Archive for May 2010

Monday in Kigali

May 31, 2010

Jay and I just got back from a visit at George Fox College Secondary School. We spent the afternoon with the headmaster and a teacher who served as our interpreter. It became apparent to us that even though English is the official language of instruction, few of the teachers we met were fluent. We had the opportunity to not only converse with a group of teachers and tour a primary and secondary school, we also brought greetings to two groups of students, one a biology class and the other a fifth grade class. We were treated well, with great respect and courtesy. Jay and I sat with the headmaster, Safari, in his office and we asked about conditions in his school and challenges he faced.

We also shared a little about the geography of Oregon and compared school conditions with those in our community. George Fox School is a private, church-related school and as such, receives no assistance from the government. Most of the challenges cited by Safari were related to financial resources. This school of 870 students had a faculty of 20. We toured the science lab and the library and discovered a marked lack of books, supplies and equipment. We learned that students paid the equivalent of $83 USD per term in school fees to attend the school. I asked what a typical teacher salary was, and the answer I received had to do with teacher preparation rather than salaries. Both the headmaster and our interpreter agreed that teachers were well prepared, many of them coming from the Kigali Institute of Education.

By being in two classrooms, it became apparent that teacher-delivered lectures, using the blackboard as the visual aide, were a primary mode of instruction. I asked for a volunteer in the biology classroom to teach us about asexual reproduction, which I saw was the topic for the day. The young man, who did not exactly volunteer (his teacher drafted him), did a nice job of reviewing the points on the board, but added nothing to what was there. I wanted to ask a follow up question, but I realized that I might be expecting something that was a bit inappropriate for the situation, so I chose instead to acknowledge his good work, and joined the applause that went up for him from his classmates.

Prior to our visit to the school, Aryn Baxter, our hostess from Food for the Hungry, introduced us to Savannah Keith, the country director for a small NGO called the International Education Exchange. Their project in Rwanda is to do instructional coaching of in-service primary teachers, especially working on learner-centered approaches and on English instruction. Aryn is volunteering her time to help them with some evaluation of their program,. This program provided two school regions with help at the school level. Savannah was very knowledgeable and passionate. She represented what they are doing as a pilot project, which she believes should be adopted by the Ministry of Education at some point in the future.

Today I also met briefly with my friend David Bucura and with my friend Heri Bonheur. Heri invited us to come to lunch at his home and I told him I would call him on Tuesday morning. He also introduced me to Nambe, a young woman, whose sister Grace I met in December. She said she would like to visit with me about Grace while I am here. I also saw David and Debby Thomas and Brad and Chelsea Carpenter. A full day so far!

Back in Remera Again

May 31, 2010

Jay and I are safely in the Food for the Hungry Guest House in the Remera neighborhood, in Kigali, Rwanda.  We had a very nice visit with Aidah, who came in to say hello and get caught up on my news.  What a pleasure and a blessing for me to have her come in to greet us. Aidah told us that Aryn and the remaining four students from the GoEd program who are still here will be returning to the USA soon.  As a result of a change in ownership of the GoEd program, Aidah is unsure she will have employment or of what type.  As a result of her uncertainty, she has not sent her soon to school in Uganda this year.

Imanuelli picked us up at the airport.  I have asked him to go to the airport on Monday night to get Tom and Linda.  I hope that I am able to get Jay out to visit some schools later today.

The night is still and I am reflecting back on lovely times with friends in Kigali.  What a blessing it is, at the end of a very long trip by air to sit in the comfort of this friendly house, being greeted by the dogs, as well as my friends and trusting that God will bring the people and experiences to us today that are intended for our edification.

Delta, KLM and Kenya Air

May 30, 2010

Three airlines, three continents, three cultures.

