March 3, 2011
“Deaf Zambians do not need to live with restricted dreams and depend on only odd jobs,” Frances Phiri writes in his story, “In Search of a Different Career Path: My Education in the United States.”
His words ring true in light of a recently released book “Higher Education in Africa: Equity, Access, Opportunity,” published by the Institute of International Education. This book dedicates two chapters to analysis of disability inclusion at African universities.
One of the most interesting chapters focuses on Egypt and Kenya. Digging up hard-to-find disability statistics, it shows students with disabilities represent less than 1% of college students in both countries.
Some of the specific findings include:
- Deaf students and sign language services are largely absent in both countries’ higher education institutions compared to students who are blind or those with physical disabilities.
- With few exceptions, university students with disabilities are regulated by admission policies to studying arts/humanities, law and other theoretically-based studies in Egypt, and Kenyan students with disabilities primarily choose the education field for best employment prospects.
This article, and the second chapter on universal distance learning in Nigeria, also looks at other factors affecting educational access and suggests issues to tackle, such as student retention. Solutions range from programmatic to attitudinal to structural to policy, and are part of larger challenges expressed in the publication and on recent blogs looking at the situation in Egypt.
Though these solutions take time, Frances’ story offers another option available now: Inclusive educational opportunities abroad. This is where our work comes in, as we share with disability communities and EducationUSA offices worldwide about opportunities to come to the United States. Like Frances suggests, these international experiences allow more people to experience and envision new and inclusive possibilities, and return home motivated to advocate for better options for post-secondary education and jobs for people with disabilities everywhere.