THE University of the South Pacific (USP) is no longer merely talking about disability but rather, it is “walking the talk”.
This was the gist of the message relayed by USP’s Disability Resource Centre (DRC) during their recent roadshow to USP’s regional campuses from 11-29 August, 2014.
The team visited USP’s Emalus Campus in Vanuatu, Alafua Campus in Samoa and the Honiara Campus.
Staff and students in the three campuses expressed their appreciation of the team’s visits as they were largely unaware of the significance of USP’s inclusiveness agenda as well as the establishment of DRC to support students with disabilities.
“Indeed, audiences were surprised to learn that outside of Australia and New Zealand, USP is the only university in the Pacific region to have a formal disability policy”.
“In addition, USP staff and students in the three regional campuses as well as external stakeholders in-country were informed that since the scope of Disability Inclusiveness Policy applied throughout the University, the onus now lay with the respective regional campus management and student leaders to embrace and enhance inclusiveness in their campuses,” the team’s report noted.
The aims of the roadshow included raising awareness and advocating on:
(i)the inclusiveness agenda at USP as articulated in its Disability Inclusiveness Policy (2013);
(ii) support services provided by USP’s DRC at Laucala Campus and the need to replicate this support for students with disabilities in regional campuses; and
(iii) the importance of strengthening strategic partnerships and collaboration with various external stakeholders in disability such as: Government disability focal points; Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) disability focal points; Pacific Disability Forum; and other representatives of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs).
Some of the team’s recommendations include doing follow-up visits for all three regional campuses; that the team continue to lobby for a scholarship quota for students in regional campuses similar to that provided by the Fiji Government for students with disabilities in Fiji; and that DRC staff be deployed to regional campuses for a certain period to help establish their respective DRCs.