August 2, 2019: Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) and the Center for Smart Kids with Individual Learning Differences (SKILD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) centered around the creation of both a “SKILD-NDU” representative office on NDU’s main campus serving NDU students – old and new – with special educational needs as well as a SKILD-NDU center offering support for the wider Keserwan community. The MoU was signed by NDU President, Fr. Pierre Najem and Mr. Samir Abi Chedid, Chairman of the Board of Directors of SKILD.
Presiding over the signing as Master of Ceremonies NDU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), Dr. Elie Badr, spoke about the work that both SKILD and NDU have done to further their common goal of helping students reach their full potential. Dr. Badr discussed how this collaboration will serve both NDU students and the broader Keserwan area, and is in line with the ethos that secured NDU’s NECHE accreditation.
NDU President, Fr. Pierre Najem, reflected on the similarities between NDU and SKILD, saying that both have the same mission: “to build a more inclusive society.” Fr. Najem reiterate NDU’s goal of providing education for all, without discrimination: “We have a responsibility towards the young men and women who come to us … So when we talk about exceptional education, we must also provide exceptional support … We want our students to thrive regardless of their individual learning differences.”
SKILD’s CEO, Dr. Nabil Costa, noted that this is an important step forward in SKILD’s journey towards an inclusive community. “We initially focused on providing individualized support to children with learning difficulties at the school level. Today, our students are at university level and so we celebrate the opportunity to further pave the way before them towards the future they deserve. We are proud that we are taking this step in association with NDU that is a strong advocate of inclusion in Lebanon.”
The MoU covers two major initiatives between NDU and SKILD:
The first is the establishment of a SKILL-NDU office under the Student Affairs Office (SAO). The office will be staffed by a specialist who will coordinate closely with the NDU Office of Admission to provide the best support possible to incoming NDU students with special educational needs. The new office will also provide consultation to faculty members and students on the best ways to accommodate teaching/learning methods for students with special needs. Finally, the new office will mentor NDU interns majoring in education, psychology, and related fields.
The second is the creation of a new joint SKILD-NDU Center that will be launched in September 2019 to serve the wider Keserwan community. The Center will offer support to students with learning difficulties, raise awareness on the importance of inclusion, organize capacity building workshops for educators and school administrators, and provide proper orientation for learning difficulties. It will also provide internship opportunities for NDU students majoring in education.
This MoU serves an affirmation of both parties’ belief in the right to education for all, and the desire to provide students with learning difficulties the appropriate support that will enable them reach their full potential.