Support Programme for the Central African Education System’s Transition Plan (2018), the number of reported attacks on the education system since 2017 is still high.
Act No. 00.007 of 20 December 2000 requires that building design takes the needs of persons with disabilities into account. Articles 23 and 24 detail the specifications for the construction of ramps, entrances, hallways, bathrooms and toilets. However, there is no legal provision for school transport for persons with disabilities. In this regard, Human Rights Watch argues that some parents are reluctant to send children with physical disabilities to school because they worry that these children would not be able to run away if there were to be an attack.
Very few schools have facilities for students with disabilities, except for tricycles and ramps in some schools. There are few Braille documents, which are often in poor condition.
From 2015 to 2017, more than 100 schools were renovated and six new schools were built. Furthermore, textbooks were distributed to 300,000 students (p. 6).
Very few teachers and support personnel (or none in some schools) are trained to teach children with visual impairments, hearing impairments or other disabilities. The Educating Children with Disabilities report recommends that disability be incorporated into the current teacher training programme. The "education system is also characterized by a lack of qualified teachers (...). Forty per cent of teachers are parent-teachers with no training or qualifications" (p.10). These parent-teachers are "massively present in the provinces and practice alone in remote areas." They "are dependent on their families", "they have not received any initial professional training and their level of academic qualification varies."
In areas affected by conflict, teachers are recruited from local communities to ensure the continuity of education. The first strategic priority of the Transition Plan 2015–2017 plans for the "recruitment, training and contracting of new teachers, the trialling of grants to parent associations for parent teachers, and refresher training for parent teachers" (p. 19). The Support Programme for the Central African Education System’s Transition Plan (2018) also reports that 1,050 regular teachers and 709 community teachers were trained between 2015 and 2017 (p. 6).
The World Bank's Central African Republic Emergency Basic Education Support Project (2018) provides teacher training activities to promote social inclusion and gender equity and to introduce awareness of gender-based violence issues. According to sources, only one in five primary school teachers are women.
The Central African Republic does not have an education monitoring report or indicators on inclusive education. However, the country is monitoring the number of orphans, ethnic minorities and vulnerable children with access to primary school in the National Education Sector Strategy 2008–2020.