Within the TEMPUS project ''Equal opportunities for students with special needs in higher education EQOPP'', the Open door Day of the Centre for Supporting Students with Disabilities of the University of Banja Luka was held today at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Banja Luka.
It was an opportunity for teaching and administrative staff of the University, as well as for everybody who was present, to learn not only about the activities of the Centre, whose members have devotedly been working on equal access for all students with disabilities to all university programmes and activities since 2006, but also about the results of implementing the EQOPP project, competence for working with students with disabilities, assistive technology, problems and stereotypes that these people face, etc. More importantly, through reports of students with disabilities, it was possible to learn about their experiences, observations and hear some suggestions about what could and should be done in the following period in the sense of the aforementioned equation of possibilities for studying and acquiring higher education degrees.
After greeting all the present on behalf of the University, the Vice-Rector for Teaching Process and Student Issues, Prof. Simo Jokanovic emphasized that this institution of higher education always approached the organization of these events willingly and responsibly: ”This is an opportunity for teaching and non-teaching staff to be trained, that is, informed on what they are supposed to do in order to help students with disabilities to express their full potential, and that potential is, opposite to some stereotypes, exceptional”.
The coordinator of the aforementioned project, Prof. Adila Pasalic-Kreso, also pointed out in her address the need for developing the sense among the teaching staff for the needs of this student population, and observed that, at universities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were still many students with special needs whose problems were invisible and who dared not say anything about them because the system was still not organized well enough to deal with them in the proper manner. “The actual aim of this project is to affect these things to change, that is, to include our universities in the family of the universities that function by the motto “everybody is different, and yet, everybody is equal”, Prof. Pasalic-Kreso pointed out.
Mr. Haris Muhic, director of the World university centre (WUC) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an important partner of the EQOPP project, spoke about the goals of and results achieved during the project, whereas Ms Alma Dizdarevic, PhD, on behalf of the Centre for supporting students with special needs of the University of Tuzla, in her address, stressed the importance of raising awareness of academic and non-academic staff, as well as students without disabilities, on the necessity of equalizing the possibilities for studying. Ms Mirna Markovic-Pavlovic, MA, from the University of Sarajevo, spoke on teaching competences, that is, challenges when working with students with special needs, and pointed out that “stereotypes, prejudices and mistrust within ourselves represent huge barriers on the path to ensuring equal possibilities for acquiring higher education degree for this student category”.
Mr. Faruk Bavcic, from WUC in Bosnia and Herzegovina, presented the apparatus used by persons with special needs, and then the coordinator of the Centre for supporting students with disabilities, Ms Gorana Panic, MA, spoke about the activities in the Centre. She observed that, in general, there were still very few people with disabilities who had a degree of higher education, especially among the teaching staff, and that even the coordinator of the Centre should be a person with disabilities who belonged to the teaching staff. She pointed out that one of the mottos of the Centre was “Nothing can be done about the students with disabilities without them”, and then invited the volunteers at the Centre, students at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Banja Luka, Ms. Jovana Djevelj and Mr. Ognjen Ranisavljevic, who belonged to this category themselves, to inform all present on their experiences.
“The fact that Ognjen and me are here is another proof that our Centre and University on the whole work with us, and not for us. One of our goals is raising awareness of both students and teaching staff, so that students with disabilities can acquire all the knowledge and professions like those students who do not have disabilities. Why don’t we create conditions for a sand-blind person to become, for example, an IT expert, instead of just enabling them to work with blind people associations?”, Jovana said.
After saying that nobody knew what students with disabilities needed better than they did themselves, Mr. Ognjen Ranisavljevic pointed out the significance of inclusion of this category of students in the activities of the Centre: “That way, not only do they help themselves, but they also give their contribution to the development of the University.”
Mr. Sasa Grbic, associate for students with disabilities issues of the University of Banja Luka, who has been selflessly working for years with his colleague, Mr. Milo Kajkut, on realizing the basic mission of this organizational unit of the University, and that is supporting students with disabilities both in the sense of organization and on the field, explained that ever since he had enrolled the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Banja Luka in 1998, the University understood the needs of this category of students. In addition, he presented the website of the Centre he created himself despite his visual impairment, thus confirming the theory that even people like him could do the jobs they were not expected to do according to the stereotypes.
Moderator of the Centre Open door Day and assistant coordinator of the EQOPP project of the University of Banja Luka, Mr. Ozren Trisic, thanked all the participants of the Open door Day, as well as the associates and the rest of the Centre Staff for everything they had done and did for students with disabilities, pointing out it was them who were the most meritorious for achieving a significant improvement on the issue of creating equal possibilities for studying, but also raising awareness on this issue.
When the programme at the Faculty of Political Sciences finished, a joint tour of the Centre for supporting students with disabilities was organized, where the visitors could enjoy the short programme prepared exactly by these students.