2nd Occupational Therapy Workshop

On December 30th, 2023, a workshop was held in Addis Ababa, organized by the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar, to promote awareness and understanding of Occupational Therapy (OT) among stakeholders in Ethiopia.

Attended by representatives from federal entities such as the Ministry of Health, the Civil Service Commission, federal hospitals, and regional health bureaus, the event also welcomed esteemed officials from the University of Gondar.

Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn, President of the University of Gondar, in his opening remarks, underscored the remarkable strides achieved through collaborative efforts between the University, Queen’s University, and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. Notably, he highlighted the transformative impact on Scholars, particularly those living with disabilities and socio-economic challenges.

Dr. Molalign Belay, Co-Director of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, offered valuable insights into inclusive recruitment practices and comprehensive support mechanisms available to scholars. This presentation also allowed the participants to be aware of the depth of commitment undertaken to fostering an inclusive and supportive educational environment. Dr.Molalign also mentioned that encouraging alumni involvement in the development of the Occupational Therapy program is another goal of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. Therefore, the program offers assistance to its graduates so they can participate in and support the University of Gondar’s Occupational Therapy Program’s sustainability.

Mrs. Anushka Mzinganjira and Kelly Emblem, Co-Manager and Occupational Therapy Program Coordinator of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Queen’s University, respectively, emphasized the importance of the collaboration to launch the OT program at the University of Gondar through their video messages. Mrs. Anushka stated that the collaborative efforts have led to the launch of the first OT undergraduate program in Ethiopia, accredited by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. Launching the program at the University of Gondar is expected to build a sustainable and fruitful profession and make the university a center of excellence. Ms. Kelly added that the workshop is part of the effort in promoting the profession’s progress in Ethiopia with the support of all stakeholders.

The head of the University of Gondar’s Occupational Therapy Department, Mr. Zelalem Dessalegn, discussed the multifaceted roles of occupational therapists and explained the integration of Occupational Therapy within Ethiopia’s existing rehabilitation framework. His presentation provided a comprehensive overview of the potential impact of OT on improving the quality of life for individuals across diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Mr. Zelalem also mentioned that there are currently 16 African nations that offer occupational therapy and the University of Gondar is credited with being the first to introduce the curriculum to Ethiopia. The University’s OT program, which is accredited by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists till 2029, has enrolled 32 students thus far.

As part of its commitment to growing and improving occupational therapy education in the area, the University hopes to graduate 80 BSc OT students by the end of 2028.

Among the attendees, Mrs. Selamawit, representing the Ministry of Health, pledged her office’s support for mainstreaming OT into national healthcare policies. She emphasized the importance of equipping rehabilitation centers with essential resources to deliver comprehensive services effectively.

Dr. Kassahun Tegegne, Vice Academic President of the University of Gondar, underscored the crucial need for collaborative efforts in refining the Occupational Therapy curriculum to meet evolving societal needs. He stressed the significance of continuous collaboration and engagement with stakeholders to ensure the program’s relevance and quality.

In smaller group discussions, Participants engaged in in-depth discussions on the opportunities, challenges, and priority areas for the application of OT within Ethiopia’s healthcare system. The collective enthusiasm and commitment displayed during these discussions emphasized the shared determination for the advancement and integration of Occupational Therapy within the country.

The workshop was concluded with a collective commitment to supporting the advancement of OT in Ethiopia through ongoing collaboration and engagement. Furthermore, the workshop provided a platform for stakeholders to pledge their support for OT students, committing to facilitating opportunities for knowledge sharing and skills development during internships and clinical placements. Additionally, it was highlighted that participants play a huge with carrying out the objectives outlined during the workshop.