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Redefining (training) reality

Customised training for professional development that opens doors for the blind and visually impaired
Redefining (training) reality

Delegates on the Senior Management Institute Programme taking a facilitated campus tour at the University of Pretoria with course coordinator, Roelannie van Deventer (centre), and course presenter, Dawie Bornman (far right).

"We had to redefine our reality by opening up a new world for those who do not share the privilege of experiencing the visual world. No PowerPoint. No YouTube. No visual classroom or the usual teaching support techniques."

Prof Alex Antonites, thought-leader in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Department of Business Management at the University of Pretoria, reflected on how he and his team of facilitators were challenged in customising a training programme in professional development for the blind and visually impaired.

"The world of training and development took a whole new direction when we were approached to design, formulate and develop such a programme. Our entire approach had to surround a fundamental offering while establishing an unparalleled learning experience - a first in 98 years of management education, training and development for the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University."

In partnership with Perkins School for the Blind and the South African National Council of the Blind (SANCB), the University of Pretoria was approached to design and present a leadership and management development programme as part of Perkins' well-established Institutional Development Program (IDP). Established in 1991, leaders and managers from all over Africa are offered the opportunity to learn more about subjects pertaining particularly to the blind and visually impaired through the IDP.

As is it is the first time the IDP was to be presented through a higher education institution, Dawie Bornman, one of the key leadership facilitators on the programme and lecturer in the Department of Business Management, revealed the importance of customising the course to fit delegates' specific needs and circumstances.

"As the delegates were from various African countries and also work in top management positions in their respective fields of work, it was important to not only understand where they work, but also what type of leader and person each individual is."

"The delegates became more involved as each individual shared his or her views and experience with the rest of the group. Opinions and ideas were discussed and debated, and solutions were constructed through mutual group consensus about current organisational leadership topics," he added on the delegates' deep involvement in the entire programme.

As part of the eight-week programme, six weeks had to be dedicated to course work, one week to implement field placement, and finally one week for paper presentations. This ensured that delegates would gain exposure to a wide range of services for people with disabilities, while simultaneously evaluating and reviewing the efficacy of these services.

Mr Martin Kieti, coordinator of the IDP at Perkins, added that the involvement of the University of Pretoria represents a turning point in the history of the course and in the work of Perkins and the World Blind Union's work in Africa through the IDP.

"As facilitators, the all-inclusive process is an extremely humbling experience that not only creates an innovative lens into management development for the disabled, but also makes us realise that we can't generalise developmental needs," Prof Antonites added.

Upon completion of this very intensive and interactive programme, delegates will have had to explore the complexities of the management of non-profit organisations in a changing world. They will also have had to become familiar with the philosophical debates surrounding the various approaches and models in the provision of services to people with disabilities touching on topics of leadership, financial management, monitoring and evaluation, and integrative reporting.

Piloted through Continuing Education at University of Pretoria (CE at UP), the Senior Management Institute (SMI) Programme was accordingly presented from 4 May-26 June 2015 on the Hatfield Campus of the University of Pretoria. The programme covered every topic from change management to leadership and NGO management to visually impaired rehabilitation. Sixteen delegates from seven African countries including Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda successfully completed the programme.

Redefining (training) reality

Delegates at their certificate ceremony with course leader, Prof Alex Antonites (far left), Mr Martin Keiti from Perkins School for the Blind (far left, next), Dr Ruth Mampane from the Department of Education Psychology (front, far left), course presenter, Mr Dawie Bornman (far right) and Dr Maximus Sefotho from the Department of Education Psychology (front, far right).

Working with people with a disability is a privilege. Knowing how to work with people with different disabilities is a challenge, but one that we can make memorable and learn a lot from," course coordinator on the programme, Roelánnie van Deventer, stated.

With continued association with the IDP, CE at UP hopes to collaboratively leverage the information that will be gained through each delegate's experience as a basis and springboard for further academic and social research into bettering the world of the blind.

At the close of the programme on Friday, 26 June 2015, each delegate was awarded with a specially-printed, Braille certificate at a ceremony held at the University.

"I take this opportunity to thank you all for the great support and contribution towards making the Senior Management Institute Programme of 2015 the success it was. Feedback from our participants was overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to a bigger and better next SMI," Mr Kieti added.

Redefining (training) reality

An example of the customised, Braille-printed certificates that were awarded on the Senior Management Institute Programme.

Enterprises University of Pretoria
Having played a profound part in the history of South Africa for more than 100 years, the University of Pretoria boasts a lasting legacy that endures through a cluster of innovative and multidisciplinary services rendered through Enterprises University of Pretoria (Pty) Ltd.
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