Over the last five days, more than 200 participants gathered in Manila to attend the East-Asia Regional Conference entitled “Rights-based Education and Sustainable Development Goals for People with Visual Impairment“. This event was organised by the International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) and brought together a very divers group of people, ranging from current students who are blind or partially sighted to governmental representatives of the education sector. All united in the desire to make great progress towards the realisation of the right to education for all!
Together with my CBM colleagues Sian Tesni, Senior Advisor for Education, Rainer Güttler, Country Director Philippines and Karin van Dijk, Low-Vision Advisor I had the pleasure to be amongst the participants in this exciting conference! CBM is a founding member and long-standing supporter of ICEVI in many countries we are working in and globally.
Without even attempting to summarise the richness of discussions during the conference, the programme included a wide range of themes: From very political matters such as the Sustainable Development Goals to very practical tips on how to include learners with multiple disabilities in education. Besides many presentations, discussions and lots of thematic exchange, the conference was also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of some individuals from the Philippines and the region. For example, through the support in the high-education programme of ICEVI, a former young student now made it to the highest level of civil servants in the Philippines. This was totally unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago! Such individual achievements are not only the result of the hard work of the person and of the support provided by ICEVI, but are importantly an encouragement to other students that it is possible. They also help to break prejudices and negative attitudes towards persons with disabilities, as they show to the society as a whole the enormous potential that all people have!
Some of the other key messages coming from the conference are:
- There is a wealth of knowledge on what works and what does not and still progress is not as fast as we want it to be.
- The chances to fully include persons with visual impairment in education were never as high as today: There is the political commitment and imperative through the CRPD and the SDGs and many other policies and there is the huge potential through new technologies. In other words: There is no excuse!
- Inclusion and also inclusive education should not be seen as a place; they are a process or a journey that needs to be contextualised.With all that in mind, I would like to use the phrase that was often cited during the conference and almost became a motto in its own right: All means all!