Examples of Inclusiveness in Business School – Special series on (Dis)ability

CSR and Intellectual Disability event at MDI, India

Over the past week we have focused in on the topic of Disability. Very few schools report in the Sharing Information on Progress about their programmes and opportunities relating to persons with disabilities. This isn’t to say that Signatories are not actively engaged in this topic. Below are some examples of from schools around the world.

Collaboration with Business

The University of St. Gallen’s Centre for Disability and Integration (Swizerland) is an interdisciplinary research centre that contributes to the inclusion of people with disabilities through innovative research, teaching and practice projects. One project included working on a 3 year cooperation with a Swiss social insurance company looking at factors that influence the job retention of employees with psychological disorders, a strongly growing group in Switzerland including a range of recommendations for employers and managers.

Specialised programmes

Starting from January 2018, students at KEDGE Business School (France) have the opportunity to take the Kapable Management Certificate, a course dedicated to disability management. Despite being a high-stake topic for businesses, disability management is currently not widely taught. This certificate combines theoretical and practical knowledge with a 30h remote training course (in English), the development of a benchmarking study on disability in business, and the production of a report to present facts and findings. The certificate is recognised by various institutions and partner corporations (Volkswagen Group France, BPI France, Cdiscount, Société Générale).

Cornell University’s Institute on Employment and Disability (USA) advance knowledge, policies and practices to enhance equal opportunities for all people with disabilities. In 2017, 320 students were enrolled in the Disability Studies programme that looks to raise awareness and interest about disability issues among Cornell students. There is also a new curriculum on Disability and Intersectionality launched in 2017 that focuses on understanding of how identities such as disability, race, ethnicity, gender among others multiply, overlap and connect. Cornell has also been working on a Global Comparative Disability Legislative Database in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation as well as launching disabilitystatistics.org, an interactive webpage tool where users can access a wide rage of disability statistics.

Engaging with Stakeholders

Auckland University of Technology Business School (New Zealand) as been working in partnership with Global Women, a not for profit champion for diversity in business and leadership that includes 50 New Zealand CEOs and Board Chairs from across the public and private sector. Their work on the Case for Change is based on research conducted by faculty at the university and sets out the social and economic benefits to be gained from ensuring a diverse and inclusive workshop including disability policies.

Awareness Raising

The Olayan School of Business at the American University of Beirut (Lebanon) has established its first Accessible Education Officer for disability services and learning supports, OSB faculty and staff proposed guidelines for accessibility and accommodation at the School needed due to disability, mental health conditions, or other health impairments. In order to ensure the success of this initiative, faculty, staff and graduate assistants will undergo a specific training on accessibility and accommodation.

Last year the Management Development Institute (India) organized a Sign Language Workshop for students in order to sensitize the budding managers to the ways in which they can communicate with differently able people when they start working in their respective organisations. The school has also worked with the Resource Center for the Visually Challenged event where students were involved in a number of experiential learning tasts in which participants were asked to work blind folded. This helped them understand the challenges faced in day to day life by the visually challenged person.

At Bentley University (USA), the University’s policy that no qualified student be excluded from participating in any university program or activity, be denied the benefits of any university program or activity, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination with regard to any university program or activity. The school organises a range of awareness raising activities including an annual Disability Awarness Day and a (dis)Ability Awareness Workshops, which are offered jointly with the Office for Disability Services. This workshop stimulates discussion of issues relating to both “visible” and “invisible” disabilities facing members of the Bentley community.

Providing support

The University of Technology Sydney (Australia) conducted a workshop and walking tour challenging participants to look for features within the local area that contribute to inclusive access while also searching for areas of improvements. This was in part undertaken because although inclusions for people with mobility, vision and hearing disabilities are well understood by the general public, others like those with, for example, autistic spectrum disorders are less so. Tactility and shaded quieter spaces are considerations that plan an important role.

The school also conducted research looking at promoting entrepreneurship opportunities and resources for people with a disability. Researchers there found that people with a disability have a rate of entrepreneurship 50 per cent higher than the Australian average yet we know so little about their story including the barriers they face, how to overcome these barriers as well as the social and economic contributions they make. The project partners with a range of organizations focused on disability including the National Disability Services.

