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Andrew Foster’s chief goal in Africa was religious education and conversion, and he felt countries were responsible for the general education of their own deaf citizens. With some success, he persuaded authorities to take on the responsibility and encourage networking and collaboration among educators. In 1965, he organized the first conference on deaf education in Africa. He also believed deaf Africans should be the leaders in their countries. As an outsider, a cornerstone of his strategy was to identify and train future leaders. His efforts were successful, as those leaders continued his work even after Foster moved on to establish schools elsewhere in Africa.

Creating a Future for Africa

As much work as he did personally, Foster knew he could not do everything himself. He held leadership training and conferences at his headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria, inviting both deaf and hearing leaders to participate. He was seen as friendly and accessible to his protégés and colleagues. Andrew Foster with leadership training participants in Ethiopia, 1984 Andrew Foster with leadership training participants in Ethiopia, 1984 Courtesy of the Andrew Foster Family Collection

Communication is the Key to Education

Much as Laurent Clerc used his native French sign language when he arrived in the U.S., Andrew Foster taught in American Sign Language. To this day, ASL is used in much of central Africa, alongside native sign languages. Students in class at Ibadan Mission School for the Deaf, Nigeria, 1960 Students in class at Ibadan Mission School for the Deaf, Nigeria, 1960 Courtesy of the Andrew Foster Family Collection