American teachers will be sent to Kenya and Tanzania in early 2022 for a five-week benchmarking program.

The 14 tutors from Northern Illinois University (NIU) will visit the two East African countries to learn local languages including Swahili and the challenges of teaching in Africa.

On Thursday, September 22, the university announced that the 14 will benefit from the institution’s program dubbed Educate Global.

Of the 14, seven will be undergraduate teacher-licensure candidates and seven graduate students who are practising teachers.

Other than learning the challenges and participate in educational activities, the American teachers will also be tasked with understanding social cohesion in Africa and how racism affects the US.

College of Education faculty official, James Cohen, encouraged the American teachers to change their perspective, evaluate how race affects US citizens, reflect on themselves differently as cultural and racial beings and use the opportunity to grow.

“The United States is a highly racialized society, and despite the fact that both Kenya and Tanzania were colonized, they’re more tribal than racial. The people we’re going to be taking there, having been raised in the United States, all have racialized perspectives, whether they acknowledge them or not.”

“What we’re hoping is to remove race, in a sense, from the equation – and to see how our students can actually interact with their students as much as possible by mediating that  racialized perspective. It’s going to be an experiment,” Cohen stated.

He hoped that they will look at individuals from a knowledge perspective rather than colour or race.

The teachers will also interact with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and meeting local leaders in Kenya and Tanzania to learn more about the culture and tradition of residents.

Teresa Wasonga, a Presidential Engagement Professor at NIU and co-founder of Jane Adeny Memorial School in Kenya, added: “We want a situation where the teachers from Kenya can interact with the teachers there and, in that process, see how they can benefit the other side and how the other side can benefit them.”

“Because instruction in Kenya do not quite allow for critical thinking, we tend to do a lot of rote learning. It’s very narrow, very limited and very academically focused so that kids literally just learn what the book says and not question it. Yet that doesn’t mean the students are not intelligent or competent.”

Her school, Jane Adeny Memorial School, will serve as one of the sites hosting the American teachers. The school is an all-girls boarding secondary institution.

Wasonga argued that poverty in Tanzania and Kenya is different from that witnessed in the US and urged the travelling teachers to become better from experiences in the African countries.

“What I’ve noticed in students who’ve come to Kenya is that their lives are completely transformed when they come back here. Things that they had thought were problems for them begin to look like, ‘This is not anything to worry about.’ ”

“They will question preconceived notions about how students learn, revise lesson plans, modify instruction and reconsider expected outcomes,” she detailed.



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