Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Donna Kerner

Why Tanzania. Major changes are occurring in the Tanzanian education system at this time, among them, the mandate for universal secondary school education. The education sector in Tanzania has always been a dynamic arena for understanding shifts in development policy.

Our work in Tanzania. Essentially we will be mixing some initial travel in contrasting cities (Moshi and Arusha) with visits to historic sites and development projects, lectures from local researchers, and two weeks of residence in a rural village at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The students will be located in homestays with local families for one weekend, visiting a Maasai wildlife conservation reserve on another weekend, and tutoring English in a local high school. Two of the students, plan to climb the mountain when the program concludes.

Classroom connection. I teach two topical courses on Africa:  “Peoples and Cultures of Africa” and “Women in Africa,” as well as a topical course “Women and Development.”  I have been engaged in fieldwork in Tanzania since 1982, working on a range of different topics from education and social class to memory and material culture to women and micro-enterprise. I am also working on a book project at the moment that is a critique of microfinance approaches to development. The case studies in the book are drawn from a decade of research on micro-enterprises and cooperatives in Tanzania and Fiji (in the South Pacific).

Seeking a spark. I hope this short trip will ignite students’ curiosity and passion for travel off the beaten path, that it will put a human face on some of the complex policy issues targeting development in the Third world, that they will, even briefly, learn to speak and think in a different cognitive domain, and that they will connect with people whose lives are different from their own.

What I gain. Every time I have taken students into the field I am reminded of what it is like to be introduced to cultures I have been working in all of my professional life. It is just as important for teachers to understand what students don’t know as it is for us to plan what we want them to know. Retracing the steps of learning a new subject is probably the single most important process that contributes towards vibrant teaching and learning.