The Sustainable Development Goal four aims at ensuring inclusive, free and equitable quality education. In a conflict setting such as Western Darfur, the education system has been destroyed, leaving millions of children out of schools. Various stakeholders, namely UNICEF and non-governmental organizations, have taken initiatives to rebuild schools and include all children since the beginning of the conflict in 2003. However, very little evidence is available to date on the education of children with disabilities living in conflict and post-conflict situations.
Between the 1st of October 2008 and the 28th of February 2009, we carried out a household survey in all localities and settlements in the rural council of Um Kher, part of the locality of Wadi Salih in the state of West Darfur, Sudan. We interviewed 11,089 heads of household about activity limitations and functioning difficulties associated with a health problem among all family members using a validated screening instruments, as well as 1436 children on various aspects of access to education, learning outcomes and psychological wellbeing. We found that in a context of protracted conflict, all children are at high risk of being excluded from schools and not learning when in school. We also found that children with dis-abilities were at higher risk of poorer psychological wellbeing, particularly those children with behavioral and mood disorders, as well as associated disabilities.
In a context of conflict and protracted crisis such as Darfur, promoting education requires a lot of external effort to ensure access and positive learning outcomes for all children, including children with disabilities. Our study shows poor basic cognitive learning outcomes for all children and the limited effectiveness of the protection of children in schools. Improving learning outcomes and mental wellbeing of vulnerable children in conflict, crisis and protracted crisis contexts require multilevel and multi-pronged interventions within and outside schools.