Grenoble Ecole de Management (France) offers French Sign Language since 2009 and supports Sensihandicap, a group of student ambassadors who organize events related to issues faced by those with disabilities. They also provide a programme for employees who incurr disabilities during their working lives with professional reoriginetation and guidance to help them adjust as well as a Management & Disabilities Certificate to train managers to integrate employees with disabilities into the workplace.

IESE offers a scholarship in collaboration with Foundation ONCE Scholarship, a foundation that focuses on providing employment opportunities for professionals with disabilities. The scholarship aims to promote the integration and ongoing development of the disabled within the business community.

Resources on Inclusiveness and the SDGs – Special series on (Dis)ability

To raise awareness about the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, this week PRiMEtime is focused on the topic of inclusiveness. This post series of resources available on disability and sustainable development that explore the issues more broadly as well as specifically for the business sector. Note that all of these reports are available in multiple languages.

State of Affairs

At a Global level, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted in 2006, is the international human rights treaty of the United Nations (UN) intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. The UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development, launched this week for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, looks at the impact of the SDGs on disability. The World Report on Disability produced jointly by the World Health Organization and the World Bank provides global guidance on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities and gives and extensive picture of the situation of people with disabilities, their needs and unmet needs, and the barriers they face to participating fully in their societies. This includes information on data, health, rehabilitation, assistance and supporting, creating enabling environments, education and employment. The UN has a range of programmes focused on disability generally as well as specific disabilities including mainstreaming disability in development and monitoring and evaluating in particular in relation to the SDGs. There are many other global initiatives working with disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights including Handicap International and Disabled Peoples International and the International Disability and Development Consortium.

The Business Case

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Global Business and Disability Network is a unique employer-led initiative that works to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in workplaces around the world. They promote 10 principles including respect and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, developing policies and practices that promote people with disabilities against discrimination, promoting equal treatment and equal opportunity, increasing accessibility, job retention, confidentiality of personal information and consideration the needs of all types of disabilities. The Network has a range of resources for companies and students including webinars and work they have done in collaboration with other partners, for example with Accenture on The Disability Inclusion Advantage that shows that companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce have outperformed their peers. They also have a resource exploring the business case of inclusion of youth with disabilities.

Reporting

In 2015, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) which many companies, including Universities, use as a framework for sustainability reporting developed guidance in association with the European Network for CSR and Disability on how to include persons with disabilities into the GRI framework (available in English and Spanish) Its aim is to enhance organizational understanding of the value of transparency on disability, in terms of creating inclusive workplaces, as well as taking advantage of the business case of disability for the development of new products, services and physical environments. The ILO has also published a guidance on “The Disability and Corporate Social Responsibilities that compares reporting practices of 40 multinational enterprises.

Guidance

The United Nations Global Compact developed a Guide for Business on The Rights of Persons with Disabilities to help improve business’ understanding of the rights of people with disabilities, including how to respect, support and give them an opportunity to improve their competitiveness and sustainability in alignment with relevant UN conventions and frameworks. They have also produced a document which highlights company practices and operations in the areas of hiring, retention, products, services and corporate social responsibility in terms of persons with disabilities as well as a webinar discussing the inclusion of workers with disabilities.

The ILO offers a practical guide on promoting diversity and inclusion through workplace adjustments including step-by-step guidance and how and when these should be provided. The Ethical Trading Initiative has developed guidance in line with the work being done by the Global Compact and the ILO on disability in the global supply chain. There are many NGOs providing guidance as well. For example, Handicap International developed a white paper focused on promoting partnerships to employ people with disabilities with a six step guide for companies to ensure they’re ready to welcome more colleagues with disability.

An Overview of MOOCs offered by United Nations Agencies (Part 3 of 3)

Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. But Universities are not the only organisations offering these MOOCs. A growing number of UN agencies are developing MOOCs as a way of not only raising awareness about the issues that they focus on, but also training individuals around the world who are working on these sustainability issues and the SDG on the ground. Most of the courses are self-paced and available in multiple language. (Click here to read Part 1 which focused on UNWomen, World Bank and IMF or  Part 2 which focused on UNITAR, FAO, UNFMEA and UN.)

 

Most of the UN initiatives do not have their own online learning platforms and instead offer courses on various platforms and often in partnership with different organisations. This makes them a bit trickier to find so it is worth signing up for the newsletters of the initiatives you are most interested to get more up to date information.

