HANOI -- Ladies and gentlemen, it's a real pleasure to be here today to be able to participate with you in the launching of this important project for children with disabilities.
Although I have been in Vietnam for only two months, I've been most impressed by the commitment and dedication of the work of our partners, people in the government and civil society organizations to help people with disabilities in Vietnam. And of course, this includes all of you in this room who are central to the success of this project.
The U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, has been working in the areas of people with disabilities for 20 years so far. An important part of assistance has been supporting education for children with disabilities. Vietnam's Ministry of Education and Training's leadership and partnership have been critical in our efforts to address barriers in education for children with disabilities. And through this kind of partnership, they can bring about the significant cultural and attitude changes in support of children with disabilities.
Children with disabilities face so many physical and systemic barriers to access education in Vietnam. While Vietnam has been reaching nearly 100 percent enrollment rate for children, children with disabilities have not achieved that number.
We are struck with the fact that children with very severe disabilities are unable to go to school at all and are left out of the education system. I know you are distressed by the fact that their lack of access to national examinations means that they are unable to continue on to higher education.
Like you, USAID strongly believes that technology can be a powerful tool in empowering the most vulnerable among us. With text-to-speech technology, blind students can "read" digital learning materials; with distance education, children with severe disabilities will be able to go to school without leaving home; and that same sort of technology can enable students with disabilities to demonstrate their knowledge in national exams.
In partnership with the government, we are very pleased to be able to support technology as a tool to increase access, but of course, this tool can only be effective when it matches with commitment and dedication of the government.
USAID, in partnership with CRS, will support the use some of these technologies and develop models to support disadvantage disabled children by reducing barriers in the national exams. USAID is also very active in finding ways to promote economic growth in Vietnam, led by the Vietnamese people.
I commend the Ministry of Education and Training and our partner Catholic Relief Services for their commitment to continue to improve access to and quality of education for children with disabilities. USAID is proud, I am very proud, to support all of you and I wish you the best success for the children of Vietnam.
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Last updated: January 21, 2015