Mon Jul 15 2019
Mikala Mukongolwa pictured in Zambia, teaching a child with a disability.

Mikala Mukongolwa visited ICI and a partner organization May 23-July 5 to share her knowledge, skills, and experiences working with children with disabilities in Zambia, her home country in southern Africa. Mukongolwa (pictured in Zambia, teaching a child with a disability) and her team in Zambia educate children with disabilities who cannot attend a classroom; she runs the country’s only home-based education program. While in the U.S., she honed her skills and expertise, learning from other disability specialists. She has taken that knowledge home to Zambia, where enforcement of the country's inclusive education policy has been uneven.

Over the years, Mukongolwa has served as ICI’s primary contact on disability issues in Zambia. She leverages her home-based education program with DirectCourse, an online training program developed by ICI’s Research Center on Community Living. Now Mukongolwa uses DirectCourse  in Zambia to train local providers, faith-based organizations, families, and individuals with disabilities. Macdonald Metzger provides Mukongolwa with additional training and support on how to use the DirectCourse learning management system and all of its functionalities. “DirectCourse is the only free training program on disability issues available to family members and teachers in Zambia, so it is a very important training resource for us,” she says. “Over 3,000 people have been trained using the curriculum. This training program has helped change people’s behaviors, attitudes, and old beliefs that falsely linked disability to witchcraft. DirectCourse has increased teachers’ and parents’ knowledge and understanding of practices and approaches in the U.S. context and how we can apply those strategies in Zambia.”

Mukongolwa recalls that when she first visited ICI years ago, she knew little about autism spectrum disorder. But since discovering ICI, she has benefited from in-person and online training, and thus became well-informed about people on the autism spectrum. Each time she visits the U.S., Mukongolwa tries to learn about a different form of disability. This year, she wanted to understand Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), so she visited Proof Alliance (formerly the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), to learn about FAS and its impact in the U.S.

In early June, Mukongolwa attended the annual conference of the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services in Seattle, traveling with Amy Hewitt, who directs ICI and DirectCourse. In late June, Mukongolwa and ICI’s Sarah Hall presented, “AAIDD Delegation: Inclusion of People with IDD in Zambia and South Africa,” at the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities conference, which ICI co-hosted in the Twin Cities. She also sat in on Disability Policy and Services, the interdisciplinary core course of ICI’s Certificate in Disability Policy and Services.

DirectCourse financed Mukongolwa’s visit. “The policies might be there but people are not trained on how to implement them,” she says of her home country. “This is where DirectCourse online training program comes in. Because it helps people understand how to tailor supports to people with disabilities in Zambia.”