The government of Armenia has made some bold commitments to reduce the number of children in residential institutions, but it is not doing enough work in this direction, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 102-page report, “‘When Will I Get to Go Home?’ Abuses and Discrimination against Children in Institutions and Lack of Access to Quality Inclusive Education in Armenia”, documents how thousands of children in Armenia live in orphanages, residential special schools for children with disabilities, and other institutions. They often live there for years, separated from their families. More than 90 percent of children in residential institutions in Armenia have at least one living parent. Human Rights Watch also found that the Armenian government is not doing enough to ensure quality, inclusive education for all children. Inclusive education involves children with disabilities studying in their community schools with reasonable support for academic and other achievement.
“The government of Armenia has made some bold commitments to reduce the number of children in institutions, but needs to make sure those promises are backed by serious, sustained action,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “All children have the right to grow up in a family, and government and donor resources should support families and children, not large institutions.”
The problem, according to researchers, is not financial. According to UNICEF, financial support for children in institutions in Armenia is between US$3,000 and US$5,000 per year per child. These funds could be used for community-based services and direct support to families which are less expensive in the long term, according to UNICEF.
The government is not doing enough work to provide inclusive education for all children.
Inclusive education involves children with disabilities studying in their community schools with reasonable support for academic and other achievement. Children with disabilities often do not attend classes with other children or if they are in the classroom, may not be provided with the services they need to participate in an academic curriculum. They may instead be given art, sewing, or other tasks to occupy them. For many children with disabilities, their education consists primarily or exclusively of one hour or shorter individual sessions once or a few times a week. They are not involved in the learning process and simply sit in the classroom.
Mari Minasyan, 12, attends an inclusive school in Goris town. She is the only child with disabilities in the school which does not have the necessary accommodations for children with disabilities.
“It is very difficult for me to ascend the steps, there is neither an elevator and nor a ramp. I also have difficulty in going to the toilet because our classroom is on the 3rd floor while the toilet is on the 1st floor,” she said.
The authors of the reports say that all children have the right to grow up in a family, and government and donor resources should support families and children, not large institutions.
Community schools should have sufficient staff so that a child can receive inclusive educational and grow up in a family. “The government should urgently provide community-based services and quality, inclusive education so that all children, including children with disabilities, can grow up in a family,” Human Rights Watch said in the report.