My experience at the 6th GCE World Assembly: a turning point for inclusivity

I will not forget that one Thursday afternoon, when I received a text message from the directress of my previous employer, RSDA, Ms. Kelemwa Haile, alerting me to an urgent application inviting young leaders, including those with disabilities, to attend an international conference focused on youth and education related issues. Being a passionate educator, I immediately filled out and sent the application forms. After weeks of anxiously waiting, I received the good news that I had the immense privilege to attend the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) Youth Caucus in Kathmandu, Nepal. In the days that followed I met representative from Light for the World, Nafisa Baboo, to further discuss my experience in Inclusive Education and education for the Deaf in general. At the end of our inspiring conversation, I was all set to travel for my first ever international conference with my sign language interpreter, Dr. Eyasu Hailu.

Meeting other youth delegates

On the first day of the Youth Caucus, I was elated to realise that I was one of the 39 youth representatives attending the conference. In fact, there were representatives from over 100 countries from all over the world attending the GCE World Assembly. The Youth Caucus opening is certainly one to remember as we were welcomed by a group of school going children who performed a traditional dance for us and truly welcomed us to this culturally and spiritually fascinating country.

 

To maximize my time in Nepal I networked with delegates from other countries and most importantly made acquaintance with fellow Deaf delegate, Mr. Ismart, along with his sign language interpreter, Ms. Debashu. I was happy to talk with another deaf person from different country. While we had a bumpy start to our first encounter, as my sign language was unintelligible. But, through our interpreters, we reached a common place of understanding each other. In the days that followed, we understood each other in our own sign languages and learned lot about each other’s countries cultures and experiences.

I used the opportunity to ask many questions to people who lead the meetings as many of the issues were an eye opener to me. One of my questions was how students with disabilities benefit from inclusive education. The answer was simple: the United Nation has a policy that requires every country adopt “Education for All”, which aimed to meet education needs of all people.

I also learnt from a youth leader from Africa who was sharing insights from his continent, that the African Union supports education for people with disabilities to learn in an inclusive and equal manner, ensuring that no one is left behind. My key takeaway from this is that Education, Right and Freedom are interlinked. The three important words seem familiar but from the explanation, I was motivated to give value to Education; Struggle for the Right and Seek Freedom. Through Inclusion, I can see the key to success and a way to for the world to advance. For me, these three terms serve as a springboard for my struggle towards the fulfillment of quality education for people with disabilities.

I attended a group discussion on Equity, Gender and Inclusive Education a group discussion facilitated by Nafisa and at the end I, along with a delegate from Vietnam was nominated to present the outcomes of the group discussion to the larger audience. This engagement helped me to voice the issue of disabilities and the importance of inclusive education to the larger audience. I pointed out that there is a strong need for free, quality education without any discrimination to people with disabilities in Africa.

In Conclusion

Attending this prestigious conference was a learning and experience. I am encouraged by the momentum to bring positive change to the lives of people with disabilities through inclusive education. Practical implementation of inclusive education must be reinforced so as to alleviate the various social, economic and educational challenges in this world today.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks go to Light for the World, Ms. Nafisa Baboo, Mr. Tsegaye Hordofa for supporting and sponsoring my attendance at the conference. I am thankful to Ms. Kelemwa Haile, Directress of RSDA for encouraging me to apply to attend this conference. I am also very much thankful to my Ethiopian Sign Language Interpreter, Dr. Eyasu Hailu, who has been with me patiently all those days. Also, my thanks go to Anna Martin for her encouragements. My thanks go to the local and international GCE organizers for ensuring inclusive education is discussed at highest level.

From Left to Right – Ismart, Dr. Eyasu Hailu (Ethiopian Sign Language Interpreter, Mrs. Nafisa Baboo (Light for the World), Mr. Kumar (CBM India), Mr. Solomon Shiferaw (Ethiopian Deaf delegate), Ms. Debashu (Indian Sign Language Interpreter)

 

About Solomon Shiferaw

Solomon Shiferaw, 24, from Ethiopia. He teaches Civic and Ethical Education to Deaf high school students at Tikur Anbessa High School in Addis Ababa. Previously he worked for a local NGO Rehabilitation Services for the Deaf Association (RSDA), based in Addis Ababa, as a teacher of the Deaf in an elementary school. He completed his BA degree in Civic and Ethical Education in 2017. Right after the completion of his degree, he got a chance to teach in a high school which is run by the government. During these short but important transitional processes, he has learned about the educational needs of Deaf children, advocating for the quality educational rights of deaf children.



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