A Charles Sturt PhD candidate is accumulating the knowledge of other countries to return to her home in Ghana and give its residents the best chance at improving the healthcare system for those requiring speech and language pathology.
Charles Sturt University student Ms Josephine Bampoe is travelling the world to learn as much as she can in her chosen career to make the biggest impact possible in her home country of Ghana.
Josephine completed her undergraduate year at the University of Ghana before she was chosen to be a teaching assistant for the university’s Department of Linguistics.
Ghana’s Ministry of Health offered Josephine a scholarship to pursue a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at the City University of London in the United Kingdom.
She returned to Ghana when she completed the course and became one of four speech-language pathologists with the Department of Audiology, Speech and Language Therapy at the University of Ghana to train Ghana’s first 24 speech therapists with postgraduate degrees.
The current stop in her around-the-world journey is as a PhD candidate in speech and language pathology at Charles Sturt University in Albury-Wodonga. Her research project is titled ‘Development of the first validated Ghanaian-English speech and language assessment tool’.
Through discussions with colleagues about the need for speech and language pathologists in Ghana to have a validated tool to help with diagnosis, Josephine was inspired by her international training in the United Kingdom to learn about assessment tools from overseas.
“My research involves developing a culturally-responsive assessment tool in Ghanian-English, piloting and validating the assessment tool and collecting normative data through field work from children between the ages of five and 10 in Ghana in Ghanian-English,” she said.
“The benefits will be for children and families with speech and language disorders in Ghana to have an accurate diagnosis that will inform appropriate intervention, for speech and language pathologists and other health professionals to help in making accurate diagnosis following an appropriate assessment.”
Josephine is also hoping the outcomes of her research can influence government policy to provide good healthcare to the people of Ghana.
As Ghana is multilingual, Josephine said the research could also develop a framework for assessment tools in other languages in Ghana.
Josephine met Charles Sturt Associate Professor in Speech and Language Pathology Sarah Verdon at the 2018 Speech Pathology Australia Conference in Adelaide after receiving funding from Speech Pathology Australia to attend from Ghana.
Professor Verdon developed a similar model in Vietnamese and supported Josephine’s application for the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship at Charles Sturt. Her application was successful in 2020 but the start of her PhD at Albury-Wodonga was delayed until February 2022 due to COVID-19.
Ghana currently has approximately 35 speech pathologists for a population of more than 31 million people.
Because speech pathology is in its infancy in Ghana, Josephine said there is still much to learn about how these professionals can benefit the healthcare system and in schools.
Josephine said that speech-related problems experienced in Ghana are perceived differently than they are in Australia due to cultural, religious or societal reasons.
“Because of the multilingual nature of Ghanaians, we see a lot more children whose speech presentation may not necessarily be a disorder but because of the influence their mother tongue may be having on the other languages they speak,” she said.
“For those whose speech and language difficulty is secondary to a condition they have, such as Down syndrome, autism, etc., they are often treated the same as people with physical disabilities.
“Or because most Ghanaians are religious, sometimes speech pathology is abandoned to seek spirituality to remediate the difficulties with communication.”
Josephine has been working with Professor Verdon and two other supervisors and will be in Albury for three years while she completes her PhD.
She said her stay so far has been ‘fantastic’, apart from adjusting to the colder weather and a run-in with some kangaroos.
“People are generally nice and happy to help … and I love the peace and quiet here,” she said.
“Working with Professor Verdon has been such a delight. She has offered me so much support with my PhD and some learning opportunities during these few months of beginning my program.”
After completing her PhD, Josephine intends to return to Ghana to continue training speech and language pathologists at the University of Ghana and hopes to use her research skills to supervise student programs back home.