The Partnerships for Innovative Research in Africa (PIRA) project between the University of Botswana (UB) and Michigan State University (MSU) under the auspices of the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP), provides a framework through which people with disabilities are able to gain full employment.
Dean of the Faculty of Education, Professor Lily Mafela, said the purpose of the UB-MSU PIRA-AAP project was to strengthen and create a long-lasting partnership with the aim of enhancing full participation of this vulnerable group. She decried the status of people with disabilities in that they did not enjoy equal access to services in society.
Professor Mafela was speaking at a stakeholder capacity building workshop the Department of Educational Foundation Special Education Section in the Faculty of Education hosted recently with the aim of equipping stakeholders with data collection skills.
Thus, the workshop was organised in preparation for the PIRA research campaign under the AAP grant. MSU selected UB on basis of its research framework in collaboration with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana. The research programme intends to highlight the shortcomings in the transition of individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Botswana and Ghana from school to the labour market or professional space.
Professor Lily Mafela highlighted the challenges individuals with disabilities faced in that they were the world’s most marginalized population. She said such individuals often experienced challenges participating in all spheres of society particularly in education, employment, health care, transportation and sports, among others. She implored workshop participants to continue working together to raise awareness and minimize barriers to inclusion for persons with disabilities especially in the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals that espoused a principle of “Nothing for Us without Us”.
Giving an overview of the project, Principal Investigator, Dr Boitumelo Mangope, lamented that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) faced limited access to employment after graduation from special education units in primary schools.
Therefore, in order to address this shortcoming, Dr Mangope underscored the need to first understand factors affecting the school-work transition processes for students with IDD in Botswana and Ghana. She said it was critical to evaluate current transition practices with the aim of adapting and developing a contextually and culturally relevant framework to enhance transition of students with IDDD into the world of work.
Consequently, Dr Mangope stated that the stakeholder capacity building workshop was aimed at ensuring that the envisioned framework was a collective effort to instill ownership. Chief Industrial Officer in the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Mrs Keblogile Mokopi, observed that the labour system was all inclusive. She said over the years, the department discovered that individuals with disabilities were not treated equally within the labour force as employers took advantage of them.
Mrs Mokopi highlighted that in response they engaged the Office of the President, Directorate of Public Services Management, Local Government and organisations that were involved in aiding persons with development disabilities, to thoroughly design interventions that would protect such individuals from exploitation. She further said such an initiative would help advocate certain disability policies in parliament.
Principal Education Officer in the Department of Special Support Services in the Ministry of Basic Education, Mrs Snowy Nametsegang, spoke about the placement system for learners with disabilities. Mrs Nametsegang explained that the system was guided by the Inclusive Education Policy of 2011 that stipulated that all children had the right to relevant and quality education.
She decried the difficulty in identifying children living with disabilities. However, the ministry has facilities such as the one in Maun that caters for learners with severe and multiple disabilities.