The Fiji National University (FNU) has established a development pathway for students with disabilities that allows them to undertake workplace training with selected organisations around the country.
The work place attachment is part of the training requirement for students who undertake undergraduate programmes at FNU. The work attachments provide students with real-life practical training enabling them to experience and be part of daily operations at the work place.
While the University has established and streamlined disability inclusion in all its programmes and services, the challenge of securing employment for persons with disabilities remains.
To initiate a change, work placements have been factored into the renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between FNU and the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF).
Through the original partnership, established in 2016, the University liaised with PDF to create an FNU Disability Inclusion Policy, setting the framework for all disability support and inclusion programmes at the University.
Following this, the University was able to establish a Disability Unit as well as create a Disability Centre to help foster an inclusive learning environment.
The new five-year agreement encourages the exchange of scientific materials, publications data and relevant information that will support and help progress efforts on disability inclusion.
Furthermore, the agreement allows collaborative research and participation in activities, reference groups and networks to further the realisation of the rights of students with disabilities at FNU.
FNU’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Dr William May said the University will continue to build partnerships that would ensure that all students are provided with an empowering environment and that students with disabilities are given equal access.
“This is a great opportunity for the University to build on its partnerships and fulfil one of the key pillars of its Strategic Plan – Education for Employability,” he said.
“We recognise the needs of students with disabilities, and we want to be able to provide them opportunities where they can excel. We welcome collaborations for work placements not just at PDF but for other mainstream organisations.”
Pacific Disability Forum CEO, Setareki Macanawai said that this partnership with FNU provides a real opportunity to students with disabilities to realise their rights and achieve their dreams in the fields of education, training and employment.
“We currently employ 6 persons with disabilities and have provided placement opportunities in the past for students with disabilities at FNU and USP,” Mr Macanawai stated.
There are currently 20 students with disabilities enrolled at FNU. For these students, the Disability Unit coordinates with colleges to ensure reasonable adjustments are made to allow them to complete the inherent requirements of programmes.
FNU Disability Coordinator Fuata Faktaufon said he was optimistic about the direction the University was taking and is hopeful greater outcomes will be realised for students with disabilities.
“Now that the systems are in place, efforts have now moved to explore avenues of how we can better serve students and improve their experience at the university right from the admission to graduation and employment,” he said.
“I believe this will open a good pathway for students with disabilities to come and study here. Two of the key objectives for the Unit are to help students to acquire the highest level of education possible and to create pathways that will help them secure permanent employment.”
FNU Registrar Sarita Devi said the University has always prioritised the needs of students with disabilities.
“We have always ensured that the impact of a student’s disability on their studies is minimised by setting in place support systems enabling them to compete on a more level playing field with their non-disabled peers,” she said.
“This aligns with Pillar 3 of FNU’s Strategic plan on creating excellent student experience. The renewed partnership with Pacific Disability Forum will assist us to have a more structured support system the student needs to minimise the impact of their disability on their studies and strengthen placement opportunities. We will always strive develop skills and behaviors that assist our students with disability in the workforce.”