For example, current courses offered by UNESCO include:

  • Inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean: This course, which is also available in Spanish, addresses the current regional landscape of inequalities, warns of its dramatic consequences, and offers transformative strategies that can be designed to improve social policies and public management.
  • Climate Justice Lessons from the Global South: This course will deal with some of the key issues related to the ethical dimensions implied by climate change – learning especially from the problems faced as well as the resilience models formulated by the marginalized sectors of society or the so-called “Global South”.

 

United Nations University currently has a course in partnership with The Nature Conservancy that aims to build awareness of the importance of Mangroves to healthy ecosystems and human communities. This multi part course is designed to build expertise in mangrove biology, ecology, assessment, management, and restoration and is predominantly aimed at young academics, professionals, managers, and any other interested individuals, especially from developing countries

 

Specific UN initiatives also offer a range of e courses to help partners in the implementation of their frameworks. For example the UN-REDD Programme (UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) provides a range of 12 courses in English, French and Spanish that cover the topic of forests, carbon sequestration and climate change.

 

The UN Environment Programme’s Environment Academy usually offers online courses. At the moment they are offering:

  • From Source to Sea to Sustainability:This course will offer a holistic conceptual and practical approach to the issue of land based sources of pollution and their impacts, covering the scientific basics of nutrient cycling and pollution impacts, methodologies and assessment tools, financial mechanisms to protect our waters, policy and governance issues, as well as technologies for turning waste into resources.

 

Last but not least, the UN Global Compact offers some courses in collaboration with other partners including:

  • Ethical Cities: A course developed in collaboration with RMIT University and Future Learn, it introduces the notion of the ethical city and examines it from the perspective of ethical leadership, urban development and planning, ethical local business and engaged, ethical citizenry.
  • Human Rights and Business: This learning tool provides an introduction and overview to human rights for a business audience, developed in collaboration with UN Human Rights.

An Overview of MOOCs offered by United Nations Agencies (Part 2 of 3)

Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. But Universities are not the only organisations offering these MOOCs. A growing number of UN agencies are developing MOOCs as a way of not only raising awareness about the issues that they focus on, but also training individuals around the world who are working on these sustainability issues and the SDG on the ground. Most of the courses are self-paced and available in multiple language. (Click here for Part 1 on UNWomen, World Bank and IMF – Part 3 will be posted next week).

UN CC: e-Learn offers free online climate change courses. Each course is developed in collaboration with different UN agencies depending on the specific topic. Courses are available in eight languages and are all self-paced and take approximately an hour to complete. Courses include:

  • Human Health and Climate Change: This course, in partnership with the World Health Organisation, provides an introduction to the health challenges, as well as the opportunities, that can by associated to climate change.
  • Cities and Climate Change: This course, developed in collaboration with UN-Habitat, focuses on climate change in urban areas, covering how cities are affected by climate change, how they contribute to it, as well as how they plan for it.It contains one module which takes around 2 hours to complete.
  • Introductory e-Course on Climate Change: This course, developed in collaboration with UNITAR, provides “everything you need to know” about the basics of climate change, from climate change science to governance.
  • Children and Climate Change: This course, developed in collaboration with UNICEF, presents how children and youth can be impacted by climate change, how their resilience to climate change can be strengthened, and how they can act on climate change.

 

AGORA is UNICEF’s global hub for learning and development. Courses are available in six language including Chinese, French, Arabic and Portuguese. You need to sign up in order to view the courses but there are dozens covering the whole range of focus areas that UNICEF covers including

  • Child Rights and Why They Matter: This short course will transform and/or refresh your understanding of child rights and a child rights approach, introduce you to UNICEF’s mandate as it relates to child rights, and inspire you to apply a child rights lens to your everyday work and life.
  • Performance Assessment at UNICEF: How should we assess individual performance? And when should we assess individual performance? In order to increase our impact as a results-based organization, we need to apply a consistent approach to individual performance assessment. This course aims to help you understand how and when to effectively assess individual performance at UNICEF.
  • Introduction to Ethics in Evidence Generation: In this course, you will explore the importance of Ethical Evidence Generation at UNICEF, the principles and requirements of the UNICEF Procedure for Ethical Standards in Research, Evaluations and Data Collection and Analysis and how this applies to the work that is undertaken across the organization.

