One of the most memorable experiences the PULSE team in South Africa has had so far was the National Tutors Workshop in February , and we are happy to yet again attend a national workshop. This time the Project Officers (PO), Social Officers (SO) and Band Coordinators (BC) are gathered for training and up-skilling in everything from monitoring & evaluation and concert production to life skills and practical music theory, and much more. PULSE had a full day to facilitate sessions on Disability Awareness and Inclusive Teaching, as well as music and health. At the Educational Band Visits, we usually facilitate for tutor teams, but this workshop gave us the opportunity to offer training to band management. By providing upskilling to the leaders of the field bands across South Africa we ensure that the work done by the tutor teams in terms of inclusion of members living with disabilities is thoroughly supported, and that all band staff has a joint focus on these themes.
We started off the day with a session on music and health to remind everyone about the foundation of what PULSE bases its work on. In the beginning of the music and health session we asked what words the participants would use to describe music and dance. While a lot of the words revolved around the sound and movement itself, e.g. rhythm, exercise, dynamics, scales, we also see that many of the words used refer to something else. Words like joy, happiness, friendship and expression usually comes up during this exercise, and shows how closely music and dance is linked to health promotion in a holistic perspective. The band staff were reminded that there is a lot of potential for experiencing emotional and social wellbeing in a field band, and that they are in a unique position to contribute positively to their members lives.
The music and health topic ties in with the Disability Awareness and Inclusive Teaching session and our first theme of the day, which was barriers. Barriers are obstacles you might come across in your life. We all face obstacles, but if you are living with a disability you might come across barriers more often, and they might have greater effect and make life more difficult than it has to be. One of the biggest challenges of having a disability is not only the impairment you are living with but the participation restriction you experience because of barriers of accessibility. These barriers might be physical, e.g. lack of wheelchair ramps, but the term also involves non-physical obstacles such as attitudes. Our sessions are focused on the importance of not making assumptions of what a member living with a disability can or cannot do, and to make decisions on behalf of others based on these assumptions. It is essential for the field band members sense of mastering and self-esteem that they are challenged and get a chance to grow and improve. Also it is crucial that they are given as close to the same band experience as everyone else, as this will increase the feeling of inclusion and unity with the band. Our overall goal of the session is to make the staff not to focus on the disabilities and limitations, but to see the person first and to rather identify strengths and capabilities. A more inclusive environment starts with you.
Later in the day we looked at inclusive teaching skills. Here we introduce skills and tips and tricks for inclusive teaching, but our focus remains on having an open and creative approach to teaching. This mindset will help you look for solutions to accommodate all kinds of members, and to create an environment where everyone has a chance to learn and grow.
“It is not the disability, nor the wheelchair, that disables a person, but it is the stairs leading to a building”
(Integrated National Disability Framework).
Written by: Emely Ruth Waet
Pictures by: Sello Ramosepele and Emely Ruth Waet