Friday, July 18, 2008

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...

Yesterday, Izzy, Mitch and I were invited to eat dinner at Mr. Masam’s, a blind teacher at our school. We walked to his house from the school. His sister-in-law’s daughter walks him to and from school everyday and she escorted us to his house as well. He has a beautiful family; 3 daughters and 1 son. His wife, sister and daughter’s were preparing the meal and we sat around the table conversing. Mr. Masam left the table and returned with a stack of about 10 self-help books that were written all in English. These books could obviously not be for him seeing as they were not written in Brail or Swahili. Izzy asked if he had read the books and he replied, “No, these are not for me. These are for all of my visitors.” By “visitors,” I can only assume that he meant stressed-out, westerners. It was pretty funny that he had bought a stack of self-help books that he never planned to read, but thought that we could benefit from them. If you knew Mr. Masam, he is probably right. There doesn’t seem to be anything that could bother him, yet he is still fairly productive everyday (compared to other Africans). I really enjoy his company.

I personally also enjoyed the visit to his house because he wanted me to assess his youngest daughter, Aichi, who has been diagnosed as a “slow learner.” She is absolutely lovely. When she was 3 years old, she suffered from seizures and acquired brain injury at that point in her life. Aichi is now 9 and doing pretty well in school, despite her injury’s. She is also on a very common medication to control seizures and has been seizure-free for 5 years  After learning laws and requirements to support all special needs students in the school systems in the United States, I was so sad that Aichi would receive none of those. Mr. Masam asked me the most difficult questions to answer as a speech pathologist including, “How long will she be a slow learner?” “When will she get better?” and “What can I do in the schools here?” At home, I could easily answer the last question; however, it was the most difficult question in Africa. I learned that there are only 3 types of special needs students in Tanzania which include the Blind, Deaf and Mentally Impaired. Therefore, she could receive no special services or attention with her diagnosis. If she did not complete a test on time, she could be penalized.

For dinner, we had chicken, cucumbers & tomatoes, avocado, bananas & rice. It was basically a feast. The 3 children walked us back to the main road as it was getting dark and we stayed in for the night…after stopping by the local shop to get some chocolate.


Ms. T. said...

What an incredible experience. Could you inform Mr. Masam of his rights to advocate for his daughter's needs? Being her guardian, whether African schools are efficient or not, he has the right to advocate for her needs. Tell him what he can do at home to assist her and help her in creating a strong sense of self and confidence. You rock my world, Teacher Megan. Love you!