Research and Community Service in Southern Africa I am waiting on a dusty playground in Maserus, Lesotho, in southern Africa to begin testing related to my PhD research on the acquisition of the passive in Setswana-speaking children. Excited pre-schoolers pour out of a small room. One tall 7-year-old boy with a hemiplegia limps toward us, smiling. He ... First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   June 01, 2009
Research and Community Service in Southern Africa
Author Notes
  • Melissa Bortz, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in private practice focusing on language disorders and autism. She has 25 years of experience working in South Africa, Israel, and the United States, and is a PhD student at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Contact her at melissabortz@iburst.co.za.
    Melissa Bortz, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in private practice focusing on language disorders and autism. She has 25 years of experience working in South Africa, Israel, and the United States, and is a PhD student at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Contact her at melissabortz@iburst.co.za.×
Article Information
International & Global / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   June 01, 2009
Research and Community Service in Southern Africa
The ASHA Leader, June 2009, Vol. 14, 35. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.14082009.35
The ASHA Leader, June 2009, Vol. 14, 35. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.14082009.35

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I am waiting on a dusty playground in Maserus, Lesotho, in southern Africa to begin testing related to my PhD research on the acquisition of the passive in Setswana-speaking children. Excited pre-schoolers pour out of a small room. One tall 7-year-old boy with a hemiplegia limps toward us, smiling. He is unable to respond to our greetings or tell us his name. We begin our testing with a 3-year-old child and are happy when he performs well.
As we depart for the next test site in Maseru, the older child with hemiplegia continues to run around the playground. I ask the research team if he can be referred to a speech-language pathologist and am horrified to learn that there are none in the country. I become more devastated when the conversation returns to discussing testing schedules for the next day.
The following day we conduct testing in a small room at a school in Pankop. There is a misspelled timetable on the wall and the strong odor of sewage. I compliment the principal on how well her pupils know the passive construction, but this observation seems irrelevant to her and she responds by complaining that her students have no septic system because the sewage pump was stolen.
I can’t forget the child with hemiplegia running aimlessly and the fact that he will never receive any services. As researchers, we have no obligation to help improve his communication. Other students had bigger problems—like lack of sewage systems—that needed to be addressed before work on communication could begin. I felt frustrated and disempowered by the gap I felt between being a researcher and being a clinician. It also was very frustrating to realize the disparity that existed between my needs as a researcher and the school’s more basic needs.
Reflecting on how to address these situations, I consider eclecticism, one of the first principles I learned in my undergraduate speech-language pathology classes from one of my heroes, Charles van Riper. For both situations, I will use the pedagogy of community service and community work. In Lesotho I will partner with community-based rehabilitation workers to provide inclusion speech-language pathology services for children with disabilities.
While conducting my research in Pankop, I will work with the teachers and parents at the schools to raise money to purchase new sewage systems as well as toys and posters for the pre-schools. I hope that by implementing these principles I will never again experience such feelings of uselessness as a professional.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
June 2009
Volume 14, Issue 8