UNAM Centre for Disability Services ramps out new plan for inclusivity
University of Namibia( Unam) Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Lazarus Hangula said that the University has since taken a drive towards inclusive education to a higher level by making sure that disability study programmes are done at both first degree and post graduate level.
He echoed this during the opening and welcoming address at the Disability Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting held this week.
“It is important so that these courses are done in order to understand the dynamics involved and the research methods applying to such courses,” Hangula said, adding that the milestone towards an inclusive education system is a stride in the right direction and commends the University for such open mindedness in ensuring that all components of the Namibian House are active towards the national vision.
According to the latest National Population and Housing Census, persons with disabilities have increased from 42932 to the latest figure of 98413 with more females than males with disabilities and a urban migration of disabled person the highest to the Khomas region and Erongo at 45% and 33% respectively.
“Our history of including persons with disabilities dates back to 2003 when two students with severe sensory impairments, one blind and the other deaf, arrived for registration and without the facilities to accommodate their ability the University decided to take them in none the less,” Hangula said.
It is these two pioneers of inclusion that prompted the Faculty of Education to appoint mentors to the two students who guided the students through their studies; read books to tapes; and served as mediators between these students and their lecturers.
“The Unam Disability Unit has then been formed to upscale our services as more and more students with severe impairments and disabilities started to join the University,” Hangula added.
Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Alexia Manobe-Ncube said in the past, a disability was seen as a vulnerability rendering those affected by it “dependent for life” and thus plagued with stigma and discrimination.
Manobe-Ncube said that the vision of government through an Integrated National Disability Policy dedicates itself to strive for the creation of a “Society for All”, based on the principles of the Standards Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
Manobe-Ncube has been pivotal in appointing a Steering Committee to critically review the support and functions of the UNAM Disability Unit.
The Steering Committee recommended that the UNAM Disability Unit be moved from being housed by the Faculty of Education to the Office of the Dean of Students in order to give it the university-wide prominence it deserves.
This is where the Disability Unit is situated today. However, Manobe-Ncube said that with only two full-time staff members and a lot of volunteers, both student-assistants and staff members and a growing number of students with disabilities across 12 campuses, “we are realizing the need to re-strategize and this we cannot and do not want to do alone.”