Students with mental disabilities campaign for access to higher education
Esra Ülkar – ISTANBUL
A campaign calling on the Education Ministry and parliament for new regulations for students with mental disabilities who want to study at Turkish universities has drawn support from nearly 92,000 people in a week.
Robert Cem Osborn, a 25-year-old high school graduate and holder of five photography exhibitions, has called for support in his bid to enroll in a university on the campaign website Change.org last week.
He gained public fame when he delivered a speech at the United Nations on March 21, 2018.
“If I go to university, my life will be completely different. I will be happy. I will have fun with my friends. I will attend classes, I will learn everything,” Osborn said.
“Because I feel good during lessons. I sit tests and become successful. I strive and accomplish. I know that I can do, I can accomplish. I can handle it. I will study for all my exams and pass them. That’s it. I want to go to university,” he added.
Gün Bilgin, Osborn’s mother and head of the Down’s Syndrome association Down Türkiye, has pointed to many obstacles withholding mentally disabled students from university education.
“According to the current practice, they enter the same standardized university entrance exam to compete with graduates of standardized high schools. After studying with a special curriculum for 12 years, they are supposed to enter the same exam with other students when they finish high school,” she told daily Hürriyet.
“For the departments accepting students with talent tests, they need to get 100 points, which is not easy,” she added.
Some disabled students who graduate from special education centers are given a diploma which is not valid to enroll at a university, Bilgin also said.
The campaign puts forward demands of special entrance tests and placement quotas for disabled students, and full high-school diplomas for students studying at special education centers.
“The right to education is under protection of our constitution. However, laws do not provide the necessary opportunities for individuals with mental disability. There should be affirmative action,” said Bilgin.