EQUITABLE ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES AND STUDENTS FROM MARGINALIZED GROUPS IN NEPAL - EATHEN PROJECT

I. Marova1, H. Vaďurová1, M. Mäkinen2

1Masaryk University (CZECH REPUBLIC)
2JAMK University of Applied Science (FINLAND)
One of the main challenges of equity in education in Nepal is concerned with the great diversity in terms of its geography and its people. In Nepal, 125 ethnic groups speak 123 different languages. Additionally, children with disabilities have low access to education: more than 80% out-of-school children are those with disabilities [1]. Therefore, it is crucial to intensify efforts to strengthen equity in education as a whole. Following the HE Policy (2014) in Nepal, measures should be taken in HE institutes and universities to ensure equity in terms of gender, inclusion of people with disabilities, Dalits, disadvantaged ethnic groups, economically deprived groups coming from disadvantaged region..

The main goal of the EATHEN Project (2019 - 2022) is to enhance inclusive management practices and access for people with disabilities and from marginalized groups and regions in Nepal to higher education. The goal will be reached by supporting the universities in their development towards inclusive management and practices in education in Nepal. The project’s focus is on development of organizational structures within HEIs, improvement of physical environment and establishing counselling services. Alongside this structural area, knowledge and attitudes towards inclusive HEI environment is developed through trainings of different groups of HEI staff. The project consortium is consisting of three European universities (JAMK University of Applied Sciences, Finland; Masaryk University, Czech Republic and University di Bologna, Italy), Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Nepal and three Nepalese partner universities (Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University, Nepal Open University) and Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Nepal. In addition, non-governmental organisations and associations of people with disabilities in Nepal were invited to participate as associated partners.

The development of inclusive management in HEIs started with the assessment of current situation and challenges of the students with disabilities and from marginalized groups. The data was obtained during field trips to remote areas where collection of both qualitative and quantitative information on the target groups in Nepal took place. These data will be used to establish a database which shall be continuously developed by Nepalese universities. The database works as the basis for planning of the structure and purpose of five support centers that will be established at selected universities across Nepal (three at the Tribhuvan University campuses, one at the Kathmandu University and one at the Nepal Open University). These centers will offer services and support for students with special needs and from marginalized groups as well as to HEI staff. The structure of the services will be based on needs assessment in Nepal, by large included in the database and discussions among stakeholders in Nepal (Ministry of Education, universities, other service providers and secondary schools). Necessary competence of the staff in the support centers will be ensured via extensive trainnings covering inckusive education, inclusive management practices, counselling and support of students with special needs..
Achieving these goals and objectives will improve the quality of higher education at partner insitutions and will serve as a catalyst for support of equity, equality and further development of the higher education insitutions in Nepal.