In its Education Sector Plan 2010–2019, Djibouti’s definition of inclusive education goes beyond the traditional scope of disability in the sense of motor, sensory or learning impairment. The first area of inclusive education is concerned with prevention and care for children with learning difficulties, while the second area concerns the schooling of children with motor or sensory disabilities. In this plan, inclusion is seen as a lever to fight poverty and aims to reduce disparities (linked to gender and to geographical and economic constraints). Two principles underpin this approach: equity and equal opportunities. In its plan, Djibouti also uses the term "education for inclusion" to demonstrate that access to school is not a problem that is unique to education policies alone, but rather a challenge for society as a whole.
Inclusive education aims to promote the inclusion of children with special educational needs in schools. This term, used in the 2011–2016 Action Plan of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (PAEFPT in French), refers to all children and teenagers with psychoemotional problems or disabilities, as well as children and teenagers belonging to vulnerable groups who do not have access to educational services.
The Education Sector Plan 2010–2019 adopts an approach that focuses more on inclusion and less on special education. Learners with mild to moderate disabilities are, in theory, accepted in the same classes as other learners. In practice, however, the country does have some special schools for blind and deaf children. Education for learners with disabilities or serious difficulties does not seem to exist in Djibouti. In Ali Sabieh, two private schools offer an adapted curriculum to 50 children with Down syndrome and deaf children.
The Constitution does not explicitly mention the right to education; it only refers to certain human rights, such as equality in the eyes of the law and freedom of thought and conscience.
There is no relevant legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in education. However, the decree of 12 May 2011 refers to the creation of an education service for children with special needs and article 4 of the Education System Framework Act (2000) asserts the right to education for all citizens. However, parents of children with disabilities who are unable to follow a mainstream curriculum are exempt from the obligation to send their children to school (article 4). In addition, this decree does not explicitly mention the introduction of a school curriculum adapted to persons with disabilities, or their enrolment in mainstream organizations.
However, the Education Sector Plan 2010–2019 envisages including children with special needs in mainstream classes. Each school is therefore designed to accommodate children with special needs. Despite this inclusion, special classes are planned for blind and deaf children.
Various programmes have been implemented for the inclusive education of students with disabilities. For example, the pilot project for inclusive education implemented by the Distance Learning and Training Company is aimed at children with learning disabilities. The pilot phases of the project provided training for teachers working with these learners. The second phase will consist of building a centre dedicated to these learners. They will receive comprehensive care, from diagnosis to the adaptation of their school curriculum. In terms of special education, the training and social service centre of the Evangelical Protestant Church of Djibouti provides bilingual training for people with motor disabilities to become assistant managers of computer networks and to learn about entrepreneurship.
The Education Sector Plan 2010–2019 aims to eliminate gender disparities in order to promote the enrolment and retention of all students, especially girls in rural areas. The National Gender Policy 2011–2021 has a component on education (schooling and literacy) and identifies two educational programmes: the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action. These programmes relate to the mainstream system and aim to ensure gender equity and equality through education. Similarly, the Education and Vocational Training Action Plan 2011–2016 focused primarily on areas where girls' enrolment was low, such as Balbala, Dikhil, Obock and Tadjourah. During this period, various programmes were introduced, including the Basic Education and Gender Equality programme. This programme aimed for equitable access to school facilities and quality primary and non-formal education. It promoted accompanying measures to increase the number of young girls continuing on to middle school and it also intensified actions to promote girls' education in areas where populations are resistant to sending their children to school. It also enabled the distribution of kits and advocated for the schooling of children, particularly girls. There are few public reports evaluating the effectiveness of this programme.
Ethnicity and languages
Article 5 of Act No. 96/AN/00/4e L of 10 July 2000 on the Djiboutian education system (2000) stipulates that "education and training are provided in the official languages and in the national languages." In addition, a decree issued by the Council of Ministers sets out methods for teaching in French, Arabic, Afar and Somali. Moreover, the Act on the organization of the Ministry of National Education and Higher Education (2012) also sets out methods for teaching in French, Arabic, Afar and Somali. Under this act, an office for the development of Arabic and national languages was established, which is responsible for implementing and monitoring the policy for increasing the status of the Arabic language, promoting the introduction of national languages into the education system and encouraging the use of Arabic by the ministry's administrative services.
