The Scholars Program for more the 5 years now has focused on building Africa’s next generation of African leaders. From its inception the goal of the Program is to generate and cultivate self-sufficient and confident individuals who will lead, manage and foster in a new dawn in the Horn of Africa where talented individuals with disabilities and disadvantages are among those who are making a sizable impact in society.
One of the individuals bringing in this new day is Habtamu Alemneh Kassahun who is a recent graduate from the Scholars Program at the University of Gondar. Habtamu who graduated with a Sociology degree is excelling in every aspect and is the ideal model that the Scholars Program is churning out exceptional people into the world.
Habtamu who is a soon to be Lecturer at Injebara University, when speaking on his best experience of the Scholars Program, shared that the Program was crucial for his current successes by providing life changing materials to help him excel in his studies. “It is well known that the Scholars Program equipped us with the necessary technological materials which include laptops and various assistive devices and in addition to this they organized many trainings that were very influential, these essentials made the program the absolute best,” shared Habtamu.
The Scholars Program has one of the best Scholarship environments in Ethiopia and offers second to none support for its Scholars. They, from the beginning, gain tuition, assistive devices, laptop computers, stipend, basic medical coverage comprehensive trainings and much more.
When speaking about the specific skills he gained from the program Habtamu expressed his delight and elaborated more on the trainings that the Scholars Program offer the Scholars. “I have really gained numerous skills from my time in the Program, these include the communication, financial literacy and technological trainings we took on a continual basis,” stated Habtamu.
On another note, though he shared that the Scholars program showed him how to be an overall better person. Habtamu spoke in length about how he started to think and care for others in a more heightened manner after joining the program. Once he joined the program, he detailed that he started to think not only for himself but for others and also how to create a more comfortable environment for people with disabilities to follow in his footsteps. “It is my national responsibility to make the path of those coming after me easier so that they could give back to their country in a better way” shared Habtamu.
Scholars’ awareness progresses throughout their years in the Program. They move away from the self and continue down a path that centers on others and this has been evident in the story of Habtamu. After only a few months from his own graduation Habtamu and a few of his friends formulated and established a project to help give back to those in need. He started a training program where high School Students who are visually impaired/blind would be able to be trained in the art and technology of JAWS. The training which took place in Bahar Dar University is exclusively for visually impaired/blind high school students who range from grades 9 through 12 grouped into two clusters of 22 (44 total).
JAWS is a screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired people to read the screen using a refreshable Braille display or a text-to-speech output. With the help of Habtamu and his friends, Yabebal, Kalkidan, Ayimir and Sosina, the high School students according to him will not face the same obstacles he faced when using a computer for the first time and will pass one huge barrier with their skills of the new software.
When asked about how he conceived such an idea, Habtamu identified that people often come up with ideas to solve the problems that affect them. “Before joining the Scholars Program I knew nothing about the JAWS software and could not use a computer because of this illiteracy issue and this made me dependent on others to read for me and to illustrate what they see on the computer screen,” articulated Habtamu.
It is when thinking about his own prior difficulties that the Alumni Habtamu came up with this training program to teach and train high school students about the uses of JAWS so that when they apply for a scholarship, go off to University or go out into the real world that they would be one step ahead. In the future he also plans to create a technology that will be of help to PWDs and will hopefully generate income, but on a greater note contribute to the simplification of life of those most effected by impairments.
The Scholars Program at the University of Gondar is going on its sixth year out of its 10-year plan. Many more Scholars will be admitted into the Program and will be given the same quality and life changing Scholarship as previous Scholars before them.
When asked about sharing a message to future and soon to be Scholars who are planning to apply for the Program, Habtamu communicated that they must be focused and determined to make positive change. Habtamu concluded by sharing that, “Scholars who apply for the Scholars Program at UoG are already bright and talented individuals this is clear, but” he continues, “ they need to focus on what really matters most and that is doing good for others, doing community give back, doing research, helping others gain the Scholarship (those from rural areas) and not to be overwhelmed or absorbed with the material gains of the program, but to stay concentrated on the foremost goal which is becoming transformative leaders for their communities.”
Habtamu Alemneh is just one example of numerous others who are doing various initiatives and gaining well to do career paths to help the country of Ethiopia. Being a visually impaired individual has not hindered him or held him back from making a sizable impact in the lives of many. Moreover by caring for others he has made the lives of the talented youth with disabilities and disadvantages who are coming behind him to be that much easier. The Scholars Program at UoG has plenty leaders like him in its ranks and in the future it is clear that they will also take the same steps to make this country that much more better.