The Mastercard Foundation has funded a 10-year partnership between the University of Gondar in Ethiopia and Queen’s University, Canada to advance inclusive higher education for young people with disabilities, develop new occupational therapy programs, and advance research for inclusive education and community-based rehabilitation in Africa.
In line with this, the Scholars Program has recently achieved another milestone in achieving this aim. With the virtual graduation ceremony of 2 Masters OT fellows, the program is coming that much closer to setting the foundational stone of the first ever Occupational Therapy program in Ethiopia.
Ms. Rediet Getachew and Mr. Yohannes Awoke have officially graduated with their Masters degrees in Occupational Therapy from Queens University Canada. They have become one of the only four MSc-level trained Occupational Therapists in Ethiopia after a virtual graduation ceremony was conducted by Queen’s University, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program and the University of Gondar on October 20, 2021.
It is recent memory that the University of Gondar had hosted its first-ever needs assessment and curriculum workshop for Occupational Therapy back in 2019. It was during those long hours of fierce discussions and deliberations that the momentum in creating a well-organized and quality OT Program at the University of Gondar was set in motion. Now fast forwarding to late 2021 the University of Gondar has received its second batch of qualified Occupational Therapists which were trained and educated abroad. With the news of the new graduates, both Ethiopia and UoG have doubled the highly trained Occupational Therapist workforce.
Those who took part in the ceremony included Queens University professors and teachers, Mastercard Foundation team members, University of Gondar officials and the Scholars Program office team at UoG.
In the coming months the graduates will be tasked with OT related work here in the country of Ethiopia. Among the endeavors they will concentrate on starting clinical services in Occupational Therapy at UoG Hospital and starting the first ever BSc level OT training program at the school of medicine is of top priority.
When speaking about the major traits he received from the OT program from Queens University Canada, Yohannes expressed his delight in the work ethic and punctuality of everything he experienced. He believes those qualities are vital to accomplishing so much in field which is still in its infancy stages in Ethiopia. He shared that his friends are also amongst those bright individuals who are motivated to bring about change and that he would like to work together with them to emulate some of the positive trends of the OT Program in Canada and bring them to his own country of Ethiopia.
Rediet who also graduated with her Msc in Occupational Therapy shared that she would cherish her memories from Queens University. She detailed that the relationships she created with her professors and instructors were amazing. “The staff at Queens were always understanding. We were motivated and encouraged to share with them our learning and knowledge acquisition habits and they capitalized on them and made learning so easy. These types of memories will stick with me and I will try to imitate what I experienced in Queens in my country of Ethiopia to create a better learning environment for my future students,” stressed Rediet.
When asked about the current trend of Occupational Therapy in Ethiopia the OT program coordinator Dr. Nebiyu Mesfin expressed that such a discipline in Ethiopia’s modern workforce can only bring positive developments. “In countries like Ethiopia where the estimated burden of disability is around 17 percent, the development of crucial rehabilitation sciences and clinical services in Occupational Therapy will be of paramount importance. To that end, UoG is working with its partners to play its part not only leading nationally, but also regionally by establishing an internationally recognized OT program,” shared Dr. Nebiyu.
The first steps in creating a well-organized and quality OT Program at the University of Gondar is set in motion and the push will undoubtedly lead to a new profession being created in today’s Ethiopian workforce. In the coming months, the University of Gondar and Queens University, Canada will have established Ethiopia’s first ever Occupational Therapy Bachelor of Science degree program at the University of Gondar. With new medical equipment purchased and on its way to establish a state of the art Occupational Therapy facility the well trained and certified practitioners in the field of OT will surely expand the science to the people of Ethiopia. Nonetheless one thing is for certain the graduates are talented leaders who will make a sizable impact in the lives of many people.