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What did you learn from our journey today?

Claudine's Blog from Tanzania

sunny 34 °C


He asked, "What did you learn from our journey today?"

This is the question that Steven, a first year Tourism student from VETA Mikumi asked me as we concluded a village walk in Mikumi with about 10 students from the tourism class. It was hot, I was tired, the air was close, the mental effort of concentrating to understand students whose first language is Swhahili was taking its toll and all I wanted was to sit with a bottle of cold water. The question astonished me and all of a sudden my fatigue vanished. Of course I answered the question and probed with the students how they came to ask this type of question that I ask at NSCC. The response was that Patrick and Soronga, their teachers who studied with us in Truro, always asked them that question after any experience. This is the moment that every teacher delights in, when what they have tried to teach has actually been realized.

I have just returned from my third journey to Tanzania and Mikumi campus of the VETA system. The question of what I have learned is still relevant and still challenges me. Perhaps the underlying learning is to accept the unexpected and to with curiousity experience it. A plan never seems to work as planned and if one goes with the flow the learning about self and others is awesome. For me this "letting go" requires a conscious mental and emotional struggle as I attempt to overcome the urge to "want it my way because I think my way might be best." I am getting much better at this learning and hence I am learning more and enjoying the process.

What else have I learned? The eight Faculty that we welcomed at NSCC from Tanzania and who we learned with and became friends with are still appreciative of the experience. They are using so many of the techniques from NSCC and incorporating new ideas into their classes and with their students. We watched as Pasiens Nyoni, the new acting principal of the newest VETA College eagerly unboxed the latest dagnostic equipment he has recevied for the new motor vehicle repair shop. This equipment he saw at NSCC. He also shared with me how he is excited to work with mostly new faculty at his campus, because he will have the opportunity to use all the learning from NSCC in preparing them for their roles. As I sat in the classrooms of the faculty from Mikumi who were with us at NSCC, I am again aware that these are caring, interested and very competent teachers. They were before NSCC and what we helped with was honing skills, introducing some new concepts and giving a sense of renewed hope that what they did mattered. In all their own very appropriate ways they are preparing themselves and their students to learn how to learn. I learned that what we offerred and how we cared mattered.

There were many snippets of conversations and many encounters that left deep impressions with me of the universality of relationships, ideas and meanings. I will share two such snippets. The Principal of the campus invited all the Nova Scotians to the daily assembly. This takes place outside at 7:00 every morning with all students and faculty present before breakfast. We need to be up by 6:30 and showered and dressed to be publically introduced at the assembly. The electricity goes off during the night and so there is no hot water, air conditioning or lights when we arise. So we dress and get ready feeling somewhat scummy and bedraggled. We arrive to the assembly of very neat and pressed and washed faces. The proceedings are formal and friendly. The Tanzanian flag is raised and everyone sings in the most melodious voices the national anthem. It is truly moving. Then, they are going to raise the NS flag and tell us just before they raise it that we must follow suit and sing our national anthem. No time to fully experience the panic and horror of this - 5 of us before 400 and no one sure of the words and not sure we can carry the tune. No choice - we manage- they are estatic- and many moments of togetherness are felt. Unfortunately, we were taped and we sound so much worse on tape than we thought we were in the moment. Expect the unexpected and go with it and revel in the outcomes.

The other snippet that I will share comes from a class I was invited to facilitate with Soronga's students. This occurred just after the flag raising and obviously before breakfast. I thought I had this planned as to time, content etc. However, just before we enter the class Soronga tells me that there has been a change and I will be with Patrick's class not his and he thinks I need to be facilitating for 2 hrs. not the one originally decided upon. Go with the flow! The class was great, the students were talkative, asking questions, they indulged me with my activities and courageously engaged in english. We did an exercise to end that I always have as a backup should the unexpected happen. I call it the picture exercise were each person is asked to choose a picture and then discuss how the picture relates to them - what does this picture mean to you. They loved the universality of the visuals and each one wanted to share their interpretation of their picture. We came to the final volunteer and he had a picture of the world being held by two hands. His meaning for the choice of picture was that all we have is the world, we need to protect it and care for it and come together as different people from different countries to make a diffference to and for the world. He captured the meaning of what I have learned in my journey.

Blogs are designed to be chatty and engaging and short. Mine is not short, hopefully it answers the question Steven posed to me - what have I learned. I have really learned that I do what I do because I know education makes a difference and that difference is not always in the short term but it is like planting seeds that germinate over time and spread ideas and ways to others.

Claudine Lowry
Dean, Organizational Learning, NSCC

Posted by NSCC Intl 04:15 Archived in Tanzania

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