VVOB Zimbabwe supported the start-up of a partnership between the Zimbabwean United College of Education, and the Belgian education institute Thomas More University College. With this they want to improve teacher training programmes on special needs education, especially on the level of speech and language therapy.
United College of Education (UCE) is the only Teacher Education College out of fourteen in Zimbabwe which offers in-service training programmes for special needs teachers. The college has a dream to become the ‘Centre of Excellence in Special Education’. Presently the college offers in-service training programmes in four specialised areas:
- Hearing Impairment
- Visual Impairment
- Mental Retardation
- and Learning Difficulties
However, the Zimbabwean education context shows that there is a critical shortage of speech therapists in the schools. In fact, there is not a single therapist operating in the government education system, which is a very deplorable situation. As an intervention measure speech correctionists have been put in place at some district education offices, but there are only eight in the entire country.
This national challenge has motivated UCE to strategically think of incorporating speech and language issues in pre-service training of primary, early childhood and special needs teachers’ curricula.
VVOB Zimbabwe, upon realising the passion and dream of UCE to improve and strengthen their teacher training programmes, facilitated the twinning of UCE and a Belgian education institute called Thomas More University College, which has a speech and language therapy department and already supports a training programme for speech and language therapists in Suriname.
In April 2013 a team of two lecturers from Thomas More visited UCE to assess the situation on the ground. They held meetings with the UCE college administration, Special Education Department staff, officials from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, officials from the Department of Teacher Education who are responsible for quality control, and other stakeholders. After a lot of deliberations they agreed to work together in a way that would benefit both parties.
Plans are now underway to have a team of experts from Thomas More come to Zimbabwe to assist the UCE staff to infuse relevant elements of speech and language therapy in the Special Education Department syllabus. They want to enable trained teachers who graduate at UCE to be in a position to adjust their teaching for pupils with speech, language, and/or hearing challenges. There are also long term plans to have students from Thomas More coming to carry out their research studies at UCE.
We are looking forward to the first action of the partnership, the UCE staff development on speech, language and audiology. This will be facilitated by Thomas More University College personnel in November.
Support Team Member, VVOB Zimbabwe