It is believed that if the outcomes of researches are well communicated, they have potential reasons to influence policies and improve practices, livelihoods and technologies. On the contrary, in several institutions of our world, most of the academic research findings have been left on the shelves and they have not been sufficiently contributing to the transformation of a society.
But if the research findings are original, ethical and very relevant for implementation, they have the power to influence improvements in the society. This is the case to Dr. Abebe's research. Executive Director of Help for Persons with Disabilities Organization Dr. Abebe Yehualawork conducted a breakthrough research whose findings have reinforced transformation in the education sector.
Realizing the effect of the findings of his research, The Ethiopian Herald made a short stay with him so that he shares the secret of the effectiveness of his research. Excerpts:
What initiated you to conduct such research?
I have a vision to see the livelihood of people with disabilities improved. I believe education is the best way to improve their lives. Thus, I carefully investigated the 1994 education policy of Ethiopia. The purpose of my investigation was to search an answer for, "How much of the special needs education are incorporated in the policy?" After considerable progress in my research, I was able to make sure that almost all the researches focus on the general education; very little researches had been conducted concerning the special needs education in vocational education.
Then, I decided to develop a proposal that helped me to apply for PhD. I made my proposal article based; not monograph. If it is article based, you are requested to publish it in one of the reputable scientific journals. You can imagine how difficult it would be. But I determined to conduct fruitful research with absolute diligence since I do not want to be left for library consumption.
Would you tell us about component of the research?
My research were organized in three articles. The first article based on content analysis. It analyses the 1994 education policy of Ethiopia. I published it in one of UK based international journals, Support for Learning. The main theme of the second article is investigating the practicality of the participation of peoples with disabilities in the vocational training programme of Ethiopia. This deals with the challenges and opportunities peoples with disabilities face in TVET college. In this regard, I investigated a number of challenges. This article was also published in another UK based scientific journal, International Journal of Special Education. The third article compares the inclusiveness of Ethiopia's education policy with that of neighboring countries such as Kenya and Tanzania. I order to conduct this comparative research, I had to travel to Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. As a result, I studied the education and training policy among these countries. This article was also published in one of Canada based journals, Journal of Education and Learning. It is this way that I have completed my dissertation.
Then what happened after publicizing the articles?
After publicizing these articles, the next step was writing the summary of all these articles. Then the summary was submitted to two renown professors to be evaluated for three months.
Would you tell us the result of your research?
I conducted this research in order to complete my PhD. Since the findings are very relevant to the situation of our country, the university encouraged me develop project that will be implemented in the next three years by Federal TVET Institution, Jyvaskyla University (my university), JAMK University of Applied Sciences and Addis Ababa University. The Federal TVET Institution will play the leadership role and monitor the entire activities, and AAU provides training and develop curriculum while Finland government fully covers the financial expenses. The project would cost about 600,400Euro.
What would you expect from the implementation?
The implementation of the project will bring significant improvement. More than 2000 TVET teachers will be beneficiaries. First, we will train and equip the training of trainers who would have chances to travel to Finland to gain experiences. The project is also intended to bring system change in the TVET sector. As a result, common courses on special needs education will be given in the TVET's. Even when it phases out, the project will have lasting effect in the sector.
How did you decide to develop the project?
When I was discussing the findings of my research with my advisers at Jyvaskyla University, we concurred that we ought to develop a project that would solve the problems my research identified. As a result, we developed and submitted the proposal to the Foreign Ministry of Finland in 2015. With the joint effort of Jyvaskyla University, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, Addis Ababa University and Federal TVET Institution, the project was refined and became a reality. I am very happy this initiative has been developed and fruitful because of my research findings.
Why did you choose to study in Finland?
Finland is highly advanced in the special needs education. The educational sector and other infrastructural sectors are easily accessible. The government is the servant of the people. Particularly, people with special disabilities got considerable attention of the government. Even though I could not enjoy all these opportunities, I gained significant experiences that support my purpose.
What are the challenges you faced in the course of your studies?
I faced several challenges from the beginning till the end. In order to secure admission in a European University, I had to prepare strong research proposal. As a result, I labored a lot. After securing the admission, absence of sponsorship became a critical challenge. I presented my request to several companies in Ethiopia. But none of them gave me a positive response except BGI Ethiopia. Really, that was a heartbreaking moment to me. Since it was not easy to get sponsorship for long period of time, I struggled a lot to complete within four and half years the programme that usually lasts for 8 to 10 years.
Do you have anything to appreciate during your studies?
I have taken 60 credit hour courses. Among these, research ethics is a very interesting course. It deals with the necessity of conducting ethical research. This course reveals how researches especially those conducted by natural scientists are usually abused. Researches are sometimes used for the violation of human rights. Thus, ethical issues in conducting researches are very important.
The other thing I learned during my research is the regulation and laws of some countries like Kenya and Tanzania concerning research. Provided that a researcher wants to conduct any research in these countries, he or she has to get permission from the government. For instance, it was after getting permission from the government that I started gathering data. If a researcher is not obliged to request for permission, it would be dangerous for the research might be abused.