UKZN Produces KZN’s First Black African Doctor of Philosophy in Speech Language Pathology
Dr Thandeka Mdlalo, recently graduated from the College of Health Science’s with a PhD in Speech Language Pathology - she is the first Black African Speech Language Pathologist to graduate with a doctorate in KwaZulu-Natal.
Mdlalo’s thesis was titled: “The use of an English Language Assessment Test on South African English Additional Language (EAL) Speakers from an Indigenous Language and Cultural Background: a Critical Evaluation”.
The study aimed to provide an in-depth critique of the use of language assessment tools on populations from indigenous language and cultural backgrounds (eg Zulu), culminating in a framework for guiding the adaptation of language assessment tools to be culturally and linguistically relevant for the indigenous South African populations on which they are used.
‘The study critiques the use of language screening tools, using the RAPT (a commonly used test) as an example, from four different perspectives,’ said Mdlalo. ‘Firstly, the perspective of the children, who are the target population of the tool; secondly, that of the parents and community, who play a significant role in the socialisation of the children; thirdly, from the perspective of the academics from an indigenous language and cultural background, who provide an academic perspective of the tool and finally, speech-language therapists who administer the tool and interpret its findings.’
Under the supervision of Dr Penny Flack and Professor Robin Joubert, Mdlalo’s research provided specific guidelines and recommendations for speech-language therapists in the assessment of an EAL speaker in a South African context.
According to Mdlalo, children in research are usually only used in the administration of the test and their opinion of the tool is not sought. ‘In this study, the voice of the children is the main contributor to the data collection,’ she said.
Mdlalo acknowledged that the issue of culturally fair assessments required the development of appropriate tools and methods. ‘However, since speech-language therapists continue to use standardised tools that are available to them, even though they are not culturally and linguistically appropriate, the findings are not often accurate or valid,’ she added.
Mdlalo has presented some of her findings at international forums, such as the Canadian Speech-Language Pathologists Association (CASLPA).
The mother of two teenage girls, she has worked for the public and private sector and also held a lecturing position at UKZN. She is a Group Training Instructor at Virgin Active and enjoys reading, exercise, music and art in her spare time.
Last year, Mdlalo had emergency surgery after it was discovered that she had a heart condition and on top of that her 17-year old daughter was admitted for an emergency operation after suffering an injury during a hockey match. ‘These were some of the challenges I had to face while attempting to complete the study,’ she said.
Port Elizabeth - born Mdlalo said her family was very proud of her achievement.
- Nombuso Dlamini