The University of Gondar, Queen’s University and Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program: A partnership for disability-inclusive higher education in Ethiopia

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Heather M Aldersey
Mikyas Abera
Anushka Mzinganjira
Solomon Abebe
Solomon Demissie


This article describes the development and implementation process of an innovative 10-year partnership that draws on the strengths of existing community-based rehabilitation programs to support new education and leadership development activities in Ethiopia. Current global estimates indicate that over 17 million people may be affected by disability in Ethiopia. The national population projection for 2017 indicates that approximately 80 per cent of the population resides in underserved rural areas, with limited to no access to necessary health, rehabilitation, or social services. The University of Gondar (UoG) in Ethiopia has been serving people with disabilities in and around the North Gondar Zone since its inception in the mid-1950s. Over the years, its various units have designed and implemented numerous projects, employing alternative institutional and community-based models to promote the wellbeing of people with disabilities. Lessons drawn from these initiatives and shifts in health and social work practice informed UoG’s decision to establish its Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program in 2005.

Given a shared commitment to the principles and practice of CBR, the UoG is presently collaborating with the International Centre for the Advancement of Community Based Rehabilitation (ICACBR) at Queen’s University in Canada to create new disability-related education and mentorship opportunities. These include community-based research and internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate scholars through a shared Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. The two institutions, in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, have an overall goal of creating a disability-inclusive campus and regional rehabilitation hub at UoG.

In this article, the authors discuss the unique collaborative structure of project management and implementation, and the embeddedness of university-community engagement to meet project objectives informed by the North–South/South–North partnership models. They also provide critical insights to, and reflections on, the challenges inherent in international, interdisciplinary university-community collaboration and the benefits from enhancing higher education in both Ethiopia and Canada. In contrast to shorter term or smaller projects that rely heavily on individual champions, this article focuses on larger scale, process-oriented institutional learning.

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Research articles (Refereed)