How can you prepare for an exam when you have to travel six hours to pick up a Braille machine and the exam materials you need to print out with it? Dare I take out a loan and start university if I’ll be unable to find a job because of my disability?
More and more students with disabilities are being admitted to public universities and other higher education institutions in Ethiopia, but these institutions are not always able to provide them with the support they need to study. High-quality education improves the opportunities for individuals and communities to create a more sustainable future. Problems during studies can have far-reaching consequences and, in the worst case, lead to new problems.
The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL), the Threshold Association (Kynnys) and the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development have supported the studies of disabled students at Ethiopian universities by improving the services offered by universities to students with disabilities. As a result of these efforts, the understanding of university staff and other students of the challenges and opportunities of students with disabilities has increased, and the students have received support for job search. This has a significant impact, as, according to the World Bank, almost 18 per cent of Ethiopians have some degree of disability.
Last year, Ethiopian students came up with ideas on how all universities could better accommodate students with disabilities. The work is already underway, but getting results requires stable funding.
Finland is committed to increasing its development funding to 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product in accordance with the UN’s recommendation. To reach this goal, we need a clear schedule for when the funding will be increased. Unfortunately, however, not all parties are equally committed to the goal. The Centre Party, the Finns Party and Liike Nyt have stated that they are not willing to increase funding towards 0.7 per cent in the 2023–2027 election period, while the Social Democratic Party, the Greens, the Left Alliance, the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party have said they are willing to increase development cooperation funding. The National Coalition Party did not answer the question, but it supports the preparation of a plan for increasing the funding.
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about security. Armed conflicts are often rooted in people’s feelings of hopelessness and the struggle to meet basic needs. Th ever-growing global inequality leads to social instability. In addition to military threats, security is under threat from crises such as the climate crisis, the education crisis and attacks on democracy. That is precisely why investing in education, livelihood and peace mediation is also effective crisis management.
With development cooperation, we can bring about a sustainable world where future generations genuinely have the opportunity to achieve anything they want. Despite this, there have even been proposals for cuts to development cooperation funding in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. Politicians who cut development cooperation funding are not taking a long-term view of the future. They can’t claim that their policy is based on the idea that the world should be left to future generations in better condition than it was when the politicians’ own generation received it.
Without development cooperation, we cannot fight global threats. Therefore, Finland’s foreign policy must promote social stability by reducing inequality and strengthening democracy.
Member of SYL’s Development Cooperation Advisory Board