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Kyrgyzstan: Barriers to Education for Children with Disabilities

Inclusive Education Key to Ending Segregation in Institutions

A child looks out the window at the Belovodsk Psychoneurological Institute for children in Kyrgyzstan, November 15, 2017. © 2017 Danil Usmanov,

(Berlin) – Thousands of children with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan are segregated in residential institutions where they can experience neglect, inappropriate medical treatment, and discrimination, Human Rights Watch said in a report published today, on International Human Rights Day.

The 74-page report, “Insisting on Inclusion: Institutionalization and Barriers to Education for Children with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan,” documents how children are frequently denied quality, inclusive education, in which children with and without disabilities study together in mainstream schools. Children with disabilities are subject to discriminatory government evaluations that often lead to segregation in special schools or at home, Human Rights Watch found. Kyrgyzstan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2019.

“The Kyrgyz government has committed to guaranteeing access to inclusive education, meaning that children with disabilities should be able to study in mainstream schools in the communities where they live,” said Laura Mills, researcher at Human Rights Watch and the report’s author. “However, the government still needs to turn this pledge into a reality for children across the country.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 111 people between October 2019 and July 2020, including children and young adults with disabilities, teachers and staff at residential institutions and special schools, parents, and disability rights activists. Human Rights Watch also visited six residential institutions and schools for children with disabilities in four regions.

Read a text description of this video

Aida, Adinai’s mother

She says “mom, ““dad,” simple words, but she can’t say or express full sentences, her thoughts, her feelings. Adinai is now 15 years old. She finished eighth grade now, got a certificate. But she still cannot speak.


At six, Adinai went to study at a residential special school. In Kyrgyzstan, a government body evaluates children with disabilities like Adinai and assesses their educational path. While this is only a recommendation, not all parents know that.


Aida, Adinai’s mother

And there they explained to me: “You have a child ... You are not allowed to go to public school. You can only go to the residential special school.”

And most importantly, her studies did not go well. I noticed she couldn’t write, couldn’t read, didn't know the letters.


In 2012, the Kyrgyz government promised to close residential institutions and schools, including several for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities in these institutions are sometimes subject to neglect, discrimination, and inappropriate medical treatment. 

But for these places to close, alternative community-based services need to be in place.


Since finishing eighth grade, Adinai’s only option is to go to a rehabilitation center while her mother works. But she will no longer be able to attend when she turns 16 next year.


Aida, Adinai’s mother

I would like to at least find a place where she is taught to read, write, or taught something. But I cannot find such a place.


Rakhat Orozova,, Expert on Inclusive Education

We should provide the right to education, to medical care, to social protection to a child.  Only then should we close these institutions and move the child from institution to family


The Kyrgyz government also made a commitment to provide children with disabilities access to an inclusive, quality education But many children face obstacles trying to enroll in schools where they live. Adilet, a ten-year-old with cerebral palsy was not welcomed at his local school.



Aizada, Adilet’s mother

We had problems with the school and the director who said we shouldn’t come and that children will be afraid of him. But we continued going anyway.  The director was even angry seeing us. The director gave us permission to attend classes but only once or twice a week. But I stubbornly kept on taking Adilet to school. I wanted to integrate him into society.


Once in school, other issues may arise.  School premises may not be accessible for children

Parents say   that teachers often were not trained to teach children who have disabilities, particularly if they have intellectual disabilities.


Rakhat Orozova,, Expert on Inclusive Education

Knowing how to teach children with different disabilities, the teacher can then apply this skill to all children and as a result, the learning process for all children is enriched.


Studies show inclusive education benefits all children by promoting tolerance, understanding and diversity.  Inclusive education also supports a child with disabilities to participate equally with others in society as they grow up.


Aizada, Adilet’s mother

The children were nice to him. They tried to help him walk, asked which class he needed to go to, and assisted him in getting to the classroom to sit.


Kanetbek is 19 years old and has cerebral palsy.


