Our professors have enjoyed a full week of teaching and have reported back that their expectations were far exceeded by reality. This is something we often encounter when traveling to a new place; low expectations, stereotypes and subjective experiences are all displaced after a few days of enjoying a different environment.
Matt had never been to East Africa before and had prepared himself to experience extreme poverty, poor sanitary conditions, threadbare accommodation and limited teaching resources. He reported instead about the delights of “warm showers, steamy meals, well nurtured grounds, happy animals, and intelligent staff”. In fact, all our teachers have been raving about the delicious food at ARU!
Philippa focused on preparing a course that was adaptable to the students she would encounter. She read everything she could find about Uganda, ARU, the environment and culture. Her classes have been lively with student debate and initiative, although we have all experienced reluctance from the students to engage with the reading material. While this has equally been my experience teaching in Europe, my students don’t seem to want to find the time to complete all their required reading; we found that the students at ARU were often discouraged when they encountered words or ideas that were unclear. This will help direct us in our next textbooks for upcoming programs.
Another challenge is making sure the course is relevant to our students. This is difficult as it was our first time working in Uganda and we had limited knowledge of existing programs. Ena has had to ditch much of the theory and readings and refocus the course on global politics and security on the students’ experiences. As a result they have engaged more in class, developing their critical analysis skills and communication skills and in the process have taught us more than we could have imagined.
Feedback from the professors: our expectations were much too low with regards to what we would find in Uganda. This was colored by existing stereotypes and warnings we received from different people, including the staff at Professors Without Borders. The experience at African Rural University so far has been positive with our educators comfortable in their teaching environment and excited to see what they can accomplish and learn next week.