RTC-CL Project Promotes Disability Rights and Inclusion in Africa

Mon Feb 20 2017
ICI staff and Mikala Mukonglawa working in Zambia

Last month, Amy Hewitt (second from right), MacDonald Metzger (right), and Amos Hewitt-Perry (third from right) of ICI's Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC-CL) traveled to Zambia, where they collaborated with longtime Zambian colleagues Bishop Patrick Chisanga, Mikala Mukonglawa (left) from the Bauleni project, as well as advocate Sandy Beddor and her brother Bill, to conduct training on community inclusion and disability rights and awareness. Since 2008 the RTC-CL has worked with Mukonglawa, Chisanga, Beddor, and other partners in the U.S. and Zambia to improve the quality of services provided to children with disabilities and their families. "On this visit we trained over 300 people and were able to follow-up with several of the children who receive support through the home-based education program that was started a few years ago," Hewitt said. "It was fantastic to see the progress children made."

The work is carried out through the RTC-CL's project, Twin Cities and Zambia Disability Connection, and it's expanding this year to include piloting the use of DirectCourse  as a tool to support home-based educators and special education teachers throughout Zambia. "We met with officials from the University of Zambia and ZAMESIE [a special education training college] and remain hopeful that DirectCourse will be used to train their special education students."

Metzger continued on to the west African country of Liberia to promote training and inclusion. In Liberia, Metzger met with the Minister of Education; the Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection; the Catholic archbishop in the capital; and a bishop out in the provinces. Metzger gave a DirectCourse training for the staff of a nonprofit organization that provides community-based mental health services to people with intellectual disabilities across the country. Although many Liberians cannot afford Internet access and people with disabilities there are often stigmatized, he found that the government, the Catholic church, large nonprofit organizations, and many community-based organizations are eager to make Liberia a more inclusive society. They see the home-based education program that Mukonglawa and others have built with community volunteers and parents in Zambia and want to replicate it in Liberia. "The Catholic church in Liberia is ready to partner with us and other community-based organizations are already doing work on the ground," Metzger said.