SYL already has a lot of experience of development cooperation projects in Africa. In 2013–2015, we carried out a project in Mozambique. Since 2019, SYL has been cooperating with the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD) to improve the study opportunities of students with disabilities in Ethiopian universities. Keeping in mind that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland also puts great emphasis on development cooperation in Africa, it is natural for SYL to once again look for partners on this vast continent, this time in Zambia.
In order to be able to use a concept already tested, SYL wants to support students with disabilities in Zambia, too. That’s why we are applying for funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for a similar project as the one in Ethiopia. SYL has learned from the joint project in Ethiopia and has already gained some experience and expertise.
Approximately 11 percent of the Zambian population has some kind of disability. Since 2012, their right to equal education is guaranteed by law. Many still face constant discrimination and major challenges in order to fully integrate into society. Attitudes have not changed as quickly as legislation, and awareness of the everyday lives of people with disabilities remains low. That’s why it is often difficult for universities to provide inclusive education, such as forms of admissions and exams adapted so that it is possible for people with poor eyesight, for example, to take them. It can also be difficult or impossible to find materials necessary for studies, such as literature in braille or recording device. Another major concrete issue is that certain buildings and classrooms are inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair.
Our development cooperation project is called the Zambia Inclusive Higher Education Project (ZIHEP), and it aims to guarantee students with disabilities the right to an inclusive and equal education on the same terms as for other students. The project will be carried out in cooperation with the local partner Vilole Images Productions, which has previously cooperated with the Threshold Association (Kynnys ry). With training, workshops and investments in study materials and facilities, our development cooperation project can bring about sustainable and fundamental changes.