Kanatbek , 19-year-old with cerebral palsy

At first, they recommended home-based education, but my mother did not want me to sit at home and be isolated. She wanted me to go to school, socialize with classmates and learn to be active.


When I started going to regular school, the children treated me differently.

Some were scared, some wondered why I moved like I did.   But through socializing, through knowing me, after half a year, they started looking at me as an ordinary person.


In Kyrgyzstan, children with disabilities still face major barriers to education in the community. While Kyrgyzstan’s effort to close several residential schools for children with disabilities is important, there is much work to do on expanding access to inclusive education.


Aida, Adinai’s mother

Well as you can see, I’m worried for my daughter.  She can’t work. There is no education with her.  And how will we live in the future?


Aizada, Adilet’s mother

When you see your child’s progress, you become happy. I think we should continue with school and mustn’t skip it.


Kanatbek , 19-year-old with cerebral palsy

I was already thinking what I would do and programming seemed like the best option. Studying, programming, opening my own company where I will program, where I will hire people with disabilities.

Human Rights Watch found that the institutions had insufficient personnel to care for children with disabilities, resulting in neglect or lack of individualized attention. Children were segregated according to disability, which is discriminatory.

Human Rights Watch also documented that institution staff regularly use psychotropic drugs or forced psychiatric hospitalization to control children’s behavior and punish them.

A doctor at an institution for children with disabilities described sending a boy to a psychiatric hospital because the institution staff were unhappy with the boy’s behavior. The doctor recognized the dangerous use of medications on children, saying, “There they can even overdose on sedatives, but [the hospital] has an intensive care unit so they can resuscitate them.”

None of the six institutions visited had accessible and confidential complaint systems, meaning that children there cannot report abuse or neglect.

Since 2012, the Kyrgyz government has pledged to close 17 residential institutions for children, including three for children with disabilities. But 3,000 children with disabilities remain in institutions, and the government has closed only one residential special school.

Two bodies evaluate children and can make recommendations based on a child’s disability that block their access to mainstream education, or to any education at all. The Psycho-Medical-Pedagogical Consultations (PMPC), made up of doctors and education specialists, often recommends that children with disabilities study in special schools or receive home education. Another body, made up only of doctors, can make similar recommendations, including that some children should not receive any education.

While evaluations by these two bodies are formally recommendations only, Human Rights Watch found that mainstream schools often deny enrollment to children who were recommended for special school or home education.

Human Rights Watch found that children who live at home, including those whose parents have taken them out of an institution, encounter significant, discriminatory obstacles to their education in mainstream schools.

A major barrier to inclusive education is that mainstream schools are physically inaccessible or do not provide necessary support to children with disabilities. Due to the absence of support or accommodations, many parents may feel compelled to accompany their children to school to help them move between floors of the school, use the bathroom, or read the blackboard.

While many children with disabilities receive education at home, parents said teachers come for very few hours and are often not trained in teaching a child with a disability.

Children in residential institutions and special schools receive either a poor education or no education at all.

The limited access for children with disabilities to mainstream schools is discriminatory and violates Kyrgyz and international law, Human Rights Watch said. State agencies should stop segregating children and identify and provide individualized supports, known as reasonable accommodations, to ensure a child’s education. Under Kyrgyzstan’s international human rights obligations, children with disabilities have the right to live in the community and to grow up in a family.

The Kyrgyz authorities should make providing inclusive education for children with disabilities a priority despite the country’s current political and constitutional crisis.

The government should abolish or reform the bodies that block access to quality, inclusive education for children with disabilities. It should establish a clear, time-bound plan to close institutions for children, including children with disabilities, and develop community-based services to support children to grow up with their families. For as long as children live in institutions, the authorities should protect them from neglect and inappropriate medical treatment and provide accessible complaint systems.

“For Kyrgyzstan to successfully close residential institutions for children with disabilities, it needs to begin dismantling the obstacles that exclude them from schools in their communities,” Mills said. “The government should ensure that children with disabilities study together with their peers and provide them with the tools they need to succeed.”

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