The Education Sector Plan 2010–2019 aims to "develop the provision of preschool education in collaboration with the private sector, associations and public institutions, targeting students in rural areas." It aims to develop public pre-schools in rural areas and a community-based model of special education services to increase enrolment rates. The achievement of this objective has not yet been assessed.
The Djibouti Declaration on Refugee Education aims to integrate education for refugees and returnees into national education sector plans by 2020 and to exchange good practice and expertise regarding the integration of refugee and returnee teachers into national education systems. Some initiatives have been carried out by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in partnership with the Ministry of National Education. In 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assessed progress in refugee education in relation to the implementation of the Djibouti Declaration on Education. The Ministry of National Education also finished building a school adjacent to the Markazi site for refugees and children from the host community and ensured training for teachers and administrators.
At the national level, in addition to the Ministry of National Education, various bodies are involved in inclusive education, including the Ministry of Women and the Family and the State Secretariat for Social Affairs. The World Bank, the Global Partnership for Education and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Ministry of National Education's Action Plan for 2010–2019 to respond to the challenge of providing quality inclusive education. As an ombudsman, the complaints office of the National Council for Human Rights is competent to hear appeals concerning any violations of the right to education. Other NGOs involved in this task include the Réseau national des personnes handicapées [National Network of Persons with Disabilities – RNPH] – which represents local and national member associations in consultations with state bodies and development partners – and the Fédération de personnes handicapées de l’Afrique de l’Est [East African Federation of Persons with Disabilities]. On this matter, the Ministry of National Education intends to establish a Ministerial Education Committee and hire experts at the regional level to coordinate and oversee the implementation of agreed standards, policy instruments and frameworks for the education of refugees, returnees and members of host communities.
On the whole, there is limited interaction between institutions to promote inclusive education for different groups with special educational needs. Initiatives and programmes are not really coordinated around a single defined policy of inclusive education.
The Education Sector Plan 2010–2019 provides for making premises more accessible and considering the special needs of vulnerable children. It also provides for the mobilization of resources and the adoption of success plans for mainstream schools. Despite having these objectives, the plan does not mention the means for achieving them. Other measures envisaged in this plan include updating the basic-education curricula in view of changes in the school context and societal requirements, and for teaching to turn increasingly to the new information and communication technologies to increase inclusion. At this stage, it is difficult to assess whether these targets have been achieved. Finally, it should be noted that obtaining a building permit for all public establishments is conditional on taking accessibility into consideration. All specifications must therefore include provisions for accessibility for persons with disabilities, such as the installation of access ramps and the demarcation of reserved parking spaces.
In general, there is a lack of information on initial and in-service training for teachers and school staff on inclusion. However, the Education Sector Plan 2010–2019 sets out an early detection and care strategy for supporting children with severe learning difficulties and the development of teaching guides for this purpose. With this in mind, the Ministry of National Education plans to train assistant psychologists and specialist teachers in identifying and supporting children who have dropped out of school.
More specifically, the Djibouti School Access and Improvement Programme funded by the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) is increasing the capacity for in-service training for teachers, principals and administrative staff. The programme, which gives priority to girls and children with special needs, has helped "certify a team of 20 qualified teacher trainers who are responsible for teacher training at the central and regional levels, and 24 teacher trainers and pedagogical advisers following a competency-based approach to teaching and learning." Similarly, the pilot project for inclusive education has also trained trainers who ensure school-based care for children with learning disabilities.
The country does not have a national monitoring report on education. However, the Education Sector Plan 2010–2019 identifies some indicators of inclusion, including the proportion of teachers and staff trained in monitoring and support practices for children with learning difficulties. For its part, the National Gender Policy 2011–2021 identifies indicators related to gender inclusion, including enrolment rates in primary, secondary, technical and higher education as well as dropout rates. This policy also identifies the illiteracy rate among learners aged 15 years and above.