11 June 2019 • Arie Verhoef
Symposium about inclusivity: this matters to all of us
The one and a half year anniversary of the research group. This is worth a moment of reflection, according to the research group Inclusive Education. There has been enough talk. Now it’s time to take action. That is why on Wednesday 5 June professor Aminata Cairo and her staff members organised the symposium Connecting Our Stories: Inclusion Matters.
During the conference, participants shared their experiences and findings. They also had the opportunity to learn more about the various themes connected to inclusivity and become more engaged with the issue.
We met with Aminata Cairo a few days before the symposium to talk about the importance of inclusivity, about the work that the research group has undertaken in the last 18 months and what still needs to be done. By all of us.
Inclusive Education is a unique research group, founded by the Hague University of Applied Sciences to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, religion, heritage and culture, feels welcome at the university of applied sciences. It may sound like primarily an internal research group. But by now the research group also has an important external function.
Aminata continues: “I often work together with other universities of applied sciences and research universities in the five large cities, the G5. I am invited to speak throughout the country on inclusivity. So in the last year and a half the research group has certainly made a mark beyond the Hague.”
Inclusive Education is the ugly ducking of research groups. “Research groups are usually evaluated according to certain standards. One of them is conducting research and publishing articles. So very much product-focused. However, the research group Inclusive Education is entirely process-oriented. Of course we publish as well, but first we have do a lot of legwork and talking.”
Inclusivity is a challenging topic. “We have become very good at not talking about it. Along the lines of: ‘Let’s just keep things pleasant’. We have to change this attitude. It’s always good to start with looking at ourselves. We have had many heated conversations both within the research group and our knowledge circle. What does inclusivity mean to you? What do you think about it? What does it evoke in you?
If we cannot have these difficult conversations, how are we supposed to help people outside of our circle? Aminata finds that the research group fulfils a need. “We receive many wonderful and encouraging responses from students and lecturers.”
We have done a lot of talking in the last eighteen months, affirms Aminata. “At the symposium we want to do more than share experiences. We also want to bring people onboard and do things. Is the timing right? My gut says it is. It’s time to show everyone what we are working on.”
How will Aminata know if the symposium is a success? “That’s hard to say. The symposium is very experience-driven. We encourage people to consciously work on the theme of inclusivity. Some people may get excited about this right away. Others may take longer to get onboard. That also makes me happy.”
“I hope everyone will leave the symposium with a positive feeling. Inclusivity matters to all of us. To students, lecturers, support staff members and services. We have to do it all together.”
Aminata Cairo, head of Inclusive Education research group