For the first time this year, Kinneret Academic College in cooperation with Eshnav opened a preparatory program for those coping with mental illness. Since 2004, Eshnav has been a leading organization in the field of integrating disabled people in the world of education and employment. Eshnav operates tertiary preparatory programs in collaboration with higher education institutions for people coping with mental illness, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, as and part of its mental rehabilitation services. The mechina at Kinneret is the northernmost branch, and provides the eligible candidates with an opportunity to integrate in higher education in a way tailored to their needs. Eshnav’s target population is, as mentioned, people coping with mental disabilities, who are about 30% of those eligible for general disability, according to the National Security Institute’s data. Participants receive rehabilitation guidance throughout their studies, as well as a full scholarship from the Rehabilitation Unit at the National Security Institute.
Many studies have highlighted the relationship between integration in employment and higher education. The 2014 State Comptroller’s report stated that the state loses 5.5 billion dollars annually from the unemployment of disabled citizens. The preparatory program (mechina) at Kinneret College, which is designated for people with mental disabilities that wish to join higher or professional studies and fulfilling employment, is a significant opportunity to develop both career-wise and personally-professionally.
The program offers a variety of courses and workshops in a binding educational framework within a supportive rehabilitation casing. One of the program’s strengths is the opportunity to experience higher education in a classroom of peers, and in a significant and supportive social framework. It provides preparation for the world of learning, and helps to strengthen skills and create confidence in the learning process. In addition, the participants enjoy personal guidance throughout the mechina period, and further guidance at its end to direct and consolidate a study and employment track.
So far, in Israel, 43 classes of the Eshnav preparatory program have been held over nine years. Almost 900 participants have participated in the program, with a success rate of 90% (based on Eshnav data).
Students who had completed the program are quoted on the Eshnav website, for example: “The program gave me the courage and confidence to try things that I had thought were beyond my abilities”; “Experiencing the study load and workshops in the program has improved my time management and organization skills”; “The process of occupation research and personal sessions helped me put my thoughts in order and understand what I wanted”.
The first class at Kinneret Academic College opened in February 2022 with 19 students of all ages from the northern regions of the country. The staff at the college has been working in full cooperation with the Eshnav staff – education manager, northern region, Sapir Weiss; education coordinator and mechina advisor, Liat Pass; and education and professional studies coordinator, Pedut Wiesel. Before the program started, we put together a team of lecturers, who were specially trained to work with the target population. The first class is expected to end at the end of July 2022, following which the graduates will be invited to join further education frameworks. Some will choose an academic degree, some – professional training in the External Studies unit at the college, or in the School of Practical Engineers.
An additional Eshnav mechina class is planned for the 2022-23 academic year.
We at Kinneret Academic College find the cooperation with Eshnav to be of utmost importance. We realize that the population of people coping with mental illness in the northern periphery of Israel is entitled to equal opportunities, as is every other individual in Israel, and we happily welcome the participants of the Eshnav program to our thriving campus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.