Fostering inclusive education in Latin America through youth leadership and sports
- Escuelas Unificadas (Unified Schools)
- Country of Implementation
- Start Year
- First published
“With the power of youth, the project tackles the bullying and discrimination present in almost all schools.” Ana Aloe, Director of Innovative Programmes, Special Olympics Argentina
Escuelas Unificadas is an inclusive education programme run by Special Olympics Latin America, and INGO based in Panama. The programme promotes an inclusive environment for children and young people with and without intellectual disabilities through joint participation in sports teams and leadership activities inside and outside the classroom. By 2023 the programme has been implemented in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, and Paraguay, reaching over 16,000 young participants.
Children and young people with intellectual disabilities often lack opportunities to participate in education and other activities.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
Escuelas Unificadas is a global programme implemented by Special Olympics in more than 38 countries to foster an inclusive environment for children and youth with and without intellectual disabilities. Starting in 2019, SOLA has been implementing this inclusive educational programme in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, and by 2023 it expanded its actions to Argentina, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Paraguay. Escuelas Unificadas has four primary components: 1. Unified Sport: To bring together young people with intellectual disabilities (Special Olympics athletes) and people without (Unified Partners) to train in sports teams and compete. 2. Young Athletes: To engage children ages 2–7 with and without intellectual disabilities through physical, sensory, cognitive, and social activities. 3. Inclusive Leadership: Both in and out of the classroom, promoting equality and creating an inclusive school environment. 4. Whole School Engagement: Key innovative features are (a) adaptive sports, which promote the participation of people of all abilities, training teachers, and coaches to create inclusive environments for all students; and (b) unified experiences that promote shared spaces among peers and with people in the community. This involves joint experiences in sports events, community projects, and sport competitions. In 2023, Escuelas Unificadas had 334 participating schools and 16,748 young people with and without intellectual disabilities involved in seven countries.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Since 2018 the programme has received financial support from the Stavros-Niarchos Foundation and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates. SOLA is working with national offices to secure more funding sources and to expand its reach to additional countries in the region in the coming years. (Awardee 2024)