Special Needs: The will and the way

If you think that landing a job today in Egypt is difficult for you, then it must be impossible for people with special needs, but that’s not entirely true, we took a closer look at the life of some young people with special needs that proved to us that if there is a will, there is always a way.


Special Needs in Egypt are brought up being different and often marginalized by society. A recent initiative by the German University in Cairo, however, has offered a rehabilitation program for special needs to be part of a productive community. Over a year ago, GUC has started rehabilitating 10 special needs students, teaching them the arts of cooking, carpentry and agriculture.


The program started off by taking those who have graduated from the special needs association. Based on evaluations, trained instructors teach them different skills. The program lasts for two years; afterwards, they are given a real job.


The program is more concerned with the quality of the outcome rather than the quantity of those who join the program. Their aim is to give people with special needs a working opportunity, to boost their confidence, and help in developing their mental skills. Integration of special needs citizens is essential for a stable and balanced society; hence it is one of the main aims.


The idea of the rehabilitation program first came to Dr. Samya, who strongly believed in the value of this initiative and its positive results on the society as a whole, “special needs deserve to be given such an opportunity. They are capable of working; in fact, special needs work better than healthy citizens as they are extremely dedicated to their work and always do the tasks given to them in a perfect manner”, she tells.


Tannenhof Ulm, a University in Germany, has started it more than 40 years ago. They rehabilitated special needs for two years and afterwards sent them to work at Multinational companies. For example, Mercedes Benz in Germany is now employing special needs citizens for brake assembly and are very efficient employees. “We thought of adapting this experience and Tannenhof Ulm come to GUC’s campus every year to teach us how to treat special needs, how to rehabilitate and to employ them. We are sticking to their experience and advice”, Dr. Samya adds.


“Pizza cone, the copy center and the carpentry workshop at GUC have started employing special needs and they are very happy with those new employees”, she adds, “they are respected by the whole body and receive a monthly salary”. Dr. Samya believes that this program could be easily applied in every university, “companies and universities should re-consider the idea of employing special needs, and we can also rehabilitate special needs and send them to work in other premises.”

Going to the photocopying center on the GUC campus, you will see Kareem who works there “non-stop” and who is always smiling at his colleagues. Kareem never seems irritated or annoyed, he keeps smiling and it is very obvious that he is happy with what he is doing. “I’m very happy with my work; I come every day by bus. I have a lot of friends whom I sit with during the break. I really like it here. And I will always stay at my work”, Kareem tells.


Hesham, the head of the photocopying center, where Kareem works adds that, “Kareem is a very efficient worker; he works very hard and he treats his colleagues well. I can’t remember that he ever caused any problems.  Kareem only faces some difficulty when the center is too crowded and when there is a lot of work at the same time, but after all many of us find it hard to work under stress”.


Omar Yasser, a GUC student who we meet when Kareem was photocopying his papers, states that what he likes most about Kareem is that he is always smiling and doing his work properly. “I can’t see a single disadvantage with special needs working in regular jobs.  And in the future, when I have my own business I won’t hesitate to employ special needs”, he explains.


Shayma, who is working with Kareem at the center, believes that “Kareem is very good; in fact he is even better than other employees because he never wastes any working time. I sincerely can’t find a single difference between Kareem and any other person that I have worked with, actually he might be better”.


Yehia Ahmed who works in the agriculture sector in the GUC tells, “I am really happy working here; I work every day from 8.30 am until 4pm.  I have lots of friends at the university and I’m enjoying every minute I spend here!”.


A similar initiative that aims at integrating citizens with special needs into the workforce can be seen at KFC in Dokki, where most staff is deaf mute and are managed by a hearing person. Carrefour also employs deaf mute citizens as part of its social responsibility.


There are about 8 million physically and mentally challenged people in Egypt. Where are they? What is done for them? And how do their lives look like?  Don’t they belong to our society and aren’t they part of this nation?


The Egyptian labor law promulgated that all firms must designate of their jobs for special needs citizens, who are exempted from normal literacy requirements, (Law 39 for the year 1975). But in reality this is far from being the case. They are forgotten and ignored, as if they don’t even exist in this country. They should be given all their rights, allowed to work, and be respected like any citizen. Companies must re-consider the idea of employing people with special needs. This initiative is a good start and hopefully many others will follow this example.


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