Azerbaijan is making efforts to improve social protection of its population, including persons with disabilities. The country inherited an education system from its Soviet past that does not aim to include students with disabilities in the regular education system and does not provide students with disabilities the necessary facilities to be included in the regular education system. Through the development of support mechanisms which are in line with EU best practices and policies as well as the principle of inclusive education as a human right, this project intends to achieve the inclusion of people with disabilities in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Azerbaijan.
The current education system in Azerbaijan does not provide students with disabilities the necessary facilities to be included in the regular education system.
Statistics on the prospective students with disabilities for HEIs or students with disabilities in HEIs are not available. (Prospective) students with special needs are not registered, their number is therefore not known. According to the statistical data from the State Student Admission Committee, only 15-20 applications from disabled persons are received every year. The possible causes for low enrolment rate are stigma, physical barriers, lack of capacity and awareness.
The national legislation of the country offers equal access and a variety of educational opportunities for disabled people and specifies that "The State guarantees the creation of the adequate conditions required for education provision for all citizens and does not allow deprivation from any grade, level and form of education. … ." (Law on Education (2009) of Azerbaijan). The county expressed its willingness to apply international practice by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Moreover, Azerbaijan established active cooperation with the Committee for Social Cohesion of the Council of Europe. However, no reforms have yet been implemented regarding the inclusion of disabled people into HEIs.
This project aims to develop support policies and mechanisms to integrate people with disabilities into HEIs in Azerbaijan in line with the best EU practices and policies and enjoy the (human) right to inclusive education in line with the standards as outlined in a recent report of the UN Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Human Rights Council (see: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Disability/StudyEducation/A_HRC_25_29_ENG.pdf)
The project's main target group is current and prospective disabled students, but the wider group of stakeholders includes the boards, teaching and research staff of Azerbaijani HEIs, government institutions and NGOs.
In the framework of the project the following activities are undertaken:
Immediately following the kick-off meeting in January 2014 activities started to develop the stakeholder and needs assessment that the partners in Azerbaijan undertook later in the year.
Based on the results of the stakeholders and needs assessments the partners in Azerbaijan developed policy guidelines for policy with regard to students with disabilities and developed Centers at their institutions to support students with disabilities. The EU partners provided training and support during the process.
The last training in the framework of the project was conducted at the University of Macedonia 24-26 April 2017. Apart from a presentation of the results of pilots run by the AZ partners and feedback from the trainers on the results of the pilots, there will workshops on using assistive technology and on interaction with students with disabilities.
The final conference of the project was in Baku on 15 and 16 May.
More information can be found on the ESFIDIP website http://esfidip.khazar.org/en/
The Establishment of a Foundation for the Integration of Disabled People into HEIs of Azerbaijan [ESFIDIP] (January 2014 - December 2016)
European partners: University of Graz (Austria), University of Macedonia (Greece), University of Lodz (Poland) and Human European Consultancy (The Netherlands); Azerbaijan partner institutions: Khazar University (coordinator), Azerbaijan State Economic University, Sumgayit State University, Lankaran State University, Ganja State University, Nakhchivan State University, the Union of Disabled People Organizations (UDPO), The Ministry of Education of the Azerbaijan Republic, and theMinistry of Labour and Social Protection of Population of the Republic of Azerbaijan (MLSPP).