The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar on 19 February 2022 organized and held a comprehensive consultative meeting with Scholars. The intention of the discussion is to create a better Program moving forward trying to heed to the grievances, concerns and thoughts of the Scholars who are people with disabilities and disadvantages. Those who to took part in the days event included the President of the University of Gondar, Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn, Academic Vice President, Dr. Kassahun Tegene, Administrative Vice President Mr. Lijalem Gashaw, Scholars Program Office and Scholars.
Now in its 5th year, and half way through the Program’s proposed time frame of 10 years, the Scholars Program at UoG has been able to make strides in terms of inclusion. One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, are people with disabilities, with the prevalence of disability being higher in developing countries.
Significant disabilities affect one-fifth of the estimated global population, or between 110 million and 190 million people. Being the first Scholars Program in the world with a distinct focus and detail that pertains to people with disabilities and disadvantages the University of Gondar is breaking stereotypes and barriers which will make educational intuitions and the general public a better place because of it.
With that being said though it should not be overlooked that catering to such a marginalized group may come with a learning curve that not only enlightens the Program but also the educational institutions of the entire country. People with disabilities and disadvantages have been disregarded for centuries in the country of Ethiopia. Attitudes, sayings, stereotypes, discrimination and underestimating their abilities has created a circumstance where they have not been able to compete in an equitable world. Hence, Universities across the country still have much to learn about catering to and working with PwD.
The Scholars in the discussions were able to, in a formal setting, raise concerns about their life in the Program and work with university administration and the program office to make the remaining 5 years a better one. Scholars raised questions about assistive devices, sensitive wording, exchange rate conversion, attitudes concerning PwDs, and the likes.
Just in the last 5 years the University of Gondar and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program office at UoG has been able to create a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities. Many places which were not appealing to people with disabilities have done an entire accessibility audit where inaccessible places were made accessible. This has allowed Scholars and other students with disabilities to rest assured that whenever they go to their common places such as dorms, cafeterias and class rooms that they will have the faith in the physical landscape.
In addition to this the University moving forward has been keen in keeping people with disabilities in mind when constructing any further structures and buildings. UoG has pledged and is now focusing to create buildings and classrooms which are accessible to people with disabilities. Because of the current standards and attention to inclusion, for the first time, UoG has been able to accept a large amount of people with disabilities which outnumbers any other University in the country. Their priority to make UoG their first option for education goes to show the barriers that the University is breaking down.
Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn the President of the University shared that even though UoG has made a sizable impact in the lives of people with disabilities and disadvantages that more needs to be done to bridge the gap. He expressed that the Scholars need to continue to share their grievances”, he details that, “this will not only help their overall wellbeing, but in the same light educate the University and the Program to create a more inclusive institution.”