We have now reached the end of the first year of SYL’s project in Ethiopia, and we have achieved a lot in just one year. The aim of our project is to improve the position and study opportunities of disabled university students. Even though 17.6 per cent of Ethiopians have some sort of disability, disabled students are underrepresented on all levels of education despite the policy of inclusive education of the Ethiopian Ministry of Education.
Disabled university students encounter many challenges as many of them live in poverty, and society has negative attitudes towards them and their abilities. In addition, the accessibility of schools and universities is lacking, only a small number of teachers are trained in special education, and there are few study materials available in an accessible format. As an example, some teachers have forbidden blind students from using braille as the noise it makes disturbs the class.
We have summarised the results of 2019 below in six points.
- We organised training on disabilities and inclusion for the universities’ administration, staff, and students. We organised one training session at each university, with 70 participants in total. Many of the challenges that disabled students face are caused by the lack of awareness in the academic community. Our training sessions help raise awareness so that it becomes easier to talk about and resolve problems.
- 195 people in total participated in the project’s training sessions on topics such as braille, working life skills and looking for work, raising awareness about disabilities, and sexual health. The training sessions are a great support for the students in their studies and help them build self-confidence. Disabled students often do not believe in their abilities and themselves, which is caused by attitudes in society, insufficient education, and a lack of self-confidence. That is why the project offers training that increases self-esteem, skills, and awareness.
- 45 presidents of organisations for disabled students took part in a leadership workshop. The organisations for disabled students play an important role in raising disability awareness and promoting the access to services at universities. The workshop helped the students gain skills in promoting the interests of disabled people. The organisations must bravely face different kinds of challenges and lobby the university community in order to achieve results.
- 92 student union representatives gained new awareness of inclusion and including disabled students in academic and leisure activities. By raising awareness, it is easier to identify challenges and problems and make activities more accessible for everyone. It also makes it easier to intervene in discrimination.
- The project helped 163 disabled students get access to study aids. These aids include crutches, white canes, and equipment for writing braille. We were also able to offer three deaf students a sign language interpreter, and visually impaired students gained access to a reader.
- We bought computers, printers, and other materials for the universities’ disability support centres. These purchases increased the universities’ ability to support disabled students in their studies.
SYL’s project is carried out at three public universities in Ethiopia in collaboration with the local organisation ECDD and with support from Kynnys ry. The project will run from 2019 to 2022, and it aims to improve the education and position of disabled students so that they can participate in education, gain qualifications and find employment like other students.