The history of special education in Pakistan has been a short and worrisome, however the situation is changing. The Provincial Minister for Special Education has declared that Rs 64 million will be allocated for the establishment of 13 government special education canters, while Rs 195 million will be allocated for the up-gradation of government special education high school to higher secondary. He further claimed that, these projects will be “started soon and completed within given time frame”.

Though this is a good initiative, and shows the government is thinking about people at the margins who do not have access to education, the efforts must not stop here. In Pakistan only four percent of children with special needs, actually having access to schools in Pakistan. The education and rehabilitation services for the persons with disabilities and special needs are not up to mark in Pakistan. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) provide services to a large number of special children, mainly in the cities but the majority in rural areas are being ignored.

There has been no national census on children with special needs and disabilities since 1998, where it disclosed that 66 per cent of disabled people in Pakistan lived in rural areas and 34 per cent in urban areas. These children have become invisible and it will take a merger of both private and public interests to reach these children. It is a challenge to bring 0.7 million people with disabilities to the schools. One of the biggest problems faced by children with special needs is mobility, where if these funds are not used to cater to bringing more children to these schools, this venture might be useless. Additionally, we do not want to see more empty buildings and schools without teachers.

These funds should also be allocated to different needs, such as spreading awareness in both rural and urban areas about the importance of special education, door-to-door counselling for both parents and special children and salaries for administrative support and trained personnel.

The stigma attached to being disabled has to be removed. These children are not seen or treated the same way as children without special needs. In many cases parents prefer to hide their children if they are crippled or disabled, sometimes to protect them, and sometimes out of shame. Shame must not be a reason to keep these children from getting an education and a fair chance at life. Protection must be offered by the state and society in the form of access to quality education.