Changing perspectives towards a more constructive practice : reflections on the complexities of implementing the portage programme in Northern Namibia
Globally, the current concern with childhood disability has spurred a sense of internationaul rgencyw ith the recognitiont hat while the vast majority of childrenw ith disabilitiesa nd specialn eedsl ive within developingc ountriesv ery few have accessto formal supportives ervices.T he huges caleo f the problemh ast riggeredt he involvement of Western special needs experts and the development of many intervention programmes.O ne programmein particular,t he PortageP rogrammeh, as enjoyedr apid internationael xpansionin recenty ears. This thesis addresses the question of how Western Portage experts might develop effective programmes and more collaborative and reciprocally beneficial ways of working with local colleagues and families, which are sensitive to, and respectful of, different cultural practices and beliefs. The thesis focuses on the changes to my understanding of expert practice regarding Portage Programme development within the cross-cultural context that initially stemmed from my attempts to introduce such a programme to a rural area within northern Namibia. I claim that Portage experts can benefit from primarily viewing their practice in terms of constructing relationships with others rather than as it is usually portrayed within the Portage literature as delivering technical advice and solutions. I suggest that this shift in the focus of practice entails a reconsideration of the ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions upon which expert practice is based. A Portage programme's development is characterised not as primarily about applying and transmitting Western expertise and knowledge, but rather as a process of 'change through exchange'. I suggest that a systemic, social constructional conceptual framework that embraces many of the broader ideas of postmodemism, offers another way of thinking about the subjects of Portage programme implementation, expert involvement and professional development, and thereby simultaneously also another way of more constructively practising.