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HIGHER EDUCATION PROJECT UPDATE 2016 – 2017
The 2016-17 project year marks the 10 anniversary of a partnership between ICEVI and The Nippon Foundation that has changed the face of higher education for blind individuals in Southeast Asia and beyond. What began as a small pilot program in two large cities in Indonesia to determine the feasibility of creating a more inclusive and open system of higher education for blind students has grown into a dynamic regional initiative that has now reached 2,256 blind students in 218 universities in the region. Based on the positive outcomes of the evaluation of the pilot program in Indonesia, the project was expanded other cities and provinces in Indonesia and to the Philippines and Vietnam in 2008, Cambodia in 2010, Myanmar in 2013, Laos in 2014 and Mongolia in 2017.
The broad objectives of the project are to make higher education more inclusive by assisting blind students to: - more effectively use new technologies, - developing more welcoming university environments, - promoting more inclusive university and public policies and - assuring that blind university graduates are better prepared for open market employment commensurate with this interests and educational background. Over the past decade this regional higher education network has resulted in significant increases in access to university education ranging from 400% to 1100% in the participating countries. Additionally, initiatives are underway in most countries that are resulting in inclusive university and government policies that are having a positive impact on all students with disabilities.
During the project year 2016 – 2017, a total of 114 new students have been enrolled in higher education institutions in implementing countries. To date 2,256 students have benefited from the higher education project since its inception and that number is growing steadily. The following table provides data on new and cumulative numbers of students enrolled in the higher education institutions.
2006 - 2007
2006 - 2011
2006 – 2014
2006 – 2015
2006 - 2016
2006 - 2017
During the academic year 2016 – 2017, a total of 75 students have been supported to find employment in Cambodia, Vietnam and Philippines. Students found employment in various categories such as in the teaching profession (both in schools and colleges), telecommunications, sales representatives, insurance companies, online customer care services, online sales and software programming and following are some of the highlights.
In Cambodia 36 students have been placed in jobs by Krousar Thmey Academic Career and Counselling team.
In Vietnam 27 students have been supported by Sao Mai Centre to find employment. However, five of them dropped at the end of the probation period due to personal reasons.
In Philippines 12 students have been supported by the Resources for the Blind, Inc. to find employment. Seven of the twelve students are employed as teachers and one as a university professor.
ZERO PROJECT AWARD 2017:
The Higher Education Project was selected by the Zero Project Austria as one of the innovative solutions concerning Employment, Work and Vocational Education and Training in the area of disability. As per the Zero Project, out of the 260 nominations, 68 Innovative Practices and Policies were selected as the most outstanding and the ICEVI-TNF project was one among them. A presentation on the higher education project was made at the Zero Project Conference 2017 held on 22-24 February 2017 at the United Nations Vienna International Centre. ICEVI owes this award to The Nippon Foundation, which has made a tremendous impact on more than 2,000 visually impaired higher education students who had the opportunity to pursue higher education through the efforts or our partner organizations. ICEVI places on record its sincere thanks for the contributions made by the projects country coordinators in Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar and Lao PDR who have given so selflessly to make this project such a success.
MR. SASAKAWA AT THE ORLANDO GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
ICEVI was deeply honoured to have Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation deliver the keynote address at the Joint General Assemblies of ICEVI and the World Blind Union (WBU) held at Orlando, Florida in August 2016. Mr. Sasakawa explained that The Nippon Foundation has been active for over fifty years, not only in Japan, but throughout the developing world. He further stated:
“Our vision is to achieve an inclusive society where everyone embraces diversity and able to play an active role. In order to realize this vision, we carry out a number of different projects. In developing countries, many children and youth are not able to receive an appropriate education for a number of different reasons. Disability is one of these reasons. Our goal has been to provide such young people with access to education. The Nippon Foundation’s educational support for blind and partially sighted people began in the 1980s when we established a fund at the Overbrook School for the Blind in the United States. It was through this fund that we started working with Dr. Larry Campbell, who is a strong advocate for the importance of higher education and training for blind people. This was the beginning of our ‘Higher Education project’ with ICEVI in the late 1990s. This joint project has been providing access to higher education for blind and partially sighted people in six countries in the ASEAN region. It has enabled more than 2,000 students to study at institutions of higher education.”
The presence of Mr. Sasakawa in Orlando added impetus to the higher education program and his interaction with the higher education coordinators and ICEVI officials was considered a highlight of the conference. ICEVI looks forward to continued collaboration with The Nippon Foundation in achieving our mutually shared goal of educating and empowering individuals who are blind and creating inclusive communities.
VOICE OF THE STUDENTS:
The students of higher education are happy that they had the opportunity to improve their learning opportunities through the ICEVI- Nippon Foundation higher education project and are becoming advocates for promoting educational opportunities for children with visual impairment. Some of the statements made by the students in various programmes are summarized below:
MARICOR D. BOOK (Philippines):
Maricor D. Book, graduated with honors (CUM LAUDE), Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education majoring in Physical Education from the Philippine Normal University, Manila, Philippines. She said:
“Many people during this modern time believe that technology gadgets are already part of our lives. It has now become a necessity to us and it can make many things which were once impossible, possible. It enables us to prove our skills and abilities and we can be productive members of the society who are capable of giving our very best. We can now effectively contribute and advocate as successful citizens of the nation. It's such a blessing for me to be a part of one of the programs of RBI in partnership with ICEVI. RBI gave me the opportunity to use the Victor Reader Stream. It served as my review buddy during examinations, it helped me to read the books I needed and it made my note taking easier. Most of all, it helped me to reach my dream to specialize in Physical Education and become the first visually impaired graduate with honors (cum laude)”.
CHHEM HARCH (Cambodia):
Chhem Harch was born sighted but became blind due to measles. In 2002, Krousar Thmey’s advocacy team visited his house and told about Krousar Thmey’s program for education for deaf and blind children. This moment was a turning point in Harch’s life and gave him back hope. With the support of his mother and his teachers Harch studied hard at school and passed his high school diploma in 2014. Harch has now become more confident and independent. He can communicate in English. He is also able to use computers and internet. Harch is currently in third year of his Bachelor Degree in English Literature at Chea Sim Kamchay Mea University. Though he faces some obstacles with regard to resources and materials available for his study, he always keeps himself busy reading books, listening to English conversations on the internet. Harch has many friends at the university who are helping and supporting him. Besides studying, Harch is working part time at Kampuchea Action of Primary Education (KAPE) as an English teacher. After graduation, he wishes to work as an interpreter or a teacher. He wishes to apply for Masters' Degree in English in Australia with the guidance of ACC.
ADE GUMELAR (Indonesia):
Ade Gumelar is studying Education of Islam in Indonesia University of Education in Bandung. His dream is to become a lecturer in the university where he is studying. He wishes to undergo his Masters and Doctoral in Al Azhar University, Egypt. Ade finished his early years of his elementary school in special school for the blind in Jakarta. During the pre-employment training, Ade was very active; represented his group to present the result of the group work, he was very assertive during the debate session. Ade was selected as best trainee during the pre-employment training. He initiated the University Blind Student Community in Bandung. This activity has sharpened his sense of leadership.
“When I read the announcement about the training, I did not really understand what the training would be, but I believed this must be good for me. I was very grateful that I had been selected as one of the training participants. I knew and realized that this opportunity don’t come to everybody. After finishing the training my spirit and motivation was in the highest level. I was inspired by our trainers whom two of them were people with visual impairment. Now I have stronger willingness to become lecturer at the Indonesia University of Education”.
Brief profiles of Partner Institutions
Krousar Thmey, Cambodia
Created in the refugee camps at the border with Thailand in 1991, Krousar Thmey (“New Family” in Khmer) is the first Cambodian foundation supporting underprivileged children. It is a non-political and non-religious organisation. Since its creation, Krousar Thmey, aims at enable the integration of underprivileged and disabled children through education and appropriate support in accordance with their traditions and beliefs.
Pertuni (Indonesian Blind Association), Indonesia
Pertuni is a national blind member based organization in Indonesia and it has its chapters in 33 provinces and branches in 210 cities/districts throughout Indonesia. The Pertuni plays an important role in lobbying for the rights of persons with visual impairment. For the period of 2015-2019, Pertuni elected Mrs. Aria Indrawati, as its first female president.
Myanmar National Association of the Blind (MNAB), Myanmar
The Myanmar National Association of the Blind (MNAB) was formed in 1996 by over 100 visually impaired persons. In 2013, it became a legislative organization with the recognition by the Government. International bodies including ICEVI, Overbrook School for the Blind, The Nippon Foundation and the Danish Association of the Blind are supporting various activities of the MNAB.
Resources for the Blind, Inc., Philippines
RBI was started in the Philippines in 1988 with a goal to develop and implement programs that will remove the hindrances, and to provide services, training, materials, and equipment needed in order for those who have visual impairment to reach their fullest potential in life. The main office is in Cubao, Quezon City, with two regional offices in Cebu City and Davao City, which serve the central and southern Philippines, respectively.
Sao Mai Vocational & Assistive Technology Center for the Blind, Vietnam
Sao Mai Vocational & Assistive Technology Centre for the Blind was established in 2001 with the main goal of promoting the usage of assistive technology in education and employment of persons with visual impairment. The Centre has also offered consultancy to other organisations in assistive technology.
National University of Laos (NUOL), Lao PDR
Founded in 1996, the National University of Laos is located in Vientiane. The University has many Faculties specialising in humanities, science, management, etc., the higher education program for persons with visual impairment comes under the Faculty of Letters. The program also collaborates with the Laos Association of the Blind (LAB) which focuses on advocacy, education, networking, etc., to empower persons with visual impairment.
Higher Education Programme – New Project Cycle (2015 - 2018)
IMPROVING POLICY AND EXPANDING ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION FOR PERSONS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT IN THE EAST ASIA REGION.
Based upon needs identified in a research study conducted in its East and West Asia regions, the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI), with support from The Nippon Foundation (TNF) undertook a pilot project to improve and expand access of higher education for blind students enrolled in universities in Jakarta and Bandung in 2007. The evaluation conducted near the end of year one was so gratifying that TNF encouraged ICEVI to expand this initiative to other areas of Indonesia and to the Philippines and Vietnam in 2008, Cambodia in 2010 and Myanmar in 2013. Over the past six (6) years a solid base has been established that has addressed such identified needs as: providing training and assistive technology that allows the blind students access to course materials in a much more timely manner; increasing production of course materials in accessible formats and peer counseling and special short courses to prepare blind students for their entry into the university.
This work has resulted in dramatic increases in access to university education by qualified blind students ranging from a low of 154% in Indonesia to a high of nearly 600% in the Philippines as well as an expansion in the number of universities that are enrolling qualified blind persons.
While these results are gratifying, all involved with this initiative are acutely aware of the many remaining challenges that need and will be addressed by the next phase of this project between 2015 and 2018. Specifically these are:
1) Expansion to underserved geographic regions in the existing four countries and to one or two additional countries in the region;
2) Expanding access to allow blind students to study in any academic area for which they are qualified; with special attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics);
3) Developing linkages that result in a more effective transition of blind students from higher education to gainful employment.
4) Achieving sustainable change by impacting public attitudes and public policies concerning higher education for all persons with disabilities.
Concise description of the expected outcome of the project, including specific numbers, where possible:
1) The project will open opportunities for an estimated 820 additional visually impaired students to pursue higher education during the period 2015-2018.
2) Over the three year period the project will create an estimated ninety (90) additional inclusive universities accepting visually impaired students for the first time.
3) The project will organize awareness creation activities aimed at changing the attitudes of a wide range of groups within: 3.1 universities, 3.2 local and national governments and 3.3 the public-at-large, reaching more than 100,000 persons over the 3 year project period.
4) The project will demonstrate that the existing environments of the higher education institutions can and will have been made more disability friendly.
5) The project will prepare a cadre of trainers in each of the countries skilled in developing linkages between higher education and gainful employment.
6) The project will result in positive changes in the policy formulation within higher education institutions resulting in increased access to all disabled students.
7) The project will develop and disseminate specialized training materials to share best practice in the inclusion of disabled students in higher education that will be of use both within and beyond the countries participating in this network.
Explains the project outline; its contents, location, schedule of activities, targeted beneficiaries, and how the project will be conducted.
To build upon achievements to date, the project would continue improving and expanding access for qualified visually impaired students to all areas of education through:
1) Equal access to all learning materials and all areas of academic pursuit,
2) Enhanced awareness on the needs and capabilities of visually impaired students,
3) Improved university and other public policies concerning equal access as defined in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD),
4) Increased access to appropriate employment through the establishment of effective linkages between visually impaired students enrolled in higher education and
5) Internship opportunities and special programs for placement centers and employers.
The project will be implemented in Cambodia – Phnom Penh, Battam Bang Indonesia – Jakarta, Bandung, Solo, Makassar, Jog Jakarta, Semarang, Padang, Payakumbuh and Medan The Philippines – Manila, Cadiz, Davao and Pangasinan Vietnam – Hanoi, Ho Chi Min City, and Danang Myanmar – Yangon and Mandalay Laos – Vientiane
Schedule of activities:
In each country there is a local “lead organization” as mentioned in the section above. This organization, in consultation with blind and visually impaired students, universities and governments determines specific national priorities. While these priorities vary from country-to-country, all will focus on improving and expanding access to higher education. The ICEVI Higher Education Network then provides specific opportunities for exchanges between the countries so that they can learn from and support each other. During the grant period covered by this application, each country will organize orientation programs for the staff of higher education institutions where the program is to be implemented and increase the number of inclusive universities accepting and supporting students with visual impairments.
While the existing student support centers established during the first phase of the project will be put to optimum use, the nature of new student support services is likely to be different as more affordable and portable technologies are allowing for greater levels of inclusion by visually impaired students use access tools in the same places as their sighted counterparts do.
An estimated 820 visually impaired beneficiaries will be reached by the project over a three year period. This will include 150 blind students and 7,500 non-disabled students, university staff members and policy makers in Indonesia, 305 students and over 2,000 faculty members and university administrators in the Philippines, 330 students and over 1,000 faculty members and administrators in Vietnam, 20 students and over 200 university faculty in Myanmar and approximately 15 students and over 200 university faculty and administrators in Cambodia. We are unable at this time to project the number of beneficiaries in Laos until a situation analysis is completed during the first year of the project period.
How the project will be conducted?
Over the past few years this project has established a record upon which we will build. During the upcoming year we will rely on partner universities already committed to inclusion to expand the network. A major strategy in all countries will be to utilize those universities that have become more inclusive to mentor other universities that have not yet accepted student with disabilities. This strategy will be employed in our efforts to significantly expand the number of inclusive universities, particularly in underserved regions of each country.
Having reached more than 1,000 visually impaired students during the initial phase of this project, at least two of the countries (Indonesia and Vietnam) plan during the upcoming year to create formal organizations of blind students. [NOTE: The Philippines has already created such an organization using social marketing tools.] These student organizations will be trained to speak-up for their own needs and rights and to, among other things, expand the number of academic areas where visually impaired students are allowed to study.
The Philippines will pay particular attention to expanding curriculum access to the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas of the university offerings. In this effort we hope to involve a well known, retired university professor from Japan in developing materials, in collaboration with Filipino colleagues, to support this area of the project work. The lessons learned in the Philippines can then be shared with the other countries within the network and beyond.
Finally, it was noted at our last regional advisory meeting that all countries share a common concern regarding the challenges that blind university graduates face in seeking gainful employment that is commensurate with their education. We plan during the coming phase to develop in each country a cadre of trainers capable of helping visually impaired students to better prepare themselves for employment by 1) promoting internships and work experience programs while they are still at the university, 2) working with university placement offices where they exist, 3) providing “soft-skills training” as preparation for the process of seeking employment and 4) by networking with other initiatives that support transition from university to employment such as the Inclusive Business initiative being developed at the APCD Foundation and the possible initiative The Nippon Foundation is discussing with the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
The project is currently developing a series of public education and specialized videos that are suitable for use in each country and from which raw footage can be developed into a tool that can share lessons learned and be disseminated well beyond the countries directly benefitting from this initiative. In each country special events will be organized to assure that the work of the project is communicated to the general public via newspapers, magazine, radio and TV. Vietnam alone has set a target of 200 newspapers, magazines, TV and radio broadcasts over the next three years to share information and expand understanding of the capabilities and talents of blind individuals. The results of the project will also be shared in national, regional, and international events organized by ICEVI and other regional and global organizations. At the end of the project period, a comprehensive report highlighting accomplishments and lessons learned will be prepared and disseminated to higher education institutions in the participating countries and to organizations with a view to affecting institutional changes in higher education policy related to students with disabilities.