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International Association of Special Education

Fostering a Global Exchange of Ideas and Information

Conference Blog and updates

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We, the LSC!

Posted by idrower on March 5, 2019 at 8:35 AM Comments comments ()

Written by Sarah Rosenbloom

LSC can stand for many things: Logistics and Supply Chain, Leukemia Stem Cell, Luxury Sports Coupe. However, for the purposes of this blog, it stands for Local Steering Committee and in particular the LSC of the 16th biennial conference of the International Association of Special Education (or IASE) to be held in Magamba, Tanzania from July 14 through 17.

As I reported in my last blog entry, the campus of Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (or SEKOMU) will be the site of this conference and Toa’s new on-site director, Simon Collery, and I went to visit about two weeks ago. We met the other members of the LSC and took part in one of the many planning sessions the committee has scheduled for this year up until the time of the conference.

Road trip!

In the words of Mama Munga, Director of Postgraduate Studies, International Relations and Linkages and the chair of the LSC: “We want the 16th biennial conference of the IASE to be a forum where everyone gets the opportunity to give and the privilege to receive. There will be participants who communicate verbally whereas others will use non-verbal language. Sign-language interpreters shall therefore be in place, acting as “bridge-makers.” We pray for the task ahead so that we all can testify at the end of the conference that we were part of an endeavor in which every participant’s voice was heard.”

“At Vuga Press, around 300 copies of the conference program book will be printed. SEKOMU will bear the responsibility to ensure that the book is available in braille print too. No one should be excluded.”

“The Benjamin William Mkapa complex at SEKOMU includes an auditorium for 1000 people, 2 conference halls, and 6 seminar rooms. This will be the venue of the 16th biennial IASE conference. The building has ramps everywhere, thus participants using wheelchairs can access it fully. A venue that is user-friendly to everyone will make us all feel at home.”

“In 2010, a solar water disinfection system (SOWADIS) was installed at SEKOMU, enabling the entire community to access safe drinking water. In the following years, this technology was transferred to two special schools. While we support challenged learners by training special education teachers, we also care about the health of those learners.”

From left: Dr. Albert Idahya, Rev. Anneth Munga, Mr. Benedict Mdabagi, Prof. Edward Bagandanshwa, Mrs. Lightness Mbila, Mr. Wilson William, Mrs. Lucy Mwinuka, and Mr. Ignatius Mutungi

Scene from the February 20th meeting of the LSC

Again, from the indomitable Mama Munga: “We want this conference to unite us in our efforts of empowering persons with disabilities. One way of doing that is to make education more accessible to learners with challenges and more relevant to the circumstances they live in.”

“The theme of this conference includes the words INCLUSIVE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. If DEVELOPMENT isn’t INCLUSIVE, it will leave others behind. If DEVELOPMENT leaves others behind, it won’t be SUSTAINABLE.”

And from the Vision and Mission Statements of the International Association of Special Education: “IASE’s vision is to improve the quality of life and service delivery for all individuals with special needs.”

“IASE’s mission is to promote awareness and understanding of issues and developments related to the education and welfare of individuals with special needs throughout the world.”

This July 2019, SEKOMU shall become a melting pot of nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities in a common search for inclusive educational and welfare systems. Won’t you join us? Check out www.iase.org to register now!

The Five Month Itch

Posted by idrower on February 25, 2019 at 8:15 AM Comments comments ()

Written by Sarah Rosenbloom

No, I haven’t picked up some dread disease and no, I’m not pining for 1950s Monroe. What I am doing, rather, is talking about the time until the 16th biennial conference of the International Association of Special Education is to be held here in Tanzania.

I have long been a member of the IASE and attended the last conference in 2017 in Perth. This time around, rather than present a paper as I did in Australia, I am serving on the local steering committee which has met several times since our inception in 2017.

Last week, Toa’s new on-site director, Simon Collery, and I made our way to Lushoto, the part of the country in which the conference will be held to greet our fellow committee members and discuss a few key points still outstanding.

Nestled in Magamba, a small village located in the greater Lushoto area, sits a college called Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University on whose campus this conference will take place.

