A Mulla Asghar Memorial Project
Mr Kit Howe, Deputy Principal of The Robert Ogden School (biggest Autistic school in Europe) visited the World Federation Autistic Centre in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania, from 5 - 11 November 2006.
|Mr Kit Howe, Dr Zulfiqarali Abbas & Autistic Centre staff|
|Mr Kit Howe observing group teaching sessions and participating in play dough making |
Here is his report:
My Visit to the Autistic Centre Dar se Salaam, Tanzania
During the second of two visits to The Robert Ogden School by Dr Abbas and Dr Walji of The World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Muslim Communities, I was informed of their plans to set up a school for children with autism in Dar es Salaam. It is likely that the school would be the first of its kind in the whole of East Africa.
The two doctors planned to develop the school following the general principles of the National Autistic Society SPELL Framework that they had seen so much in evidence at The Robert Ogden School.
The key subject of staff training was discussed and it was evident that by far the most cost effective plan would involve a trainer going to Dar es Salaam which is were I came in. I readily volunteered after checking with everyone at the NAS if it was OK, I reorganised my annual leave to travel as soon as it was most convenient.
In the meanwhile I organised my training materials whilst in regular email contact with Dr Abbas and Alia one of the teachers at the centre to seek advice as to content and presentation method.
I was informed of the difficulties with relying on electrical supplies so I took back ups of everything, my lap top and a projector just in case.
I flew on 5th November agreeing to spend a week at the centre and offer as much advice and support as I could in such a short space of time.
I was accommodated in a new hotel in the next road to the centre. It was the ‘short rainy’ season and very warm indeed. The road outside the hotel was an earth road and therefore easily flooded. It was good that the Administrator had a four wheel drive vehicle to get me to school on the first morning. I enjoyed the walk on other mornings passing the time of day with local residents.
The centre is a walled whitewashed two storey period colonial house very solidly built with a very attractive and well equipped sand playground with swings, seesaw, roundabout, slides and monkey bars.
Inside there were good sized classrooms, space for a library, a sensory room and good toilet facilities. There was also a lovely balcony area where musical interaction sessions took place.
The sensory room was padded with a variety of soft shapes and balls with facilities for coloured flashing lighting and music. The room is specifically designed to enhance social interaction and sensory awareness in a safe and stimulating environment. The small group of pupils present all seemed very happy and were enjoying attending school which is something that they had not experienced before.
It was also evident that word was getting round that the school existed as new pupils arrived every day during the week that I was there.
It was good to spend mornings at the centre working with the staff and pupils as it allowed me to put the training into context.
Each afternoon was spent in training sessions with the teachers Rackshita and Alia leading the way with their enthusiastic questions regarding their desire to make the school the best it possibly could be for the pupils attending the school.
|“………. I was upstaged by a parent”|
Most evening ending darkness as the light failed us again. Throughout the week invitations went out all schools in Dar es Salaam to attend a conference at the Centre on the Saturday morning. I was guest speaker but as usual I was upstaged by a parent who told the audience as it was for themselves living with their son Michael, how much they have to fight prejudice and how much he now looks forward to coming to school every day
|“…………… and how much he now |
looks forward to coming to school every day”.
|There is a lot of prejudice in Tanzania as there is|
in the rest of the world with regard to disability.
|“……….. our centre is a beacon that signals|
to their world that all children can enjoy
The Centre will not only be an excellent resource for the children who attend but will stand as a beacon that signals to their world that all children can enjoy and achieve with the right kind of education and care. The importance of this centre cannot be overstated and there is the potential, with further support and development for the school to become a centre of excellence from which others may learn.
I left the Centre completely confident that it will go on to grow from strength to strength. A strong bond has developed between our two schools and that bond will ensure that everything possible will be done to support that growth.
Mr Kit Howe,
Deputy Principal of The Robert Ogden School
29th November 2006