Scholars Program at UoG commemorate “Disability Awareness and Advocacy”

The Scholars Program at the University of Gondar, on 8 April 2019, organized an event that encapsulated Disability Awareness and Advocacy. The day brought together guests, which included University of Gondar higher officials, partners, program Scholars and MCF team members. With the main theme of the day focusing on inclusiveness, three larger than life Billboards, which represented accessibility, inclusiveness and quality education, were unveiled to the public. The day also saw activities including a management meeting, a presentation on Occupational Therapy and a consultative meeting on program expansion.

Partners from Addis Ababa University Special Needs Support Unit, Federation of APwDs, ECDD, Ministry of Education Special Needs and Inclusive Education and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education were all present.

In his opening address, the acting president of the University of Gondar, Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn, spoke briefly about the benefits and significance of the scholars program at the University of Gondar and what the unveiling ceremony meant to the wider University community.

Subsequently, Dr. Solomon Mekonnen the Director of the Scholars Program at UoG elaborated on the preparation that culminated into the billboards. Through rigorous consultation with the Mastercard Foundation and partners, the three concepts came to existence. But most notably without the input of the Mastercard Foundation’s Scholars the billboard designs would have not made it to its final stage.

With the main idea being represented with the words impossible, unachievable and inaccessible the billboards showed the words with the negative prefixes crossed out and left with a positive connotation. The concepts were a product of a focus group discussion by the Scholars and later on by a selection process of choosing the final concept for the billboards. Billboards with the title “Equal Access for Equal Education” could be found in the university grounds of Tewodros, Fasil and Science Amba.

After a campus tour that showed partners and stakeholders the facilities of the Scholars Program and newly renovated accessible ramps and entrances of the University a presentation on Occupational Therapy was presented in Maraki Campus’s Aluminum Hall. Ms. Sarah who is a Ugandan Occupational Therapist, and who is now a UoG staff member, showcased the advantages of OT in a country that is relatively new to its techniques.When introducing the field Sarah stated that OT is the treatment as well as the promotion of health and wellbeing through the use of occupations. Moreover, the nature of clients of OT often times includes people with physical disabilities, those with learning disabilities, people with mental disorders, the elderly and others.

The University of Gondar seeks to be the first University in the country to adopt an OT curriculum and major that will streamline its vision in becoming a societal problem solving university.

To sum up the entire one-day event the Program Director, Dr. Solomon Mekonnen, and Program Manager, Dr. Mikyas Abera, moderated a management meeting. Some of the topics, which were discussed, included the year’s efforts, its strengths and some of its challenges.

One reoccurring point that was raised in the management meeting dealt with international students and how to prepare for their arrival. In the 2019/2020 academic year the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at UoG will be accepting international students from Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, and South Sudan.

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is a project won by the University of Gondar, which will educate 450 talented youth with disabilities and disadvantages over a 10-year period. With the hopes of creating transformative leaders who will give back to their communities the project is a first of its kind in the world and seeks to make a sizable impact in the lives of people in the community.

By Samuel Malede| Scholars Program Communications