Occupational therapy gets a leg up

20 June 2011 | Story by Newsroom

studentsPioneers in the making: Dr Elelwani Ramugondo (back, centre) and Prof Eve Duncan (back, far right) with students taking part in the OT project (back, left) Dorothy Chinguo, Helga Burger and Matumo Ramafikeng; and (front, left) Patrice Malonza and Justus Ntithu.

The development of occupational therapy (OT) in four African countries will be boosted when UCT trains its students to pass on their skills to OT professionals back home.

Two master's graduates, two master's and one doctoral student - Helga Burger of Namibia, Dorothy Chinguo of Malawi, Patrice Malonza and Justus Ntithu, originally from Kenya but currently in Botswana, and Matumo Ramafikeng of Lesotho - are taking part in the African Scholars in Occupational Therapy Project: Reflections on possibilities for OT identities in Africa at UCT.

Funded by the vice-chancellor's Afropolitan Project, the year-long initiative of UCT's Division of Occupational Therapy brings together African scholars to share ideas on how to develop OT education programs that is relevant to their home countries.

According to the head of the Division of Occupational Therapy at UCT, Dr Elelwani Ramugondo, who is driving the project with Professor Eve Duncan, there are few or no OT specialists in these countries. The current intake of OT master's and doctoral students are poised to inject new life into OT training on their return home, with the support of the project.

Ramafikeng says she is one of the first five occupational therapists to work in Lesotho's public sector (previously, occupational therapists were contracted from outside the country by an NGO in Lesotho). Her ambition is to establish an OT education program at the National University of Lesotho. "The UCT project is a huge stepping stone, and allows us to think and design curricula that are a fit for our respective countries," Ramafikeng explains.

Ramugondo and her team are also working on journal articles on the project, and hope to attract more funding to keep it going.

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