The Yetnebersh Academy

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This text was written by Noha Yasser, Intern at RWI.

The Yetnebersh Academy is an inclusive school for children with special needs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, founded by Yetnebersh Nigussie in 2006. The school offers an inclusive, child-friendly and accessible environment for more than 600 students.

Yetnebersh Nigussie, a disability rights activist and lawyer in Ethiopia. Her motivations behind the work she is doing is derived from the fact of losing her eyesight at the age of five. Yetnebersh was born in a time when women and young girls with special needs would have less opportunities. Yetnebersh’s determinations not only helped her to continue her education in a mainstream school but also to become a lawyer.

After receiving her law degree at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Yetnebersh dedicated herself to the power of education in order to give more opportunities for young Ethiopians with special needs.

Yetnebersh Nigussie Right Livelihood Award 2017 Stockholm Photo: Wolfgang Schmidt

Her experience has been lined with a strong desire to fight against discrimination, specifically when it comes to inclusion of students with special needs in the mainstream education in Ethiopia. In recognition of the changes she made, Yetnebersh received the Right Livelihood award, – for her inspiring work promoting the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities in education.

Yetnebersh was involved in different events and opportunities in improving education in Ethiopia. Before 2006, the idea of disability and inclusion in the mainstream education was not very common in Ethiopia. However, Yetnebersh managed to establish the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development to prove that development is only sustainable if it is inclusive. Yetnebersh states that

“We have reached more than 3000 organisations – government, non-government, private, secular, religious, etc. It was not easy because whenever we submit projects, we were asked how many beneficiaries with disabilities we had. Establishing an organisation in this fashion was not easy in part because there were bigger organisations like World Vision, Action Aid who had enough money and who were not open by then to entertain disability inclusion as the core theme that they wanted to work on”.

The academy made sure to hire people with special needs to show the road for inclusion because they believed that this will help in the development of education and it is an advanced strategy to influence other grassroot organizations in Kenya as well as the bilateral co-operations in the country.

The aim of the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development (ECDD) is to tackle the weak collaboration between disability organisations, service providers and mainstream development programmes. The role that ECDD took was to make the education in Ethiopia inclusive and available for everyone, as well as making sure that all decisions regarding education are being implemented in practice. The latter was being achieved through accountability and playing an important role in changing the perspective of people when it comes to education.

Finally, Yetnebersh asserts that “I believe we should empower organisations who are working for persons with disabilities, not only to be active in Geneva for the Convention accountability and review, but also in their country, in their day to day life”.

Featured image: Tim Mossholder 

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