UNICEF also provides MOOCs in collaboration with Universities and available on commonly used MOOC platforms. For example Social Norms, Social Change is a 2 part courses developed in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania that looks at social norms, the rules that glue societies together. It teaches how to diagnose social norms, and how to distinguish them from other social constructs, like customs or conventions. These distinctions are crucial for effective policy interventions aimed to create new, beneficial norms or eliminate harmful ones. The course teaches how to measure social norms and the expectations that support them, and how to decide whether they cause specific behaviours.

 

InforMEA.leaning is part of the United Nations information portal on multilateral environmental agreements. It has a range of courses on agreements relating to biological diversity, chemicals and waste, climate, international law, and oceans and freshwater. Courses include:

 

UNITAR offers a range of free courses including

  • Conflict Analysis: This one-day course looks at conflict including what it is, sources of conflict, complexities of conflict, evolution and the different actors involved.
  • Human Rights and the Environment: This 3 hour self-paced course provides a general introduction to the relationship between human rights and the environment including procedural and substantive obligations relating to the environment.
  • Mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: This course provides an in-depth and wide ranging guidance on how to mainstream the 2030 Agenda into national strategies and policies with case studies.

 

The FAO E-learning Centre has a range of courses including a demo class if you want to test out their format. The catalogue is extensive and includes courses on the SDGs that the FAO is focused on (in particular SDG 2 Zero Hunger) including:

An Overview of MOOCs offered by United Nations Agencies (part 1 of 3)

Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. But Universities are not the only organisations offering these MOOCs. A growing number of UN agencies are developing MOOCs as a way of not only raising awareness about the issues that they focus on, but also training individuals around the world who are working on these sustainability issues and the SDG on the ground. Most of the courses are self-paced and available in multiple languages. (Part 2 will be posted next week)

 

The UN Women Training Centre offers a range of courses in English, Spanish, French and Arabic, all free of charge. Courses are either self-paced, have fixed set dates and many of them can be customized for specific audiences. Many of the courses focus in on Sustainable Development Goal
5 on Gender Equality as well as Gender issues which are an important part across all of the SDGs. The self-paced courses take approximately 50 minutes to complete and current courses include:

  • Women’s Leadership and Decision Making: This course provides an introduction to the concepts, international framework, and methods for working toward gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also offers users the opportunity to make links between gender and specific thematic areas such as work; education; political participation; emergencies; peace and security; sexual and reproductive health; sexual and gender diversity and human rights; and violence against women.
  • Gender Equality in the World of Work: This course provides an introduction to the concepts, international framework, and methods for working toward gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also offers users the opportunity to make links between gender and specific thematic areas such as work; education; political participation; emergencies; peace and security; sexual and reproductive health; sexual and gender diversity and human rights; and violence against women.

 

The World Bank Open Learning Campus aims to provide learning that will build the leadership and technical capabilities of all development stakeholders-partners, practioners, policy makers, staff and the public. It offers a range of courses, also in several languages. You can choose from courses that are facilitated online or self paced. Courses include:

  • Introduction to the Global Environment Facility: This e-course provides an overview of the GEF, a unique international organization that is dedicated to safeguarding the global environment.
  • Introduction to the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework for External Audiences: This self paced courses provides an overview of the Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework which sets out the mandatory requirements for the World Bank and for Borrowers to address environmental and social risks and impacts in investment projects.
  • Fundamentals of Disaster Risk Finance: This course looks at how governments have to make difficult trade-offs in the aftermath of a disaster. Gain key insights into a range of innovative Disaster Risk Finance (DRF) projects across the globe.
  • Basics of Health Economics: Health economics play an important role in making health systems more effective, efficient, and equitable. This e-Learning course provides the foundations for participants to better understand health economics and its potential contribution to decision making in the health sector.
  • Greenhouse Gas Accounting 101: Accounting for GHG emissions allows the World Bank and its clients to estimate the impact of projects on GHG emissions early in the project cycle. This knowledge can help task teams and client countries mainstream climate change mitigation action in the project design, and thus is a key step in managing and reducing GHG emissions in a cost-effective manner.

 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) provides its courses on IMFx again free of charge and available in several languages. Its courses focus on financial stability, international trade and sustainable economic growth. Current offerings include:

  • Debt Sustainability Analysis: This course explores what tools can be used to assess debt sustainability and how countries can effectively manage their sovereign debt with a range of hands on exercises and theories.
  • Financial Programming and Policies: Available in English, French, Spanish and Russian, this course looks at the macroeconomic accounts, their interrelationship, and the analysis of economic development.

