A boy dressed up for school. The Global Campaign for Education in U.K. urges the country's Department for International Development to develop a clear strategy that prioritizes marginalized children. Photo by: Dylan Thomas / DfID / CC BY-NC-ND

The U.K. Department for International Development has long prioritized gender parity in its education programs in developing countries. But while it is pushing girls to the forefront, is it sidelining young people with disabilities, certain ethnic groups and youth from religious minorities?

The Global Campaign for Education’s U.K. chapter believes it does.

Poverty is linked to disability, and factors like knowledge only of an ethnic language or living in a remote location can make access to schools difficult for a child. But DfID’s programming doesn’t support these recognized connections, the GCE says in a report published Oct. 24.

In an assessment of 14 DfID operational plans, it found keywords such as “disability” and “linguistic” were mentioned only 40 times.

The GCE is urging DfID to develop a clear strategy that prioritizes children who are marginalized because of their religious, ethnic or linguistic background, or geographic location. The Millennium Development Goals that measure children’s access to education do not consider these factors.

A DfID representative told the Guardian that the U.K. government is committed to helping all poor children receive an education, and that by 2015 — the target goal for the MDGs — it will have supported more than 9 million children.

GCE is not the only one calling for a more inclusive development strategy. Jean-Baptiste Richardier, director general of Handicap International, called for a “vulnerability-based approach” at a panel at last week’s European Development Days and in a video-taped conversation with Devex Editor Rolf Rosenkranz, which we will be publishing in the coming days. Such an approach, Richardier explained, does not focus squarely on just one sector — women, for example — but on all vulnerable groups, including domestic workers and religious minorities.

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About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.

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