NGO Human Rights Action (HRA) urges the Ministry of Education to immediately and permanently provide teaching assistants to children with special needs in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Art. 24), which guarantees the right to free inclusive education.
Children with special needs have the right to education under the principle of equal opportunities and without discrimination. This means that they are entitled to support within the education system also in terms of a personal assistant. Although personal assistants have been present in regular classes in Montenegrin schools for several years already, providing excellent results, their continued work has unfortunately not been ensured to date. According to HRA information, assistants now working in schools do not have employment contracts and were recommended to work as volunteers.
It is very alarming that today, at the beginning of the school year, children with special needs did not have the conditions to go to school and attend classes like other children, because teaching assistants were not provided for them. Such situation could have caused unnecessary stress and humiliation to both the children and their parents, quite contrary to the obligation of the state to provide through inclusive education “the full development of human potential and sense of dignity and self-worth,” as required by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recently (26 August 2016) published General Comment on the right to inclusive education under the Convention, which specifies that the state must recognise that individual support is a priority matter and should be free of charge at all compulsory levels of education (§ 17). Also, the Comment states that placing students with disabilities within mainstream classes without accompanying structural changes to teaching and learning strategies does not constitute inclusion (§ 11).
The Committee further stated that education ministries must ensure that all resources are invested toward advancing inclusive education, and toward introducing and embedding the necessary changes in institutional culture, policies and practices (§ 12).
HRA urges the Ministry of Education to immediately find a way to provide the support of teaching assistants free of charge to all children in need of it in accordance with their human and children’s right to receive education together with their friends.