Empowering Female Entrepreneurs in Ukraine – Lviv Business School


Lviv Business School
of Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine, launched a programme aimed at providing skills to female entrepreneurs. Their aim is to  develop new, or further develop existing female-led businesses across the country. I spoke with Svitlana Kyrylchuk who works at the Business School about this programme and the impact it has already had in the country. 

 

Why did you decide to start a Women’s Leadership Programme?

Ukrainian women own 22-23% of small and medium-sized enterprises and only 2% of big ones. As involving of women is fundamental for democratic government, it is important that these numbers increase. This means empowering more women to be able to start and grow their businesses. We believe that we can have a significant impact in increasing these numbers through educational programmes and public discussions on the topic of women’s leadership here in the Ukraine.

What is the Women’s Leadership Programme?

Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS) and the Center for Leadership of UCU have developed an educational programme called «Women’s Leadership and Change Management». The programme is aimed at women-leaders from business, public and non-profitable sectors. This variety of students creates a special dynamics and synergy within one group and also establishes partnerships between different sectors.

The programme is based on the concept «Leadership based on character» that was developed by several researchers in Canada from Ivey Business School. According to this concept, leadership involves a character that is made up of 11 virtues and competencies. This can be divided into four categories: organizational, human, strategic, and business competencies, as well as commitment. The participants use this model to analyze their actions and behavior in order to develop their values and virtues.

The programme is practice-oriented and we focus on using case studies to teach the students. We believe that only through studying real examples can participations start to understand the role of a leader’s values to the utmost. The programme also includes several case studies from Ukrainian leadership research that has been undertaken by the Center for Leadership here which help students to understand the peculiarities of Ukrainian leadership and compare it to the leadership in other countries. For instance, according to this research, Ukrainian leaders mostly underestimate virtues such as accountability and humility, so in this programme much attention is focused on their study and analysis.

What do you hope to achieve through the programme? What have you achieved so far?

Throughout the programme we cover a range of topics including but not limited to character development, personal branding, networking and negotiating. The focus is on building the different competencies that are essential for a true leader. Since 2016 we have held 6 Women Leadership programmes that have involved 200 participants from across the country. In November last year the programme won the award of top 3 new management programmes at a Management executive and Professional Development conference in the US which we are very proud of.

What have been some of the challenges?

We didn’t have any difficulties with the program. The challenges are more focused on the difficulties for business women in Ukraine in general and what impact we can have on changing that. For example, recent research from the Center for Leadership of UCU looked at the differences of emotional intellect between men and women entrepreneurs. Preliminary results show that the differences in emotional intellect between men and women are minor. In particular, this is true when it comes to traits such as vocation, self-effectiveness and persistency. Despite this, Ukrainian women are seen as being less able to start and succeed in business than men. This is something we are hoping to change.

What have been some of the successes?

Among the program’s graduates there are successful women-entrepreneurs, administrators and leaders of social projects and non-governmental organizations. Some of our alumni include the founder of a social enterprise that recycles flowers from ceremonial events and uses the proceeds to finance charity projects called «Flowery Happiness». Another is the Chief Operating Officer of «Teple Misto», an innovative platform for creating opportunities and social transformations in Ivano-Frankivsk city. Other alumni have prominent roles at Transparency International, in national government and at the National Bank of Ukraine. One of the brightest, most active and determined participants of the program is Maryana Petrash, who is one of the co-founders of the initiative «Woman for Woman». This is a social project founded in 2017 to support and revive «The Walnut House» (Center of Integral Care for Women in Crisis). The project aims to raise money to restore the building in Lviv where the center for women has to be located and drawing more attention to its activities.

What’s next for the initiative?

As the program is in big demand, especially in Ukrainian context, we continue holding it twice a year.

What about female leadership in Lviv? What kinds of initiatives does your business school have and what is the state of women leadership within the School?

Sophia Opatska, the Founding Dean of Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University, is now UCU’s Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs. In the ten years since its founding, Lviv Business School, under the leadership of Sophia, has developed from a small start-up company to a truly successful institution with European values which is educating a responsible business community within Ukraine. Starting with only one program, the Key Executive MBA, in 2008, we have now developed to 4 master programs (Key Executive MBA, MSc in Technology Management, MA in Human Resources and Organization Development and MSc in Innovations) and up to 20 open-enrollment programs of Executive Innovation run every year in different cities of Ukraine. Much has been achieved so far and even more is to be done, but this time led by a new CEO, who is also a woman.

