While most go to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre to celebrate art, guests gathered there this Wednesday to celebrate the collaboration between Queen’s and the University of Gondar. Upon arriving, guests were met with the sound of bagpipes and the scent of fresh Ethiopian coffee.
In January, the University announced they had received a grant from the Mastercard Foundation’s Scholars Program valued at $24.2 million (USD) to partner with U of G to advance education and research opportunities for African students.
Over the course of their 10-year partnership, Queen’s will host 60 U of G faculty members on campus. The goal of the collaboration is to enhance their teaching and research skills, while also developing Ethiopia’s very first undergraduate occupational therapy program.
In her address to the crowd, Kim Kerr, Deputy Director of Education and Learning for Mastercard Foundation, said that Queen’s and U of G are now two of 28 university and NGO partners who are working diligently to transform higher education in Africa.
The partnership will support 450 African students’ education, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, and will specifically focus on inclusive education for young people with disabilities.
“There are over 80 million people across Africa that are living with disabilities, and these young men and women deserve an inclusive education that’s designed to meet their needs,” Kerr told the crowd on Wednesday.
“[This partnership] will help to address some of the many barriers at the community level that prevent young people from accessing quality education and realizing their full potential,” she continued.
In an address to the room, Principal Daniel Woolf explained this partnership isn’t only for academics, but also signals the “beginning of an exchange of cultures and knowledge that will benefit all of us.”
Woolf and Asrat Atsedewoyin, Vice-President (Academic) at U of G, exchanged university flags to commemorate the partnership.
As a gesture of friendship and respect, U of G also orchestrated a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony in the Agnes, which all guests were invited to participate in.
“Thank you for investing in the University of Gondar and in the future of all young people with disabilities in Ethiopia and all of Africa,” Atsedewoyin said in his address.
According to Kerr, this partnership signifies one of the first times that the Scholars Program has joined an African university with a non-African university.
The crowd also had the chance to hear from Molalign Adugna and Mulugeta Chala, the first two PhD students from U of G to arrive at Queen’s.
“Since my arrival at Queen’s, I have been gaining lots of knowledge and skills and experience… and I have been sharing these experiences with colleagues in Gondar,” Adugna said. “This has opened so many doors in my life to succeed and be able to support others.”
Although being one of the first students to arrive at Queen’s “comes with a lot of responsibility,” Chala said he’s been happy to see how welcoming the community has been.
Chala told the story of a librarian who insisted she email him about his research regarding rehabilitation medicine after they spoke because she was so interested in helping him.
“We Ethiopians say when spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion,” Adugna said. “This is to show the beauty of working together.”
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