Human Rights Watch (HRW) says thousands of Kyrgyz children with disabilities are "segregated" in the country's residential institutions, where the New-York-based group says they can experience "neglect, inappropriate medical treatment, and discrimination."
In a report published on December 10, which marks International Human Rights Day, HRW says children with disabilities are subject to “discriminatory government evaluations that often lead to segregation in special schools or at home.”
By ratifying the United Nations Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD) in 2019, Kyrgyzstan has committed to allow children with disabilities to "study in mainstream schools in the communities where they live," said Laura Mills, researcher at HRW and the report's author.
"However, the government still needs to turn this pledge into a reality for children across the country," where 3,000 children with disabilities remain in special institutions, she added.
The study, titled Insisting On Inclusion: Institutionalization And Barriers To Education For Children With Disabilities In Kyrgyzstan, documents how children are denied quality, inclusive education in which children with and without disabilities study together in mainstream schools.
HRW says it interviewed 111 people between October 2019 and July 2020, including children with disabilities, teachers, and staff at residential institutions and special schools, parents, and disability rights activists. The watchdog also visited six residential institutions and schools for children with disabilities in four regions.
It found that these institutions had "insufficient personnel," resulting in "neglect or lack of individualized attention."
Staff "regularly use psychotropic drugs or forced psychiatric hospitalization to control children's behavior and punish them."
Children in residential institutions and special schools receive "either a poor education or no education at all."
Meanwhile, mainstream schools "often deny enrollment" to children who were recommended for special school or home education.
And children who live at home "encounter significant, discriminatory obstacles to their education" in these schools.
Parents of children with disabilities who receive education at home complained that teachers "come for very few hours and are often not trained in teaching a child with a disability."
Kyrgyzstan has pledged to close or transform several residential special schools, but Mills said that the authorities first need to "begin dismantling the obstacles that exclude them from schools in their communities."
"The government should ensure that children with disabilities study together with their peers and provide them with the tools they need to succeed."