TTU's Chester Goad takes passion for disability services to educators in Eastern Africa

  • Director of Disability Services met with more than 60 teachers and leaders in Tanzania and Zanzibar
  • Trip lays groundwork for efforts to raise awareness of access, disability issues in developing regions

thumb Tungaraza_and_Goad_at_Univ_Dar_Es_SalaamWhat started as a personal journey to Africa became the educational opportunity of a lifetime for Chester Goad, director of Disability Services at Tennessee Tech University.

Goad’s plans to relax and enjoy a private trip to Eastern Africa changed when he got the chance to present to teachers at the International School in Zanzibar, a private school off the coast of the Indian Ocean, where most students and teachers are from countries outside Eastern Africa.

“I never turn down an opportunity to talk to people about disability-related issues, especially dyslexia,” Goad said. “I was particularly pleased to present to diverse groups of teachers from all over the world.”

Before he knew it, he was scheduled to meet with leaders at the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and the University of Dar Es Salaam and two groups of Tanzanian teachers. In all, Goad talked to about 60 educators about accessibility for people with disabilities and learning disabilities like dyslexia.

“Dyslexia exists in every language,” Goad said. A neurobiological, language-based learning disability, people with dyslexia have difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading.

To simulate those difficulties, Goad had the teachers do a decoding exercise. Goad had to rework the exercise for the Swahili language, though. The Swahili alphabet has the same letters as the English alphabet, but without the letters Q and X.

“I had to take out all the Qs and Xs and substitute other letters,” Goad said.

Among the challenges for educators in Eastern Africa is their capability to recognize disabilities in large classrooms. One teacher told Goad of her difficulty differentiating for blind students and students with other disabilities in her class of more than 100.

“One of the primary issues is assessment and diagnosis of students,” Goad said. “There just is not a system in place, but leaders are beginning to address this.” 

In Tanzania, K-12 classes of 100 students or more are common, and teachers do not have assistants. All students, regardless of ability, are in the same classroom, and many of the disabilities are undiagnosed. Furthermore, students learn in two languages: Swahili until they are about eight years old, and English thereafter.

Educators in Tanzania are eager to learn more about access and disabilities, Goad said, as leaders estimate that only one percent of the disabled population gets an education.

The International School had more resources, Goad said, and had an optimal class size of 7-10 students.

Goad dreams of coordinating international efforts to assist developing countries like Tanzania in access- related issues, especially those directly related to learning.

“How great would it be to see universities around the world lead efforts in these countries, not only to train teachers and provide professional development opportunities, but also to help assess students with disabilities and fill a variety of other disability-related needs,” said Goad.

Frida Tungaraza, professor and director of education at the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, shares his dream.  An expert in the development and history of special education in Tanzania, Tungaraza corresponded with Goad before his trip and asked him to talk with her campus community about disability access, dyslexia and other issues facing Eastern African people with disabilities. Goad and Tungaraza plan to stay in touch and to pursue opportunities to work together in the future.

Other than the need for disability access, Goad found that university life in Tanzania was similar to that at Tennessee Tech.

“Students congregated on patios and under large tropical trees on the beautiful campus there, some studying and some just having a good time,” Goad said. “Students with or without disabilities are still students. That’s what I love about my job, and this experience just reinforced that notion for me.”

Goad insists he learned more from the Eastern African people and his experiences there than they learned from him.

“I may have introduced some interesting ideas and suggestions for differentiated learning, but I definitely learned more from them,” he said. “I was humbled by their passion for education and the teaching profession even with very, very limited resources.”

An adjunct instructor in education at TTU, Goad also is a licensed PreK-12 teacher and school administrator with endorsements in English, speech and special education. He is working on his doctorate in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in special education. His research focus is higher education and public policy as related to disabilities.

Goad has served on the board of TNAHEAD, the Tennessee Association on Higher Education and Disability, as vice president and public policy chair for the Tennessee Dyslexia Association, as a projects director for the U.S. House of Representatives, and as dean of students for Currey Ingram Academy in Brentwood, a specialized school for dyslexics.

 

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