At the Forum on Inclusive Education organized by the Ministry of Family and Equal Opportunities, with the support of the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the focus was on children with disabilities in the Gabonese education system. Moreover, in its ten-year plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2008–2018, the State mentions that the education modules integrate the dimensions to include "vulnerable populations" in economic and social life. That being said, there is no conclusive definition of inclusive education in official ministerial documents.
Special educational needs
In the section dedicated to children with special needs, the 2011 Peer Review of Education in Africa states that "Gabon considers as disabled any person who, affected by a physical, sensory or learning disability, whether congenital or accidental, experiences difficulties in performing normal functions" (p. 53).
Special education is for learners with significant impairments. There are various specialized institutions in the country, borne of both public and private initiatives, including the Horizons Nouveaux [New Horizons] school for children with disabilities in Libreville, the Akomgha and Ndossi centres and the centre for children with social difficulties in Angondjé. More specifically, the Fondation Horizons Nouveaux [New Horizons Foundation], inaugurated in 1996, is "a charitable organization which serves maladjusted children. In 1998, it was recognized as being of public benefit and as such receives a subsidy from the State through an allocated budget line and the assignment of civil servants from the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Health." The foundation’s work includes participating "in all medico-social activities contributing to the well-being of the maladjusted child through several projects." These include "the creation of a socio-educational structure responsible for caring for children with disabilities and the creation of a reception and educational provision centre for children in distress, children who have been abandoned or orphans." The first project (school foundation project) brings together two specialized centres: the Neuropsycho-pedagogical Centre (CNPP in French) for children with learning disabilities and the Rehabilitation and Re-education Centre for People with Visual Impairments (CRRHV).
In 2010, the National Forum on Education, Research and Training-Employment Adequacy recommended the creation of specialized establishments to promote the education of students with disabilities. However, it also recommended that efforts be made to improve health and social facilities by providing help to students in difficulty and that strategies for inclusion through literacy and non-formal education be proposed. In Libreville there are two public schools adapted for children with disabilities. The National School for the Hearing-Impaired was founded in 1982 by an American pastor in collaboration with the Evangelical Church of Gabon. In 1985, it was placed under the ministry’s supervision by Order 0012/MASSSBE/DGAS of 5 November 1985 establishing a school for deaf children. In 1989, it became the National School for Hearing Impaired Children (ENEDA). In the same year, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of National Education signed a memorandum of understanding. This school is responsible for educating children with hearing impairments and ensures their psychosocial development by offering specialized social services (psychologists, psychomotor specialists, audiologists and speech-language pathologists) and paramedical care. Each year, this school welcomes around 157 children of both sexes, aged from 3 to 21 years, and is run by 73 staff members, some of whom have disabilities. These children are divided into 11 sections by level.
Gabon's 1991 Constitution, which was revised in 2011, does not expressly guarantee the right to education, only equal access to education and training. The country has not ratified the Convention against Discrimination in Education. It did, however, ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. In this regard, articles 16 and 19 of the country’s Constitution reaffirm the State's guarantee to make education, vocational training and culture accessible to children and adults, free of charge and in line with their abilities. In addition, Act No. 16/66 of 1966 provides that education shall be provided regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sex or social background. Furthermore, the act specifies that the purpose of education should include teaching that ensures the physical, intellectual, moral and civic education of future citizens.
Act No. 21/2011 on general guidelines for education, training and research was adopted on 14 February 2012. Article 2 of this act reiterates that "education and training in Gabon are compulsory" and access to them is provided "to all young people, whether Gabonese or foreigners residing in Gabon, aged between 3 and 16 years." Article 3 specifies that "the right to equal access to education, instruction, culture and training is guaranteed to all, regardless of creed, religion, race, sex, political affiliation or any other social distinction."
The country uses the definition of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to identify persons with disabilities. Developed by Gabon’s Ministry of Education in November 2002, the National Action Plan for Education for All "aims to implement the resolutions and recommendations of the World Education Forum held in April 2000 in Dakar (Senegal)." On 17 and 18 May 2010, the National Forum on Education, Research and Training-Employment Adequacy convened to rethink the entire Gabonese education system.
Through the Incheon Declaration and by signing the Paris Agreement from the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, Gabon has committed to implementing activities related to the road map for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) and to implementing the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Act No. 19/95 of 13 February 1996 provides for the social protection of persons with disabilities and regulates the educational activities of this group. The 2002 decree establishing the National Commission for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities, the 1996 act on the organization of the primary level of the education system, the 2007 act on family allowances for Gabonese citizens with limited livelihoods, as well as Act No. 21/2011 on general guidelines for training, research and education of February 2012 have all taken persons with disabilities in education into account.
