One of the strategic priorities of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy is to make meaningful contributions to the work of our collaborators locally, nationally and internationally. Today we are very pleased to announce that we have made a major step towards meeting this goal through a 10 year, USD$24.2 million partnership with Ethiopia’s University of Gondar and The MasterCard Foundation’s Scholars Program. This announcement represents the culmination of 18 months of collaboration grounded in our mutual expertise in and commitment to community based rehabilitation (CBR) and inclusive education.
The MasterCard Foundation partners with academic institutions and NGOs to educate and develop next generation leaders who are committed to contributing to their communities. Increasing access to post-secondary education for disadvantaged youth is vital to this effort. Our partnership will focus on one segment of this target population: youth with disabilities. Our longterm goal is to bring children with disabilities out of homes and into schools for primary and secondary education so that they can be represented in post-secondary education in the future. Transformational leaders are required to achieve this goal. Our partnership with the University of Gondar and The MasterCard Foundation will contribute to launching these leaders.
First, project staff at the two universities will develop and implement a training certificate in CBR that will provide experiential learning opportunities for The MasterCard Foundation Scholars at the University of Gondar. CBR is a multi-sectoral strategy that focuses on enhancing quality of life for people with disabilities and their families; meeting basic needs; and ensuring inclusion and participation. A major role of CBR professionals is to work with families and communities to identify children with disabilities and find ways to get them into school. Through the CBR certificate, Scholars at the University of Gondar will learn about the rights of people with disabilities and practical strategies to enable people with disabilities to access educational and other life opportunities. The certificate will provide participating Scholars at the University of Gondar with critical skills and experiences necessary for their development as transformational leaders.
Second, Queen’s will provide opportunities for up to 60 University of Gondar faculty to upgrade their credentials to a master’s or PhD, and to engage in research collaborations with Queen’s faculty to address issues related to inclusive education. Through these opportunities, faculty from both universities will contribute to developing the next generation of leaders in Ethiopia and Africa.
Finally, some of the University of Gondar faculty coming to Queen’s will complete the occupational therapy program in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and then work with our faculty to develop and launch the first occupational therapy program in Ethiopia. Occupational therapists enable people of all ages and abilities to engage in the tasks and activities that are important and meaningful to them in the context of everyday life. This work involves building skills and abilities of individuals, families and communities; modifying environments to make them inclusive; and adapting the ways in which tasks and activities are performed to enable people to participate in them. Globally, occupational therapists play an important role in supporting access to education, classroom accessibility, inclusion, and human rights for people with disabilities. By developing an occupational therapy program at the University of Gondar, our partnership will create a new career path for transformational leaders in Ethiopia.
We are incredibly honoured and grateful for the opportunity to partner with the University of Gondar and The MasterCard Foundation. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us and we are confident that our collective efforts will be transformative for current and future students and faculty at both universities, and the many people who they will work with in the future. The International Centre for the Advancement of Community Based Rehabilitation, based here in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and led by Heather Aldersey, will be the hub of project activities here at Queen’s. If you have questions about the project, please do not hesitate to reach out to Dr. Aldersey.
To learn more about the project, please see the following stories in the Queen’s Gazette: