The University For All (UPT) of Saint-Joseph University of Beirut (USJ) held the first graduation ceremony of the Inclusive Education Diploma on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at the Campus of Humanities.
In his speech, Prof. Salim Daccache s.j., USJ rector, congratulated the “differently intelligent youth”, who are the first graduating batch of inclusive education that USJ, under the umbrella of UPT, has well conducted and achieved. “Your resilience, your efforts, your diligence have shown that you can acquire skills and gain covert abilities to achieve your dreams.”
He added: “My sincere congratulations also go to the parents of our young graduates: you have entrusted us with your children out of love, but not without concern. Today, with you and in your presence, as we present each and every one of them with their diploma, your concern turns into pride at seeing that they have earned this diploma, after months of learning and nurturing their intellectual and psychological abilities.”
Addressing the inclusion specialists, Prof. Daccache estimated that after three years of experience, they were able to develop an “original program full of promise, always with acuity and realism, but also with academic standards. Education is a right for every man and woman.”
“There are fruitful encounters that comfort us in our uncertainties and in our mission,” says Prof. Gérard Bejjani, UPT Director. “My meeting with the Include association was one of them. When Michèle Asmar walked into my office three years ago and talked about inclusion, a concept so foreign to me, must I confess, I had to say yes! I said yes because written word taught me to truly listen to the human voice. I said yes because the greatest book I ever read was Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. It is the story of Prince Myshkin who suffers from epilepsy, autism and a kindness that is not of this earth. Greek etymology specifies that idios means the self, the proper to oneself, and that idiocy is the obligation to be oneself, such as one is, it is not the counter-model of a right intelligence, but the other of the intelligence, not its opposite, it is a singular test of the affectivity, it is even an essence.”
“I was never alone on this journey. Many of us have believed, hoped, acted, fought, hand in hand. And today, together, we have succeeded. When I say we, I mean: the Include association, Michèle Asmar, Claire Zablit, Carmel Wakim, parents, donors, speakers, the Department of Psychology of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Lebanese Institute of Educators and the UPT team”, concludes the UPT Director.
“Include was born on October 5, 2010 by families and friends of children with special needs,” said the president of the association, Michele Kosremelli Asmar. “Our goal is to raise awareness of inclusion and collaborate in projects that make it easier for people with special needs to be included in our society, in education, in employment and in leisure.”
“Working together, we have accomplished great things. We have shared ups and downs, joys and sorrows, successes and failures. It has been a true collaboration based on trust that has led to our crazy dream being rightfully fulfilled today. We succeeded, together”, concludes Asmar.
Speaking about the success of this program, Claudine Moubarak, program coordinator, focused on three points. The content well designed by Include and two professionals in orthopedagogy, Pascale Moubarak and Nancy Najjar, which allowed the development of the young people at the level of their knowledge but also at the personal level. “Through the various internships carried out, the youth experienced what they learned in theory, which allowed the development of their skills to prepare for professional life,” she adds. “The evolution towards employment and professional life through a pilot project with the doctoral student Grace Khawam and in collaboration with ProAbled and Tri-pulley.”
Following the remarks of the team of special education teachers and the parents, the diplomas were handed over to the graduating class. Elie Khayat and the UPT choir sang Mabrouk. UPT danced Jerusalem with its teachers, amateur students, and young people with special needs, a dance of peace, joy and solidarity, before closing the ceremony with a cocktail.
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