To quote Penny Lane from the turn-of-the-millennium cult classic movie Almost Famous, “It’s all happening.”

Indeed.

In a Toa Nafasi context, “what’s happening” is the 16th biennial conference of the International Association of Special Education (IASE) to be held at Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU) in Magamba, Tanzania.

Now, I’ve been writing about this event on the blog and social media platforms for months – well over a year even – so it’s no surprise, but it is exciting that the time has finally come.

I’ve been receiving updates from other members of the local steering committee who are on-site at SEKOMU or otherwise in nearby Lushoto and been told that the program booklet has been printed.  360 booklets will be made available, some even in Braille for vision-impaired guests.  As Mama Munga, the former provost of the university says, “Charity begins at home….  And inclusion begins at SEKOMU!

Additionally, the school’s ICT personnel are very busy with preparations to accommodate the influx of conference participants, many of whom will be foreigners.  With proper ICT, a long way from home becomes very short!

The main auditorium is being prepared to receive conference-goers under the theme “Empowering Persons with Disabilities.”  All plenary sessions will be held here, including five keynote addresses to be delivered by 2 presenters from Tanzania, 1 from Uganda, 1 from Sweden and 1 from USA.

Candles and lanyards are being made by special needs students at nearby Irente Rainbow School.  Just as a candle lights up a room, IASE is spreading light all over the world.  The lanyards have the colors of the Tanzanian flag: green, yellow, black, and blue.

And the children at the Irente School for the Blind have made these colorful sisal mats to be displayed at SEKOMU during the conference.  In the process of making these mats, the pupils train their fine motor proficiency as well as develop income generating skills.

Mama Munga has warned impending visitors that it’s winter in the evergreen Usambara Mountains, and guests will enjoy endemic plant species in fresh air temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius.  So, for those of you still packing and preparing for travel, don’t forget your warm clothes!

She also notes that SEKOMU students will have the unique opportunity of receiving other students from Tanzanian and non-Tanzanian universities and that the 16th biennial conference of the IASE will be a forum for students’ interaction and exchange of experiences among other things.

Finally, Mama Munga reports that these boxes and sacks contain a total of 300 conference bags prepared by none other than longtime Toa Nafasi partner here in Kilimanjaro, the Gabriella Children’s Rehabilitation Center.  Each attendee will receive one.

So, friends, it truly is all happening!  One week from today, myself and other delegates from The Toa Nafasi Project will join hundreds of people in the field of special education from around the world in Magamba, Tanzania to share ideas, raise awareness, and discuss the way forward to support and promote those with special education needs and various disabilities.  Please join us, or follow our story here next week!!