The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar organizes a consultative meeting that centers on creating a more suitable environment for its young students with disabilities. The discussions which took place in Maraki Campus’s Aluminum Hall brought together University higher officials, stakeholders, MCF program team, scholars and relevant offices that have a stake in the well-being of the university’s talented youth with disabilities and disadvantages.
Mastercard Foundation Scholars are some of the brightest individuals that the country of Ethiopia has to offer. Studying in fields throughout the University of Gondar, the Scholars, who are talented youth with disabilities and disadvantages have traits that will be of importance for the development of their communities and country. However, their time and life before joining the University of Gondar was far from easy. It is with this in mind that the Mastercard Foundation Scholar’s Program Office at the University of Gondar has pledged to create a comfortable university setting for all of its students with disabilities.
People with disabilities in the country of Ethiopia will soon reach around 20 percent of the population. As history and society can tell, this group houses some of the country’s most marginalized individuals who have experienced hate speech, discrimination, segregation and cultural taboos.
Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn, President of the University of Gondar, when giving introductory remarks on the days event, shared that a country that does not cater and attend to 20 percent of its population has done a huge disservice. “Every institution has a responsibility to do all that they can to make the lives of people with disabilities that much easier, and for example when I see the Maraki campus, I feel proud, because I see a campus which is filled with talented individuals with disabilities who were not given a chance just a few years before,” expressed Dr. Asrat. However, the President also shared that bringing lasting change cannot be done without the effort of all institutions in the country. He stressed the need to take this example of inclusivity and copy it to other educational institutions in the country.
The University of Gondar and the Scholars Program are prioritizing the lives of its Scholars and students with disabilities. By working on an accessibility audit the University has been able to create a better situation for Scholars’ walk ways, entrances, dormitories, classrooms and restrooms. Moving forward the University has pledged to construct future buildings with people with disabilities in mind.
The day saw presentations of Scholars Program done in the academic and administrative spheres in 2014, inclusivity dilemmas, life’s stories from three exceptional Scholars and question and answer session which will help with future initiatives moving forward.
Dr. Molalign Belay who is the Director of the Program at the University of Gondar also gave a presentation on the values of the program and what it means to be staff members of such a worthy cause. “We must understand that the Scholars Program should be run with core values in mind which include humility, listening, kindness and respect, co-creation and impact.” Shared Dr. Molalign.
He also shared with the audience some strategies for building an inclusive community. Some of those things include establishing accessibility initiatives and hubs, embedding social and emotional learning into teaching practices and day to day activities, engaging students in problem solving activities and encouraging students to develop character, reflexivity and sharing opinions.
The Scholars Program is in its fifth year and has come a long way in making the University of Gondar a better educational institution for all Ethiopians. By managing such programs and others like it, which include the Community Based Rehabilitation Program, UoG has been able to gain national recognition because of its efforts. What makes this year so different is for the first time, the University of Gondar has accepted its highest influx of talented students with disabilities. Among all of the universities in the country, Pwds have made UoG their first priority because of the many works that are being doing concerning inclusivity.
Moving forward the team that was gathered to discuss the way forward have pledged to build on this momentum and to make the University of Gondar more suitable for many more who have been marginalized and forgotten in all corners of the nation.