E. Olinky, Z. Ratzon

Tel Aviv University (ISRAEL)
Young immigrants from Ethiopia experience social, cultural, economic and educational difficulties that most other young adults do not, such as learning a new language, cultural dissonance, family burdens and feelings of isolation. This complex background leads to lower standardized test scores which do not meet the high entrance requirements for the Occupational Therapy (OT) department. While the Ethiopian immigrants comprise of 1.7% from Israeli population, they are less than 1% from the student population in Israel. With the acknowledgment that higher education is the key to success, to integrate socially and vocational advancement, a special program was developed to suit the needs of this specific population.

To describe a unique program for Ethiopian immigrant students in Tel Aviv University (TAU) OT department.

In 2008 the department initiated and established a special program for Ethiopian immigrant students and a personnel member was nominated to lead it (EO). Currently, this is the only program at TAU that enables these young adults to be integrated in OT bachelor studies. We therefore devised a program that may contribute to social and occupational justice. Every year the department accepts two students who did not reach the prerequisites but passed successfully a personal interview. The first year of studying is overextended into two years, i.e. the overall studies are extended by one year. Every student receives emotional support by the program's leader on an individual basis, every second week. The leader gets to personally know each student and closely monitors their academic achievements and their integration to the program. Such personal relationships are a key factor for identifying and resolving any difficulties the students may encounter during their studies. In order to provide academic support, each student is mentored during their first academic year by a personal tutor selected from the rank of top performing upperclassmen on a basis of three hours per week. They also get full scholarship for their tuition.

Since 2008,16 students were accepted to the program. One student dropped out, 1 regretted her enrolment, 6 have already graduated and 8 are still learning. All the students express high satisfaction and contentment but also report minor difficulties, mainly adjusting to the new class at the beginning of their second year. The students describe a significant relationship with their program peer. The personal support by the program leader at the first year established trust and enable open communication when needed. The average final graduation grade (N=6) was 85.5 points, 3 of which (50%) can apply for graduate studies. In the two passing years the demand for the program extremely increased, more than 12 nominees per year comparing to 2 at the beginning.

This unique program shows highly promising results in integrating Ethiopian immigrant young adults into OT academic studies.

Contribution to the practice:
The program creates a platform that promotes occupational justice for Ethiopian immigrant young adults and enables enlarging OT population with the suitable cultural background to meet the client’s accurate needs.