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Queen’s-Gondar project an opportunity to push programming further

As part of the unveiling of a new partnership between Queen’s University and the University of Gondar in Ethiopia – supported by a 10-year, USD$24-million grant from The MasterCard Foundation – the Queen’s Gazette and Queen’s Gazette Today are providing an inside look at both the University of Gondar and The MasterCard Foundation, as well as how the project was developed.

The following is a Q & A (edited for length) with the University of Gondar and the project leads at UoG, Ansha Nega, Assistant Professor of Public Health, and Yifokire Tefera, Assistant Professor of Public Health.

The University of Gondar, located in northern Ethiopia, was established in 1954, first as the Public Health Training Institute and was later known as the Gondar College of Medical Sciences. It is the oldest medical school in Ethiopia and is built around the philosophy of team approach and community based teaching of health professionals. (Photo courtesy of the University of Gondar)

University of Gondar is already well-established in the field of community based rehabilitation. Could you describe your program and how it works?

[Ansha Nega]
Ansha Nega, Assistant Professor of Public Health, is one of the project leads at the University of Gondar. (Photo courtesy of the University of Gondar)

University of Gondar’s Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program is the only community based rehabilitation program in Gondar, and was established in 2005 in partnership with Light for the World and Save the Children International. The CBR program was introduced after the Bachelor of Science degree in physiotherapy education launched in 2002. The overall aim of the CBR program at the UoG is to improve the quality of life for adults and children with disabilities with no appropriate care in North Gondar Administrative zone, Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia.

The CBR program, with its community field workers, delivers home-to-home disability rehabilitation services for children and youth. The program enables better medical and rehabilitation referral service, from remote rural set-up to the University of Gondar Hospital and other major public hospitals in Ethiopia. Moreover, the CBR program offers support to access assistive devices in order to maximize the role and participation in the community through disability mainstreaming and to access micro credit enterprises in 42 kebeles [wards or neighbourhoods], which are found in 11 districts of North Gondar Administrative zone.

UoG’s CBR program strives to promote inclusive education and contribute to the development of an inclusive education system in Amhara region by strengthening local schools and building the capacity of CBR workers. Some of the program’s strategies include encouraging school enrolment of children with disabilities, capacity-building for local school teachers, education material support, and accessibility improvement in the school environment. This will help to provide and promote the accessibility of equitable, quality, and sustainable inclusive education.

How will the support of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars program help the University of Gondar build on this existing strength and benefit the field in Ethiopia and East Africa?

[Yifokire Tefera]
Yifokire Tefera, Assistant Professor of Public Health, will also lead the project at the University of Gondar. (Photo courtesy of the University of Gondar)

The MasterCard Foundation-Queen’s partnership will be useful to build UoG’s institutional capacity to offer cross-cutting content and programs in disability and rehabilitation science for Ethiopia and neighbouring countries in East Africa. In addition to creating a new program, we will strengthen existing content to align with evidence-based practice, including multidisciplinary collaboration within the health and psycho-social sciences. There are different departments at UoG that currently offer various health- and rehabilitation-related qualifications; however, these departments often work in silos and this is not consistent with international best practice. There is a need to pursue integrated, multidisciplinary collaboration between departments to facilitate the delivery of holistic, multi-sector disability and rehabilitation services. Similarly, there has been a growing interest in strengthening research capacity and mentoring in UoG to increase the involvement of students in research activities, to create and manage research training programs and infrastructures.

UoG’s CBR program embarked on a vision to be a centre of excellence for evidence-based practical rehabilitation education and a service centre in East Africa. At the moment, the existing CBR program service is limited to the northwest part of Ethiopia and we would like to see greater integration of professionals across the health, education, social, and livelihoods sectors in our work. The prospect for higher education for persons with disabilities or other disadvantaged segments of the population is highly restricted, due to the fact that access to education and job opportunities is not yet well established. To realize this vision, work in partnership with various organizations, strategic objective-setting, developing higher-level educated rehabilitation scientists and workers, and developing the capacity of the current CBR program to a higher, world-class level, and expanding its geographic reach in the country, as well as in East Africa, is necessary.

This project aims to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth in East Africa – could you describe how this project will potentially impact the region?

The vision of this project is to make the University of Gondar a centre of excellence in the region for recruiting, accommodating, and supporting the success of youth with disabilities in tertiary education. These youth will play a pivotal role in economic growth and social transformation of the region.

More stories in the Gazette on the partnership
Project overview: The MasterCard Foundation $24M grant launches 10-year, int'l project
On The MasterCard Foundation: A mission to bolster the strength of Africa's young people
A Scholar's perspective: Scholar Munya Mahiya shares vision for inclusive universities

The MasterCard Foundation-Queen’s program will enable practical attachments for students during their study and will promote and provide opportunities for hands-on learning with multidisciplinary teams. The CBR program will support a give-back approach for Scholars, emphasizing the importance of volunteerism for high-impact change and role modelling for other youth with disabilities. Given the geopolitical setting of Ethiopia in the region (highly populous country, relatively stable and peaceful country, and home of the African Union, making it well-situated for inter-African collaboration), the project has an additional advantage of recruitment of international students and opportunity to influence regional change.

What made you decide to undertake this partnership with Queen’s University?

Recognizing the importance of building institutional capacity to improve educational quality and Scholars’ experiential learning experience, the University of Gondar decided to partner with Queen’s University. Queen’s experience and the level of development in community based rehabilitation service is substantial. Queen’s long years of immense practical learnings could be a fertile ground for universities like ours to learn from, especially in rehabilitation sciences. It is a very good opportunity that both universities have CBR programs; however, University of Gondar’s program has only been running for a decade and has room for further development.

What are you looking forward to in working with Queen’s during this 10-year project? And what kind of impact do you think the project will have on the University of Gondar and its international partnerships in the long term?

The partnership between Queen’s University and UoG will have an ultimate outcome of improved access to high-quality education and meaningful employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth in Ethiopia, particularly youth with disabilities. These outcomes will be achieved through an integrated set of activities during the project implementation period and commitment of the UoG to ensure the continuation of impacts and changes brought by the partnership.

We expect that Queen’s and UoG faculty and staff will collaborate on eight research projects. The knowledge gained through these exchanges and research projects will enrich course content, global understanding, and will advance Ethiopian and regional understanding of and priority for inclusive higher education. The increased knowledge from these interactions could impact national policy and programs, which could have great benefit for the estimated 17.6 million people with disabilities living in Ethiopia. Our vision for the dissemination of the research on inclusive education is that it will also have a transformative impact on educational approaches, university policy, and program implementation during the upcoming 10 years of the project and beyond. We also expect that newly trained Ethiopian OTs may help to develop programs or serve in neighbouring countries in the years following their training, causing a ripple effect for the development of the OT profession in East Africa. The impact of this project stands to be incredibly far-reaching.