Empowering Refugees through training and funding – Monash University Malaysia (Part 1 of 2)

The School of Business at Monash University Malaysia has been actively engaged for several years now in programmes aimed at assisting and empowering Refugees through capacity building, funding and partnerships with multiple organisations. In this two part post, I spoke with Priya Sharma, Coordinator and PRME Ambassador at Monash University Malaysia to look first at the School’s programmes to educate refugees and in the second more about a fund to support refugee community-based organisations, both in collaboration with multiple partners including the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

Provide some background about the urban refugee population in Malaysia

Malaysia is home to one of the largest urban refugee populations. According to the latest UNHCR statistics, Malaysia hosts over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most of them (90%) are from Myanmar, and the others are from diverse countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Urban settings pose a host of real and difficult challenges for refugees, in particular refugee children. In Malaysia especially, refugee children and youth do not have access to institutionalized schools and thus obtain education via an informal parallel system of community-based learning centres.

What is CERTE and how it came about?

CERTE stands for Connecting and Equipping Refugees For Tertiary Education. It is a task force that aims to support young adult refugees in accessing tertiary education opportunities through knowledge and resource sharing, a bridge course, school readiness preparation, and mentorship. The task force is supported by Open Universities for Refugees (OUR) and UNHCR Malaysia and Teach for Refugees (T4R). It’s mission is to provide quality education to refugees globally and international universities in Malaysia. CERTE Malaysia was established during the OUR-UNHCR 3 C Forum-5/6 -August 2016- in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is led by Jessica Chapman, Managing Director of T4R and Dr. Robin Duncan from OUR. The 2nd session for 2018 will be held at Monash University Malaysia in October and is supported by the PRME team in the School of Business.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

The aim of CERTE is to identify refugees who can demonstrate the motivation and academic potential to access further education and to equip and empower them to gain a place at university or college. The course is run over 3 weeks, during weekdays so that the refugee students are exposed to university campus life. Through this course, students are equipped with the basic knowledge of the application process of higher education institutes; have a better understanding of areas of knowledge and different academic disciplines; develop basic research skills in writing and presentations. On the last day, a graduation ceremony is held and a certificate of completion is awarded to the students by Richard Towle, UNHCR’s country representative in Malaysia. This certificate not only endorses their participation but also serves as a unique stepping stone to future learning opportunities in Malaysia or elsewhere. In addition, students who successfully complete the course are given the opportunity to sign-up for a continued mentorship program that will provide continued support in their university application process.

Who are the students?

Fifteen refugee youth from different refugee communities across Kuala Lumpur are selected through an interview process. They are Rohingyas, Sudanese, Yemenis, Pakistanis, and Middle Easterns. They have completed their IGCSC or certain level of academic qualification from their home country but had to leave their country in a haste. Their education is abruptly halted and are unable to continue in Malaysia due to their status. Since this program, the students have taken part in other initiatives to improve their education, like online learning and education-focused projects initiated by T4R.

What have been some of the challenges? 

One of the major challenges is that the CERTE bridge course does not guarantee admission into universities. In addition, due to conditions by which the refugees leave their country, most often they do not possess the necessary documentation needed for access to education, informal or otherwise. One suggestion is to perhaps seek the assistance and collaboration of respective embassies to find ways to overcome this issue.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

We think this is an important initiative. Having other institutions take on similar initiatives will have a strong impact on the community. It takes education to another level by engaging with a vulnerable sector of the community and offering it to children and youth. This is crucial as refugee children and youth most often have their education disrupted. A lack of education can disempower those who need an opportunity the most and can lead to extreme poverty for generations. Education is often a lifesaving intervention that offers protection and preserves their futures. Although a temporary predicament, providing education through workshops and trainings like these instill a positive attitude, gives them hope and prepares them for future opportunities. It is therefore crucial to supply them with information that will allow them to explore the world and use the full capacity of their brains while maintaining their interest and enthusiasm.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are continuing with this initiative for the next batch of refugee students and youth. Meanwhile, this initiative has also sparked a conversation and discussion within the senior management of the University on access to education through various platforms and scholarships. A working committee has been established to discuss ways of achieving this and overcoming the challenges and obstacles faced.

%d bloggers like this: