Higher Education Programme – Update

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Higher Education Programme – Update

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.

Country 2006 – 2007 2006 – 2011 2006 – 2014 2006 – 2015 2006 – 2016 2006 – 2017
Indonesia 250 385 480 609 631 637
Vietnam 28 354 470 563 630 689
Philippines 32 460 489 671 710 726
Cambodia 4 14 22 52 83 91
Myanmar 0 0 29 54 63 88
Laos 0 0 7 16 19 25
Students Enrolled 314 1213 1497 1965 2142


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.


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.


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.


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”.