Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar in collaboration with Dagmaros Entertainment and Events organized a disability art event in which talented scholars with disabilities participated at Maraki Campus on July 6, 2023.
Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn, President of the University of Gondar; Dr. Kassahun Tegegne, Academic Vice President of the University of Gondar; Dr. Molalign Belay, Director of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar; Rigbe Gebrehawaria, the guest of honor of the day and Commissioner for Disability Rights and the Rights of Older Persons at the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and invited guests and students as well as the university community attended the event.
In his welcome message, Dr. Molalign stated that the Scholars Program is playing a major role in creating educational opportunities for students with disabilities and disadvantages and capacitating and empowering them to either create or land jobs. He further explained that scholars of the program are engaged in varied extracurricular training as per their interests. In the first half of the 2023 academic year, for instance, 30 scholars have received talent development training whereby they explored their aspirations in the areas of poetry writing, singing, acting and stage management. In doing so, scholars have been able to create an awareness about disability to the public. The day’s art event, according to him, is a kind of event that fosters disability inclusion both on and off campus. Above and beyond, it helps the scholars to socialize with students with no disability and the rest of the university community. Upon finishing his speech, Dr. Molalign notified the audience that the Scholars Program is making preparations to hold an international conference on disability and community-based rehabilitation in the coming October, which will contribute to knowledge sharing and awareness creation endeavor.
In his opening statement, Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn said that the University of Gondar has achieved outstanding results and contributed a lot to the development of the country in the past seven decades through conducting researches aimed at solving societal problems. He said that apart from teaching, the university is actively engaged in bringing about real change in relation to disability and related issues. He added that the university has been working closely with its partners to benefit students with disabilities and disadvantages and community members in broad and sustainable projects such as the community-based rehabilitation program since 2005. He also mentioned that the university has been doing extensive awareness-raising and capacity building activities since then. According to him, another remarkable achievement by the university has been the successful effort to build accessible infrastructure for staff and students with disabilities. With all these experiences, the university has been able to win the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program aimed at providing scholarships to 450 visionary students over a 10-year span. The introduction of this Program at the University of Gondar has greatly impacted the effort to creating awareness about disability. As a result of all these efforts that ensure an inclusive higher education, he stated that the university has become the number one choice of students with disabilities.
Dr. Asrat concluded his speech by addressing the important role the art event presented under the title “Enchilalen!” (We can!) plays in solving disability awareness problems and creating more opportunities for talented teenagers with disabilities to showcase their skills.
Commissioner Rigbe, on her part, shared an encouraging message to the audience and testified that the University of Gondar is doing a great job in creating opportunities for students with disabilities to use their abilities in research and community service. She also stated that this kind of art event empowers students with disabilities in addition to what learn in classrooms and training.
Rediet Gizaw, one of the female scholars, who led the event as a master of ceremonies said that the event was successful because the scholars were able to achieve their shared goal of communicating the message that creating an inclusive environment is important. The event was a proof that disability does not mean incapability. Rediet remarked that the event was an opportunity to reveal this bare truth to the audience.
Etsubdink, another of the scholars acknowledged that people need to focus more on metal capabilities than physical disabilities. “As long as we, persons with disabilities, can get our minds into play, there is nothing we cannot do”, said Etsubdink. Still, he believes that there is a lot to be done to get this message across to the public. Bayush is of the same mind that the event has allowed the scholars to send a big message that persons with disabilities are not incapable; it has created for the scholars the opportunity to show to the audience that scholars can successfully produce plays, songs and poems to express themselves.