For students with disabilities in many parts of the world, transition is often undermined and even precluded by limited access to mentors who have the skill, commitment and resources to help them achieve success. In countries where independent living and inclusive employment are relatively uncommon, building strong inclusive education networks is especially essential to the creation of strong long-term transition pathways for youth with disabilities. In Kenya and Tanzania, alumni of the ADA International Fellowship Program are implementing inclusive education projects that seek to transform teacher training in ways that will improve educational outcomes for youth with disabilities and expand professional opportunities for such students in the long term.
The ADA International Fellowship Program is a U.S. Department of State-sponsored professional exchange initiative that seeks to foster the sharing of best practices in inclusive education between experts in the United States and advocates from East Africa and South America. The program, which was implemented in 2017 by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI-UMass Boston) enabled 19 inclusive education professionals from Brazil, Kenya, Tanzania and Peru to study best practices at U.S. university centers and develop pilot projects to implement in their home countries. Since completing the program, ADA International Fellows have bolstered inclusive education in many ways, with several Fellows in Kenya and Tanzania seeking to transform the way their countries train educators who work with youth with disabilities.
ADA Fellows Susan Masila, Martin Kavua, and Maria Omare in Nairobi, Kenya One significant partnership recently emerged in Nairobi, Kenya, where three ADA International Fellows trained 100 teachers in inclusive education methods in January 2018. The training was held at the Kenya Institute for Special Education (KISE) in tandem with UNICEF, Special Olympics Kenya, and The Action Foundation, a major Kenyan youth-led grassroots NGO. ADA Fellowship alumni Susan Masila, Martin Kavua and Maria Omare aim for the training to the be the first of many partnerships that will eventually sensitize thousands of Kenyan teachers on how to include students with disabilities in education and set meaningful targets for professional success. By transforming the way in which teachers are trained on how to engage youth with disabilities in educational settings, Masila, Kavua and Omare hope to deepen educators' appreciation of such students' potential and increase public engagement in extending inclusive education resources to cover transition as well. Masila and Omare developed their inclusive education projects during their ADA International Fellowship in the U.S. at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI-UMass Boston) under the guidance of Dr. Patricia Favazza and Dr. Sheila Fesko. Kavua spent his Fellowship at the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities, Minot State University, and is collaborating directly with Dr. Evan Borisinkoff, who is providing technical assistance to his work.
In Tanzania, other ADA Fellowship alumni are also leveraging lessons learned in the U.S. to change the way educators are trained to support students with disabilities. In Moshi, Tanzania, Goodluck Chanyika, who works for the NGO Childreach Tanzania, has been using skills from his exchange program experience to implement a new national inclusive education initiative, the Jumuisha Project. With technical assistance from Dr. Wendy Parent-Johnson at the University of South Dakota Center for Disabilities, Chanyika has brought innovative resources to Tanzania's premier special education teachers' training college. Akin to his peers in Kenya, Chanyika believes that strengthening teacher training curricula at an early stage can not only increase competence but transform attitudes about the professional potential of individuals with disabilities and the importance of providing an avenue to transition. Similarly, Monica Mbelle, who also participated in the ADA International Fellowship Program, has been developing a training guide to increase awareness about employment and vocational education options for youth with disabilities. Mbelle, who spent her Fellowship working with Dr. Kaitlyn Siner at the Institute for Community Inclusion, is establishing counseling for youth with disabilities in the rural central region of Iringa, where support for and access to transition is very limited. Chanyika and Mbelle presented their respective projects to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in October 2017, and are continuing to pursue collaborative opportunities to advance inclusive education in their home country.
ADA Fellows Monica Mbelle and Goodluck Chanyika at the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania The ADA International Fellows' work is ongoing, and will be followed in 2018 by the Professional Fellows Program for Inclusive Disability Employment (PFP-IDE). PFP-IDE is a successor exchange program to the ADA Fellowship that will bring advocates for inclusive employment from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to train and design pilot projects at U.S. university centers this year. You can visit this website to find out more about the PFP-IDE program.