I am in Schiphol Airport, having arrived a short while ago from Portland on a Delta flight. Having made a purchase with Cheap Tickets, the next leg is a Kenya Air flight, but operated by KLM. What a pleasure it was for me to request help from the KLM representatives in the terminal. I have my boarding passes, both for the flight to Nairobi and the flight from Nairobi to Kigali.

It is unfortunate, but our traveling companions, Tom and Linda, are not with us. They experienced some sort of ticketing snafu and were unable to board the plane in Portland. They will arrive in Kigali one day behind us. I am thinking about what I could do with Jay on Monday. I hope to have a chance to get him to some schools, if at all possible.

We are on an adventure for sure!

Showers Between the Sun

May 29, 2010

I arrived home last night from my trip to the ICCTE conference at Letourneau University in Longview, Texas. My wife Debbie tells me that it has been all rain here in Newberg since I have been gone. It was in the 90s and sunny in Longview, though we did have some nice afternoon thunderstorms on several of the days. I forgot about lightening rods after all these years of living in Newberg.  I will returning to a sunny clime as I reach Kigali in a couple of days.

I leave later this morning on our trip to Rwanda. I hope that the Rwandan trip will be as meaningful as my time in Texas.The biennial conference of ICCTE is a highlight for me.  Go here to see photos of our meetings.  This group, about 20 years old, is an association of teacher educators who are primarily at Christian Institutions of Higher Education.  We had mostly faculty from American Universities at the conference with a few Canadians joining us as well.  This meeting was special as the group approved the formation of an official association by adopting bylaws presented to the membership by a steering committee which had been working on this task since our conference at Regent University four years ago.  The current name of the group, and officially adopted at the conference is The International Christian Community for Teacher Education.

Our purpose in traveling to Rwanda is substantially different, however, my past experience tells me that the time spent will be an adventure.  My colleague and friend, Ken Badley, in a session he and Kristin Dixon presented at the ICCTE Conference reminded us that each time we go to an international location we can adopt the attitude of a tourist, a traveler or an adventurer.  I really appreciate Ken’s insight on this.  He shared the root of the word traveler, from the French, to work.  He challenged me personally to reflect on my attitude and to steer my will toward that of the adventurer’s heart.  I want to discover how many hours on planes can be an adventure, as well as several days in a culture that is remarkably different than my own.

My difficulties in obtaining a ticket from Nairobi to Kigali (resolved on Tuesday of this week, after four weeks of trying), as well as the challenges that Linda Samek, my friend and colleague has had in arranging her lecture at the Kigali Institute of Education could both be viewed from the lens of frustration and disappointment, or acceptance and adventure.  I am choosing adventure this time.  In this regard, I think Debbie was hoping I would get to ride a bus from Nairobi to Kigali.  But, at 30 hours each way, that would not leave me much time on the ground in Rwanda.

Another Journey Looms

May 23, 2010

I have used this space quite a bit over the last nine months in writing about my travels to Africa and The Netherlands. In about one week, I will be boarding a plane in Portland, on my way back to Rwanda. I am traveling with my friend, Linda Samek, the Dean of the School of Education at George Fox University.

This will be my fourth trip to Africa during this academic year.  In August of 2009, my wife Debbie and my son Paul traveled with me on a three week trek through Kenya and Rwanda.  We traveled with colleagues of mine from the University. In December of 2009, I made a solo journey to Rwanda and was gone about two weeks, visiting the Netherlands on my way there.  In March of this year, I accompanied my colleague, Eloise Hockett on a journey to the Western Province of Kenya.  This upcoming trip will conclude my amazing round of African journeys.

The purpose of this trip is for Linda and me to continue our relationship building with personnel from the Kigali Institute of Education, as well as for me to meet with Quakers in Kigali.  As my sabbatical is about finished at this point, this trip will be the most challenging as far as taking time away from normal job duties chairing an academic department and teaching. It will be a worthwhile trip though, and I have no regrets.  I do hope to have my Nairobi to Kigali ticket through Kenya Air to be issued before I arrive in Nairobi, however.