A student with a physical disability, whose application to a private university was rejected earlier this week, on Wednesday turned down a 50 per cent scholarship offer from the same institution.
Abdul Aziz Mallah, who suffers from dermatomyositis –– a connective-tissue disease that has left him paralysed for over five years now –– said he wanted “easier” accessibility than what is offered at the private university where he currently studies, which is not equipped with proper facilities to receive people with disabilities (PWD), according to him.
After spending two years at the university in question, which he preferred not to name, Mallah decided to transfer to Al Ahliyya Amman University after learning that the faculties had elevators.
“I completed all the required procedures and paid the fees… I even spoke to professors and they encouraged me to enrol in the university,” the 30-year-old student told The Jordan Times over the phone on Wednesday.
“Nevertheless, the university president and dean of students advised me to withdraw my application and stay at my previous university, claiming that the campus was not geographically suitable for students with physical disabilities,” he stated.
Al Ahliyya Amman University President Sadiq Hamed gave a different account of the incident, saying that he did not understand the “real motives behind the student’s decision to leave his university”.
“A young man entered my office last week, telling me that his relative, who has a movement disability, wanted to enrol at the university for a change of atmosphere. When I knew that the student was already enrolled in another university, I told him that it would be difficult for him to get around our campus due to the terrain,” Hamed told The Jordan Times.
Hamed added that in his understanding, the dean had met Mallah in person and told him that the university, located in Balqa Governorate northwest of the capital, accepted students with different disabilities, except for those with physical impairments, on account of its rough terrain.
Mallah, who is studying management information systems, said otherwise.
In his account, the dean of students told him that the university had rejected his application because it could not be responsible for students with physical disabilities as “the elevators might stop working”.
“I checked the faculty before deciding to enrol. It is built on a level street,” he said, adding that he withdrew his application from the university and took back the fees he paid.
The university president, who formed a committee on Wednesday to investigate the incident, acknowledged his responsibility and offered Mallah a 50 per cent scholarship, but the student refused it, saying he felt “intimidated” and that the issue had “nothing to do with money”.
He re-registered at his old university on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, HRH Prince Raad, Chief Chamberlain and president of the Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, called on the higher education ministry to investigate the matter.
In a letter sent to the ministry, the Prince stressed that the council was willing to provide facilities to enable PWD to join educational institutions, according to a statement received by The Jordan Times.
He underlined that rejecting the application of a student with a disability violates the Law on the Rights of PWD, which ensures them the right to education and requires educational institutions to apply disability-friendly building codes.
“The lack of suitable facilities in schools and universities is depriving PWD of an education… I rarely see students with physical disabilities in the university I attend,” Mallah pointed out.
President of the National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights (Thabahtoona) Fakher Daas said the incident shed light on challenges facing students with disabilities in Jordanian universities, “which lack the minimum standards for accommodating PWD”.