The decision of the European Committee of Social Rights on the merits of the complaint International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Inclusion Europe v. Belgium (No. 141/2017) became public on 3 February 2021.
At the end of a procedure of more than four years, the European Committee of Social Rights condemned Belgium on Wednesday, specifically the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (FBW), for the lack of efforts made for the educational inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities. The decision was welcomed and commented on by various actors in the field of inclusion of education during a joint press conference in the presence of the WBF Minister of Education Caroline Désir.
“This decision is an important resource for all member states of the CRPD. We see a consensus for inclusive education, based on universal accessibility and reasonable accommodation. The decision rendered by the Committee should lead to a revision of Belgian education policies.
The European Committee of Social Rights defends the right to inclusive education for all, including students with intellectual disabilities. The right to inclusive education cannot be theoretical and illusory – it must be effective. Therefore, they call for specific measures from the Belgian State,” said Isabelle Hachez, Constitutional Law Professor
There are hundreds of thousands of children with intellectual disabilities in Europe who are still denied a proper education. Therefore, Inclusion Europe has committed alongside Belgian associations to bring up the claims of the families of children with intellectual disabilities whose right to education had been denied before the European Committee of Social Rights.
“Today is a victory that can push for inclusive education,” said Muriel Baumal, mother of a child with Down Syndrome. “His greatest teachers are his twin sister and his friends. In an environment without this kind of diversity and pedagogy, Loïc would probably not learn to speak or write not write, he would probably just end up in his own world.”
“We sometimes tend to misinterpret what inclusive school is, to think that it is a question of social integration of the student to please him. That’s not it. It is really about putting in the means to have better learning for all. I think we need a real motivation from the government to make it a systematic policy and not leave it to the free will of the schools, otherwise, the barriers are still too present. “ Thomas Dabeux
“I welcome the unanimous decision of the European Committee on Social Rights on inclusive education as a major step in the right direction, showing the power and potential of regional organizations to advance inclusion for persons with disabilities.” said the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. Gerard Quinn.
This decision comes at a very appropriate timing since the Coronavirus crisis has had a very negative impact on the education of children with intellectual disabilities, with many setbacks for inclusion. We hope that this decision will set a precedent so that all children with disabilities across Europe can benefit from the best possible education.
“Today is for all the students who were denied a proper education. It is for their parents having to fight for school inclusion at every step. There was a similar condemnation of Flanders in 2017. Now Wallonia and Brussels are condemned for segregated education of children with disabilities. Let’s hope that relevant authorities in Belgium and other countries will finally wake up and make changes to improve the lives of students with intellectual disabilities.” Milan Šveřepa, Director of Inclusion Europe