By Jane Stokes, Hilary Gardner, Sioned McBride, Awurabena Kessie
Working in South London, there were opportunities to meet families of Ghanaian heritage. For several years during the 1990s and 2000s, our team in Lambeth was lucky enough to have Nana Akua Owusu with us. As a Ghanaian, she was able to connect with the community and gave us generously of her wisdom and experience.
Nana Akua Owusu became programme coordinator of the first MSc in Speech and Language Therapy in West Africa, at the University of Ghana, in Accra. The first 12 students from this programme qualified during 2018. On graduation, they more than doubled the existing number of SLTs in Ghana.
Students in UK and students in Ghana
For the new programme in Accra, these are early days. Students there can find it a challenge to access the internet, do not have easy access to a large range of experienced senior SLTs to guide them, have limited employment prospects and not yet much in the way of continuous professional development after they qualify. Allied health professionals in Ghana are in the process of establishing professional networks, regulatory bodies and support systems.
Launch of joint working network
Professional and personal contact and collaboration is key. To enable joint learning and mutual support, a new network has been launched. Together with Awurabena Kessie and 9 other SLTs based in the UK, we have set up BRiGHt, the British Ghana Therapy partnership which met for the first time on May 12th 2018. Colleagues from Ghana, Australia, and New Zealand are also involved. Everyone associated with the partnership has close links with Ghana, through family connections or professional exchanges.
The intention in setting up the BRiGHt partnership is to focus on
- Awareness raising activities of communication and swallowing needs in the UK and in Ghana
- Professional supervision and mentoring to include buddying/pairing up across UK and Ghana SLTs
- Supporting exchanges between UK SLTs and Ghanaian SLTs through preparatory workshops using inclusive communication networks such as Zoom conferencing, Skype calls
- Helping student SLTs in both countries make contact with each other pre-qualification so that post-qualification more sustainable relationships may ensue
Clinical Education in Ghana
In January and February 2018, 3 volunteer SLTs from the UK, Hilary Gardner, Nina Bury and Sioned McBride spent 3 weeks as placement educators supporting students on placement in Accra.
Hilary Gardner: “The intensive nature of the placement meant that we watched the students grow and develop rapidly. Each setting was different; some had had no previous SLT input, and others had collaborated with various volunteer programmes. The students became adept at adapting approaches, developed in a UK or US context, to their particular Ghanaian setting. Each developed assessment skills, building on resources in the main local languages, and worked on target setting and explaining communication goals to staff and parents.
It was wonderful to play a small part in the journey these pioneering students are travelling in providing a home grown training course and a locally sustainable service for those with communication disability, one which will eventually spread across the country”
Sioned McBride: “I secured time off work to travel to Ghana as clinical supervisor for 3 of the students. We were placed at AwaaWaa2 (http://www.awaawaa2.org), a well-established centre in Accra for children with communication difficulties. I was intrigued to contrast the similarities and differences of working with students in a different cultural context from that at home in Wales.
The students initially needed encouragement to speak freely with me – often waiting to be asked a direct question, or needing prompting to expand on their thoughts. By the end of the placement, they had grown in professional confidence, initiating and joining in discussions. We discussed the hierarchy, sometimes present in Ghana, with professionals being perceived as ‘experts’, and authority playing a large role. One student spoke of feeling worried expressing her opinions in case they were ‘wrong’. We felt that this hierarchy could better be construed as a ‘road’, with more experienced professionals being further along the road but nevertheless part of the same journey. This, I feel, was helpful in supporting the three to acknowledge that they too were becoming professionals and helped them communicate more freely.
There was ample opportunity for reflection, space for peer observations, and discussions with the students emphasised the identification of positives. An important aspect of the placement was the training of colleagues at the centre. We discussed Circles of Proximity (https://www.boardmakeronline.com/Activity/4599285) as a way of explaining this. This issue is particularly pertinent in Ghana, where SLT resources are limited and may be expensive for some to access – it becomes all the more vital to be able to make the most of just one or two sessions with a child.
This trip gave me so much: my skills as a clinical supervisor have developed, particularly in supporting students to develop their professional confidence. I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to be of some support to the first ever cohort of Ghanaian trained Speech and Language Therapists.”
We all gain insights and inspiration through our contact with colleagues in Ghana. These links help us to be better SLTs in the UK, when working with culturally and linguistically diverse populations and teach us so much about collaborative practice.
If you are interested in finding out more about or becoming actively involved in work with the developing SLT profession in Ghana then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org