SEKOMU, as the school is more informally referred to, was founded 11 years ago by the North Eastern Diocese (NED) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT). “Since 1891, this church has served people degraded by and discriminated from their communities, particularly those with mental illnesses and disabilities. The ground-breaking approach of the NED has underpinned the philosophy of SEKOMU during its first decade of existence. Programs aimed at giving downtrodden people their rightful place in society have therefore become SEKOMU’s foremost priority.”

SEKOMU has trained thousands of special education teachers at degree level. These graduates are serving learners with physical, sensory, cognitive, and behavioral challenges in Tanzania and abroad. At SEKOMU, it is believed that one criterion by which a nation’s civilization ought to be measured is how it treats citizens who have disabilities.

The mission of SEKOMU is “to be a leading African institution of higher learning that fully recognizes and actively professes the human value and dignity of all society members, including people with disabilities, and whereby everyone is able to learn and live in harmony with God, fellow human beings, and all creation.”

Nestled in Magamba, a small village located in the greater Lushoto area, sits a college called Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University on whose campus this conference will take place.  Situated in the Usambara mountains, SEKOMU is neighbored by communities who plant different species and sub-species of indigenous trees. In one of these communities, a small botanical garden has been started where youths with autism are included in gardening activities. SEKOMU believes that “wherever we are, we should work inclusively to take care of nature so that nature can take care of us.”

Speaking of nature, hiking attracts many people who visit the Lushoto area. According to Mama Munga, the head of the university, “Walking through the rainforest, you can SEE the towering Mshai; SMELL the wild Msambalawe; TASTE the spongy Fenesi; FEEL the wavy Mkomamanga; and LISTEN to the songs of Usambara eagle-owls.”

I’ll report more next week on the other items discussed at the meeting, but until then, don’t you think you should get off this website, and check out www.iase.org to register for the conference and book your trip?!

Below: Rev. Lightness Mbila, a committee chair, and Simon in the foreground. Rev. Anneth Munga, the university provost; Mr. Benedict Mdabagi, a committee member; and a chap only whose first name I know – Oliver – behind.

Summer Post, Tanzania Conference 2019

Posted by idrower on July 14, 2018 at 3:45 PM Comments comments ()

IASE 16th Biennial Conference UPDATE: July 15-17, 2019, Magamba TZ

June 25, 2018

By Sara Rosenbloom

Welcome back to our humble blog gearing you up for all things IASE, SEKOMU, and Toa Nafasi come July 2019!

Now, lest you think what I just said was gobbledygook, allow me to remind you that we are The International Association of Special Education (www.iase.org), Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (www.sekomu.ac.tz), and The Toa Nafasi Project (www.toanafasi.org), three great organizations that have come together to bring you the best biennial conference that the IASE has put on….ever!!

Just about a year out from the 16th biennial conference and the planning is in full force. In my last blog entry, from April and May, I alluded to an upcoming trip to Lushoto where the conference venue is located, for another face-to-face (to-face-to-face-to-face!) group session of all the stakeholders currently in-country. Unfortunately, that meeting was postponed and will hopefully happen this third quarter of 2018. Until then, we are making do with Skype, phone calls, and electronic mails.

However, I still wanted to write a little bit for potential attendees and speakers to get excited about! So, in this short blog piece I will talk about “arrivals” or wanaoingia in Swahili, literally translated to “those who are entering.” That’s you!


You’ve registered for the conference, booked your plane tickets, packed your bags, and after many hours (and possibly several different planes), you have arrived in the strange and wonderful land that is Tanzania.

Well done!!

Upon arriving, you will enter the country via the wanaoingia terminal at the airport, which is likely to be crowded with many excited and exhausted “enterers” just like you. Since it will be July, there will be lots of tourists coming into the country during what we call “high season” when safari-going, mountain-trekking, and beach-bumming are all the rage here.

Hopefully, you too have planned for some of these activities at some point during your stay – remember to book early though as schedules fill up with curious vacationers wanting to see this:

                                 And climb this....                         

And swim this:

More on all that good stuff later, however. Right now, it’s hapa kazi tu, or “time for work” as our esteemed president likes to say, and you need to get to your final destination before that can happen!

