Australian aid promotes inclusive education in Kiribati, but will it last?
By Rodney Yates In the past decade, Australia has placed a strong emphasis in its aid program on disability inclusion and equity in education. This is commendable, but how does this play out on the ground? Are the initiatives introduced through Australian aid sustainable?
My recently published Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies article “Dependency on Australian aid and the introduction of inclusive education initiatives in Kiribati” attempts to answer these questions. I turned to Kiribati to answer the questions because I’d been a volunteer there twice, working on inclusive education in 2013 and in 2016 (funded by the Australian Government’s Volunteers for International Development Program).
For those who don’t know, the Republic of Kiribati is a small island nation centrally located in the Pacific Ocean. The country’s 32 atolls straddle the equator and extend across a distance of 3,900 kilometres east to west. Kiribati is classified as a least developed nation. It’s also one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world. Australian aid comprises about 20 per cent of total official development assistance to Kiribati.
I examined relevant documents but also spent an extended period talking to those charged with the delivery of Australian aid for inclusive education (both Australian aid government officials and contractors and other key stakeholders including Kiribati Ministry of Education administrators, school executives, and a representative of a disabled persons organisation).
Overall, the interviews revealed that without Australian aid programs it was unlikely that the inclusive education initiatives, such as the development of the Kiribati Inclusive Education Policy, would have occurred. As one respondent said to me: “Because inclusive education is new to Kiribati I think that in the past the government did not see the importance of those people [with disabilities] because they have less knowledge and understanding of human rights.”
Financial concerns were seen as a major barrier. …read more