Retention rates at primary school are comparable between boys and girls. At the secondary level, the parity index is 1.1, with girls at an advantage. Finally, it should be noted that the country has subscribed to the guidelines on gender laid down by the United Nations (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW], ratified in 1983; the Beijing Platform for Action for the Advancement of Women in 1995; and the African Union’s Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in 2004).
Ethnicity and languages
The population is made up of Pygmy people and Bantu people – who are in the majority (p. 27). The latter include several ethnic groups including nine main ethnolinguistic groups: the Fangs, the Mpongwé, the Mbédé, the Punu, the Bandjabi, the Bakota, the Obamba and the Batéké. Article 2 of the Constitution states that the State shall adopt French as the official working language and shall promote the national languages in the education system. The 2010 National Forum recommended introducing a second foreign language in grade 6 (the first year of secondary school). Finally, article 5 of Act No. 21/2011 of 11 February 2012 on general guidelines for education, training and research stipulates that "curricula, training provision, infrastructure, and teaching and training facilities must, to this end, allow the appropriation of knowledge and skills in [...] local languages at the various levels."
The 2010–2020 education plan calls for an increase in the number of teachers and schools and the improvement of the quality of schools, especially in rural areas. This policy has led to the construction of schools and day-care centres in rural villages, which has also helped keep young mothers in school.
The State prioritizes the education of Pygmy people and has taken various steps to launch a tailored programme to teach this community to read and write. This initiative aimed to halve the illiteracy rate among Pygmy adults. The objective of this programme is to provide teacher training adapted to the needs of this population, to build several classrooms and playgrounds, and to provide teaching manuals. The Department of Public Works estimates the financial cost of the Pygmy education and integration programme at approximately USD 1,600 million.
Special education is governed by the Ministry of Health, Social Welfare and National Solidarity. There are several ministries that have some influence over inclusive education. These include the following:
Ministry of National Education
Ministry of Health, Social Welfare and National Solidarity
Ministry of Culture, Arts and Popular Education (literacy)
Ministry of Labour, Employment and Vocational Training (essential skills training for social inclusion)
Ministry of Youth, Civic Culture, Sports and Leisure
Ministry of Public Health and Population (improving individuals’ physical and mental state and social condition).
It should be noted that inclusion in education is also promoted by international agencies, including UNICEF and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
In 2017, the country committed to implementing a joint workplan shared by the ministries responsible for education. The project to support the production of basic statistical data and the development of the 2018 Education Sector Plan will be led by the Ministry of National Education in partnership with other ministries.
In January 2010, the country issued the decree on access to public buildings for persons with disabilities. In addition, the 2010 National Forum on Education planned a series of measures for building and equipping secondary schools and colleges. The State had also planned to reduce the average number of students per class to 35.
Article 113 of the draft bill on education, training and research states that educational establishments must provide an architectural environment that honours the integrity of its users, particularly those with any form of disability.
Curriculum and teaching materials
The 2010 National Forum on Education planned to pursue an active renewal policy to make curricula more flexible.
Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and foundations are involved in improving the conditions of care for students, particularly those with disabilities. For example, the Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Foundation provides a bus to transport students with hearing impairments and renovates programmed speech therapy booths.
Basic training is provided by the École Normale Supérieure [Advanced Teacher Training College] for secondary school and college teachers (the certificate of aptitude for secondary school teachers and the certificate of aptitude for college teachers) and by the École Nationale des Instituteurs [National Teacher Training College] for baccalaureate holders or university students.
In-service training is organized and delivered by the Institut Pédagogique National [National Pedagogical Institute – IPN] and the Institut Général des Services [General Services Institute – IGS]. One of the expected effects of initial teacher training is that teachers will "adapt their teaching to the needs and characteristics of students with learning or adjustment difficulties or with disabilities."
In November 2016, the Department of National Education set up a training course to enable "the 60 teachers from the 12 literacy centres in Libreville to acquire the tools that are essential for their work." With the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), two new types of frameworks have been developed. The first type of framework was for traditional and functional literacy, while the other was for teaching people who cannot read or write.
The country does not have an education monitoring report or a sectoral plan. The last time statistical data were collected was in the 2012–2013 academic year, the results of which have never been published. On 9 August 2018, the United Nations and the Minister of National Education signed a coordinated programme. This project to support the production of basic statistical data and the development of the Education Sector Plan is the result of the efforts of UNICEF, UNESCO and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) "in response to the recurrent lack of statistical data on the education subsector as well as the absence of an inclusive plan for the sector." This project had several objectives, including the production of statistical yearbooks for all education subsectors, an assessment of each subsector, and the development of an education sector plan. In November 2019, after the basic-data collection and entry phases, the Ministry of National Education presented its partners with the plan for the next statistical yearbook of education in Gabon.