Inclusive vocational education changes lives of people with disabilities in Azerbaijan
Possible with passion
September 29, 2023
Imagine being able to pursue your passion, learn new skills, make new friends and maybe even find a rewarding job, regardless of your abilities or disabilities.
Life can be challenging for people with disabilities when it comes to getting a good education and finding decent jobs. In Azerbaijan, about 559,000 people are registered as receiving disability benefits.
Creating a space for people with disabilities to learn and show their strengths is crucial, not only for their own development but also for society’s barriers.
This is the vision of a “Vocational education for the Future” project that improves social inclusion while preparing people for life and future jobs. The project offers short-term inclusive courses in various professions, such as pastry, confectioner, tailor, florist, stained glass artist and hairdresser. The courses are free of charge and open to anyone, but the curricula is tailored to the needs of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.
As the students work, there is both concentration and laughter; let's see them in action!
Elvina Aliyeva is one of the many young participants who joined the short-term inclusive courses. Very smart and active, she was diagnosed with down syndrome. She loves cooking and baking, and she enrolled in the culinary course at the Baku State Vocational Education Center on Culture and Crafts. There, she learned how to prepare various dishes and desserts, from salads and soups to cakes and pies. She also improved her communication skills and made new friends.
Elvina is not only talented in the kitchen, but also in the salon. She has a knack for hairdressing and braiding, and she often helps her classmates with their hairstyles. She hopes to continue her education at the centre and become a professional cook and hairdresser.
“I enjoy the inclusive learning environment, and I love going out with my friends,” she says.
Farid Gasimli is a young man who likes to explore different fields and professions. He is studying to be a sound operator at the same centre, but also wanted to learn something new.
“I like learning new things and meeting new people,” he says.
Farid was curious about the costume making and tailoring course because he likes fashion and design. He joined his friends Mirfaig and Hasan, who also have disabilities that make it difficult to find suitable jobs, to learn a skill that would help them earn a living and express their creativity. He learned how to cut, sew, iron and stitch various types of garments.
Farid is one of the successful graduates of the short-term inclusive courses. He is proud of his achievements and his portfolio of clothes he made himself. He also practices judo and football in his spare time. His biggest dream is to work as a sound director in a TV channel, so he intends to continue his education.
Four young talents- Ibrahim, Tofig, Minakhanum and Nargiz-came together to explore their artistic side.
All of them love drawing and have successfully completed the inclusive courses on stained glass, learning how to create beautiful artworks with glass pieces. Besides honing their drawing skills, they had the opportunity to discuss and dabble in acting, knitting, and cooking.
Tofig was home-schooled and finished the 9th grade of secondary school. At the centre, he pursued a stained glass specialty. He has good drawing skills, and he likes all things to express himself.
“I have acting skills and one day I want to perform on stage,” Tofig says. “That is why I watch movies a lot!”
The impact of inclusive VET
The short-term inclusive courses are not only beneficial for the students but also for the teachers who deliver to them, the employers who hire them and the society that supports them. The courses are designed to meet the needs of the labour market and the preferences of the students. The initiative brought fresh approaches to inclusive vocational education and training (VET), introduced an online assessment platform enabling agile assessment of knowledge and skills of people with different abilities, and trained educators for the delivery of these inclusive courses. It also developed a Disability-Awareness Toolkit for Teachers and Students.
These short-term vocational courses have touched the lives of 400 people so far, including almost 100 people with disabilities, between 15 and 62 years old. Out of those graduates, 46 have already started a new job with their acquired skills. The project will also provide non-financial contributions and materials support to 20 graduates living with disabilities to pursue self-employment opportunities. The project has trained more than 60 teachers and staff from seven VET schools and centres in Baku and other regions.
Next year, the project will expand its offering to include more people and open five to six new courses.
One thing becomes abundantly clear: everything is possible with passion!
Today these friends from diverse abilities are looking into the future with a more positive mind and many hopes.
The UNDP project, VET for the future: development of VET providers, in partnership with the State Agency on Vocational Education, is part of the EU-funded programme “Education for Employment in Azerbaijan”, which aims to increase the relevance of education for the future employment.
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