Professor Derrick Armstrong, Acting Vice-Chancellor and President with officials from Kiribati MOE and USP staff.
A group of senior officials from the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Kiribati visited The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus on 24 May 2017.
The sole purpose of their visit was to learn about the disability inclusive education processes in Fiji, including tertiary transition pathways and support for students with disabilities.
In welcoming the team, Professor Derrick Armstrong, Acting Vice-Chancellor and President said the University is committed to providing opportunities for all sections of the community.
USP, Professor Armstrong added, is keen to improving facilities for students with disabilities by placing more emphasis on providing an inclusive learning and teaching environment across all regional campuses.
“We are also committed to working with member Governments on how we can provide such opportunities,” Professor Armstrong said.
Dr Joanne Webber, who led the delegation from Kiribati MOE was grateful for the opportunity to learn about inclusive education at USP adding that it was an exciting moment for them to learn from their Pacific partners.
“We have learnt a lot during our visit to Fiji and are able to look at examples that we can relate to the Kiribati context especially around working in the Ministry,” Dr Webber said.
She informed the USP team that their main aim was to learn about how inclusive education works in Fiji, along with Teacher Aid roles and how Teacher Aid can empower capacities of students with disabilities.
“We are grateful for such partnerships, especially with USP as you have a campus in Kiribati,” Dr Webber said.
Dr Webber has welcomed possible collaborations with the University’s Kiribati Campus.
Ms Merelesita Qeleni, Manager USP’s Disability Resource Centre (DRC) provided an overview of how students with disabilities are supported at USP.
DRC, which started in 2013, works collaboratively with the Faculties, Sections, and Departments at the University as well as external stakeholders to ensure that both students and staff with disabilities fulfil their potential in an inclusive environment.
USP’s inclusive programme has a strong commitment to creating an inclusive, barrier-free working and learning environment for its students and staff from its twelve (12) member countries.
With the assistance of the Student Administrative Service (SAS), DRC identifies students with disabilities and when each semester begins, the team from DRC organises meetings with academic staff and students with disabilities to inform them about the special attention that they would need in class.
The office has a small computer lab that has in-built assistive technology device, which helps students by reading out their notes and assignments.
The DRC also provides students with buddies to assist them with their work. For instance, if students are not able to understand any concept or go around campus, the buddies are there to assist them.
“What we are trying to do is encourage students to take charge of their learning so that they can become as independent as possible,” Ms Qeleni said.
The team from DRC also liaises with academics to provide extensions for assignments or extra time during examinations to students with disabilities.
When the University has major events, sign language interpreters are also available to provide translations so that students with hearing impairments are able to participate in such events.
As part of the meeting, Associate Professor Ann Cheryl Armstrong deliberated on inclusive education and the need for it in the Pacific region, while referring to her academic career at USP and other universities she has worked in.
The team from Kiribati also talked about inclusive approach in their country, the challenges faced and how they can work together with USP to tackle some of these challenges.
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