Address to the Zero Project Conference from Wongani Grace Taulo, Senior Advisor, Gender Equity and Inclusion, UNICEF

Four children in a classroom - three are hugging and smiling at the camera, the other is playing.Ms. Wongani Grace Taulo is Education Senior Advisor, Gender Equity and Inclusion (GIE) with UNICEF HQ office in New York. The GIE team promotes and supports access to equitable and inclusive education through global advocacy, influencing partner organization and the production of guidance tools and resources. GIE supports strategic programming for gender responsive education systems, inclusive education for all children including children with disabilities and leads the global Out of School Children Initiative (OOSCI). Wongani was previously Chief of Education with UNICEF country offices in Iraq and Sierra Leone. Before joining UNICEF, she worked with Open Society Foundations, ActionAid and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Wongani holds a Master of Management degree in Public Development and Management from Wits University, South Africa.


It is an honor to be considered among the distinguished key note speakers at this important conference. UNICEF works for every child with a focus on the most marginalized children. I want to remind us all that as we deliberate on various topics in the next few days of this conference, we need to remember that children with disabilities continue to face serious barriers to access education across the globe.

According to the Education Commission, an estimated 65 million primary and lower secondary-school age children with disabilities in developing countries are out of school. Those in school are not learning and performed poorly in learning measurements for basic reading and mathematics.

Children with disabilities face persistent barriers to education stemming from discrimination, stigma and the routine systemic failures to incorporate disability in education services.

Without an education, these children are often denied the chance to take part in their communities, the workforce and the decisions that most affect them.

We must realise, that like all children, children with disabilities have ambitions and dreams for their futures. Like all children, they also need quality education to develop their skills and realize their full potential.

To break the barriers and get all children into school we must promote inclusive education systems that give every child regardless of their socioeconomic condition or gender, a fair chance to go to school, learn and develop the skills they need to thrive.

Inclusive education means all children in the same classrooms, in the same schools with teachers that are able to respond to their diverse needs.

It means real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded – not only children with disabilities, but all children including children from minority communities, poorest communities and others.


Within the new UNICEF education strategy for 2019-2030, UNICEF recognizes that there is a global learning crisis and that the most marginalized children, including children with disabilities are the ones most affected.

Within this strategy, UNICEF will continue to support global efforts and work with governments to ensure that children with disabilities have opportunities for learning within equitable and quality inclusive education systems to achieve the objectives of SDG4 i.e. inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all

UNICEF support the production of data and evidence: UNICEF has developed the Child Functioning Module to support cross-nationally comparable, quality data collection on disability. This module has been integrated into the sixth round of UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) and we are starting to receive the first round of reliable data from around the world. UNICEF is also working on a guidance on integrating the Child Functioning Module within EMIS. Additionally, UNICEF is also developing a data collection module that will capture data on barriers to accessing education. The Inclusive Education Module is expected to be finalized in late 2020.

UNICEF supports efforts to develop capacity on inclusive education: In collaboration with UNESCO, UNICEF has developed a course on “Foundations for Disability-Inclusive Education Sector Planning course” and also developed a chapter on inclusive education to be included in the GPE education sector analysis Vol 3. Both tools are meant for capacitating education planners with skills and tools to develop truly inclusive education systems.

Support innovation: UNICEF is piloting an initiative on accessible digital text books that for learners with and without disabilities. The textbooks can be made accessible to students who are blind or have low vision, to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and to those who have intellectual, developmental or learning disabilities, among others. UNICEF is piloting these text books in several countries including Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Advocacy and partnerships: UNICEF promotes inclusive education in discussions, high-level events and other forms of outreach geared towards policymakers, funding partners and the general public. UNICEF is part of the Inclusive Education Initiative (IEI), a multi-donor trust fund overseen by the World Bank supported by the Norwegian and UK governments. This initiative aims at supporting countries in making education progressively inclusive for children across the spectrum of disabilities.

UNICEF is also a member of the Inclusive Education Working Group (IEWG) of the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network – a coordination body of donors, agencies, the private sector and foundations working to enhance the inclusion of persons with disabilities in international development and humanitarian action. The objective of the IEWG is to strengthen partnerships and collaboration for advocacy and action in inclusive education, in line with the SDGs and the CRPD.

Awareness-raising: UNICEF shines a spotlight on the needs of children with disabilities by conducting research and hosting roundtables, workshops and other events for government partners. UNICEF also conducts community mobilisation to address cultural and harmful practices that lead to marginalization of children with disabilities.

Our Call

In is our call that the provision of inclusive education must involve in-depth transformation of education systems in legislation, policy, data, planning as well as the mechanisms for financing, administration, design, delivery and monitoring to ensure that education systems are truly inclusive. This shift must also involve fundamental changes in attitudes, curriculum, teaching methods, approaches, structures and strategies.