An-Najah National University; a proper and friendly environment for students with disabilities
An-Najah National University is keen to provide an appropriate, supportive and friendly environment for students with disabilities, through a specialized unit; the Unit for Caring of Students with Disabilities. They established this unit, which specializes in following up with the needs of students with different disabilities, and assist them to overcome any difficulties that may face them during their university life, and sometimes after their graduation. This role comes as part of the university's social responsibility to respond to the needs of all students and engage them in the educational process.
The unit for Caring of Students with Disabilities was established in 2008. At the time, there were 9 students with disabilities in the university , including five blind students. At the same year, the first computer lab for the visually-impaired students was opened at An-Najah University, as the first among all Palestinian universities. This initiative enhanced the opportunities for visually-impaired students to study at A-Najah university. In the following year, the university became a destination for students with different types of disabilities, coming from all governorates of the West Bank to seek education and learning.
For over twelve years, the unit has been keen to provide physical adaptations in all university buildings and corridors in its campuses to facilitate the movement of its students with different types of disabilities, and enable them to reach their destination without the need for help from other students. In addition, the unit established a scholarship fund, which enables dozens of students to complete their education through financial aid, and strengthened the culture of social responsibility to support the right of people with disabilities to obtain education. Most students with disabilities come from the middle and poor levels in the society, thus providing support to them is much needed. According to a study prepared by the unit, the students with disabilities represent 75% of all students with disabilities at the university. Many parents and families wish that their sons and daughters would complete their education, but financial conditions usually preventing them as a main challenge. Therefore, the unit established this fund to overcome this obstacle. The fund comes from different sources including companies, institutions and individuals who are live in Nablus and abroad. The grants are given to students to fully or partially cover the tuition according to the student's financial situation. The tuition fees are transferred directly from to the student's account.
During 12 years, the fund provided 1820 scholarship with a total amount of over 850,000 Jordanian Dinars, noting that this does not include many scholarships that were paid directly to the student’s account based on the sponsor's desire.
There are conditions to receive the scholarships; the student can apply for it completing the first semester, the GPA is (2) and above, and the applicant must be registered at the General Union of People with Disabilities, and in cases a social survey for the family is conducted. The student is accredited a percentage of a scholarship based on a medical report showing the percentage of disability, which issued by the medical committee at the Ministry of Health, and a letter attached by the union proving that he is a member of the it. These procedures enhance the confidence of sponsors and the relevant departments within the university.
Mr. Samer Akrouk, Director of the Unit for Students with Disabilities Care, explained that the strategy of the unit is based on comprehensiveness and full openness between the various departments and all staff across the university. The unit facilitates all issues for students with disabilities, such as changing the location of a course from one building to another in order to enable a student with a disability to easily access the classroom. The unit has modified physical adaptations across the different university campuses to adapt for the needs of students with disabilities. In addition, the unit provides assisting devices as required, including wheelchairs, eyeglasses, medical headphones, and laptops. In required cases, students with hearing impairment are given priority in seating arrangement and availability of recorded lectures through coordination between the unit and the lecturers.
The university is keen to provide an environment that enhances the student self-confidence to be able to compete in the labor market after graduation in order to innovate and to excel in life. As a result of this encouraging environment, the number of students with disabilities has increased since the establishment of the unit. At the end of the last first semester, the number reached 157 students, among whom were 14 blind, 8 students who use wheelchairs, 37 cases of visual impairment, 12 cases of hearing impairment, and 5 cases of learning difficulties.
The unit also provides assistance to children with disabilities during their study at schools. The role of the unit is not only limited to university students during their study periods, but extends after their graduation in different direction; guaranteeing their right to work and employment according to the laws, and encouraging graduates in their careers and future plans.
Among the most prominent university graduates with disabilities who were part of the disability unit is Sheikh Tamer Jaradat, who obtained his MA and MA degrees from An-Najah university. He was appointed as an imam in the mosques in Nablus, in addition to multiple talents that he developed in reciting Quran and creative writing.