About 93 million children worldwide have a disability. Too often, these children are marginalized and excluded from society, many facing daily threats to their survival in the form of poor nutrition or physical abuse; children with disabilities are three to four times more likely to be the victims of violence.
The worst part? Disability is often not on the political agenda, making it difficult for anything to change. According to an alarming report published this year by UNICEF, less than 50% of children with a disability finish their primary education, mainly due to the fact that they are not given the same opportunities in school that other children have.
“Education is not at all adequate for children [in South Africa],” 2013 Youth Award Honoree Chaeli Mycroft said. “This is especially the case for children with disabilities. I feel that this is linked to the perceptions and expectations of the people interacting with the children.”
In South Africa alone, there are 480,000 children with a disability, yet 90% of them do not have access to education.
“Disability is not seen as a priority, which makes being an activist more challenging,” Chaeli said. “People with disabilities are seen as a minority group and therefore not taken seriously.”
A self-proclaimed ability activist, 19-year-old Chaeli was born with cerebral palsy, so she’s had firsthand experience being denied rights that others are given. Her personal experiences have driven her to advocate for other children with disabilities and ensure that future generations are given equal opportunities.
“I have found that it’s important to get other people excited about your cause, too, because it’s better not to fight alone,” Chaeli said.
Today, Chaeli attends the University of Cape Town, where she is the first student in a wheelchair to live in the university’s dormitories. In between classes, she speaks around the world and helps run The Chaeli Campaign, a South African nonprofit that helps children with their educational and mobility needs.
“We believe that children with disabilities are catalysts for change in their families and communities,” Chaeli said, “and we need to advocate for a more inclusive society for the benefit of all.”
Chaeli will use funding from World of Children to support The Chaeli Campaign’s Early Childhood Development Program, where differently-abled and able-bodied children improve their basic learning skills so they are ready to go to their first year of school — together.
Stand with us to ensure all children have access to education, no matter what their ability. A donation of just $20 is enough to buy a classroom supply kit for a disabled child enrolled in The Chaeli Campaign’s educational program.