The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar took part in an online webinar that deals with disability inclusion. The event which was organized allowed stakeholders, partners and funding organizations to take a closer look at lessons from the Scholars Program at UoG.
Over the past 5 years the Scholars Program at UoG has seen its fair share of challenges. Being the only Scholars Program in the world to cater to talented youth with disabilities and disadvantages was a new path and owning to a vision that would uplift and transform the countries marginalized was no easy task. But half way through the Program’s time frame it’s clear that many positive milestones and successes are constantly being recorded.
Dr. Mikyas Abera, Program Manager, when speaking about the recruitment process of the Program shared that the Scholars Program at the University of Gondar has two components: undergraduate which will host 290 Ethiopian Scholars with disabilities and disadvantages and a graduate component which will host 160 males with disabilities and females with financial need. The webinar allowed for Program team members to share their experience with eager and inspired stakeholders who are seeing UoG’s success as somewhat of future motivation to enable more countries and organizations to pilot this unique, but timely concept.
Some of the practices that were also shared included lessons from recruiting people with disabilities, institutional change, lessons from supportive systems, transition to work and institutional sustainability.
Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn, the President of the University of Gondar, when speaking on the Scholars Program shared his delight in the upward trajectory of the Program and its overall impact on people with disabilities in Ethiopia.
Even though the Scholars Program is set to give full and comprehensive scholarships to only 450 youth with disabilities and disadvantages, it seems that the wider student body that also include numerous students with special needs are gaining some much-needed benefits from the Scholars Program. “It is important notice that the Scholars Program is also benefiting the larger group of students with disabilities at our University,” shared Dr. Asrat “when it comes to participating in tutorials organized for Scholars, experiencing fewer hindrances regarding their on-campus mobility/accessibility, benefiting from inclusive instructions with sign language interpreters and even gaining much needed services from disability-aware staff the Program has been a tremendous help to our other students.”
It seems that new developments on the ground are also brining much needed change to this once considered unchangeable country-wide issue. Dr. Asrat shared that for the first time the University of Gondar will be accepting a high volume of students with disabilities because of the strides it has made regarding inclusion. This goes to show that the University of Gondar is changing for the better and talented students with disabilities are choosing UoG as their educational destination.
On his part, the Director of the Program, Dr. Solomon Mekonnen, shared that the University is constantly in the forefront in bringing institutional change and can undoubtedly be a model example for other institutions. “The university currently employs 312 staff with disabilities and has over 1,890 (18%) women staff who work in different capacities and in various units. We even went one step further with our commitment by incorporating key articles in our institutional 10-year strategic plan which promotes diversity and inclusion,” expressed Dr. Solomon.
The Scholars Program at the University of Gondar and its management continue to work hard to provide trainings for lecturers on inclusive educational, progressing design and delivery methods and adapting pedagogical approaches to accommodate students of diverse backgrounds and needs. The Scholars Program will only progress in the long run and ultimately it is showing other Universities, and the country as whole, that a keen focus on marginalized groups is the future and understanding their contribution to the development of the country is not only vital but should never be overlooked moving forward.