Upon entering the wanaoingia gate, you will be asked either to purchase a visa or to show the visa you have pre-purchased in your home country. There will be some chaos and long lines, but you’ve come this far, you can do it! Reaching the immigration desk, you’ll hand over your passport, smile at the official and get a big karibu Tanzania “welcome to Tanzania” from the airport staff. You’re in!!

Waiting for your luggage can always be a bit painful, but relax, you’re in Tanzania. This is the world of hakuna matata or “no worries.” Bags are offloaded manually which can take a bit of time, so wait until the very end if you don’t see your bag off the bat. In the event that your bag doesn’t make it, or is lost in translate, DON’T PANIC. There is a lost luggage kiosk where you can report your bags are missing and they are very efficient at locating wayward luggage. I have never experienced a completely, totally, utterly lost bag in my eleven years of living here, hosting friends and family, or welcoming volunteers.

Now you’re out of the airport and off to Lushoto. Check for the SEKOMU personnel who will be meeting you along with any other fellow conference-goers and settle in for a pleasant drive from Arusha/Kilimanjaro to Tanga. You can expect about five peaceful hours of beautiful East African countryside, with the Usambara Mountains to your left and sisal plantations as far as the eye can see to your right. Try to catch some zzzz’s along the way if you can because this is the best rest you’re going to get in the next few days once the conference really kicks off.

If you’re feeling brave and exploratory, you can test out a few of the Swahili words I wrote up in my “Travel Tips” and which are reprinted here. Don’t be shy; Tanzanians love both teaching Swahili and learning English from foreigners and they will never make fun or tease.

Hello – Habari

Goodbye – Kwaheri

See you later – Baadaye

Thank you – Asante

You’re welcome – Karibu

Toilet – Choo

Water – Maji

May I….? – Naomba….?

I like…. – Napenda….

I don’t like…. – Sipendi….

Yes – Ndiyo

No – Hapana

Okay – Sawa

Stop – Acha

Please – Tafadhali

Excuse me – Samahani

Sorry – Pole

How much? – Ngapi?

My name is…. – Jina langu ni…

I don’t understand/I don’t know – Sijui

Doctor – Daktari

Police – Polisi

Taxi – Taksi

In my next entry for August/September, I’ll give you a briefing on what happens once you get to Lushoto. Stay tuned!

IASE 16th Biennial Conference UPDATE: July 14-17, 2019, Magamba TZ

Posted by idrower on May 2, 2018 at 1:10 PM Comments comments ()

Written By Sarah Rosenbloom

Hello and warm greetings from a cold and rainy Kilimanjaro on this first day of May 2018! We are now 14 months away from the 16th biennial conference of the International Association of Special Education, and planning continues apace to ensure it’s going to be the best conference yet!!

Six months ago, the international planning committee and the local planning committee met up in beautiful Lushoto, where the 16th biennial conference will take place in July 2019.

Local Planning Committee From left: Sarah Rosenbloom, Gasto Lekule, Geoffrey Kingazi, Dr. Edward Bagandanshwa, and Msafiri Mbilu

More specifically, the conference will be held at Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University in the tiny village of Magamba up in the Usambara Mountains in the Tanga region of Tanzania.

On our recent reconnaissance mission back in October 2017, both committees surveyed the scene and did a ton of legwork to make sure that the venue and its environs will be perfect for all our many conference-goers from around the world.

We discussed in detail the plans for each of the different conference rooms and facilities on the university’s campus; the considerations for IT needs; the various hotels and dormitories in which guests can stay during their time here; the logistics of transportation, meals, and basic needs of our visitors; and all sorts of other good stuff.

Now, in early May, we are gearing up to meet again back in Lushoto and see what has transpired in the intermediary six months. Local transportation, catering, conference bags, and letterhead have all been attended to. Call for proposals have been posted online and are currently being received and reviewed. Safari companies have been contacted and alerted to our event, so they might be aware there will be more business than usual around that time. You could say everything is coming up roses, except that here in Tanzania at this time, we are undergoing the long rains, and the roses won’t yet rear their buds for another six weeks or so.

Thus, we leave you with a parting photo of some of the local inhabitants and how they cope with the gloomy weather: big smiles under even bigger umbrellas!