Symposium offers insight on connecting African education

Photo by Hans Ogren

Photo by Hans Ogren

Rachel Mills
President Emerita Vivian A. Bull and Martin Dwomoh-Tweneboah, associate professor of computer science, collaborated with faculty, exchange students and the recently approved A Taste of Africa club during the African Symposium presentation, “Linking African Universities to the World,” May 13
The symposium offered students a glimpse into Africa and its struggle for education.
The program featured Bull as the keynote speaker. Dwomoh-Tweneboah began the evening with a slideshow that highlighted the pair’s work in 12 different African nations, and Bull spoke on the concerns she discovered during her work in those countries, primarily discussing issues of development, education and technology.
Bull was a founding member of the Africa University in Zimbabwe, the only university in the country, and is now working to expand it. Dwomoh-Tweneboah said the university can no longer fulfill the students’ demand for education. Bull and Dwomoh-Tweneboah are members of an assessment team for the United Methodist Global Education Fund, attempting to expand the university through distance-learning and radio communication.
Dwomoh-Tweneboah said he and Bull have traveled to Africa multiple times to conduct feasibility studies in various countries. They are exploring the possibility of implementing distance-learning programs that will be based at the Africa University.
“I’ve heard it said that the first half of the 21st century will belong to the Chinese and the Indians,” Bull said in her speech. “Well, the second half will belong to the Africans. They just need a little help getting there.”
She said many countries approached the United Methodist nonprofit group asking for assistance in building another university. But, as Africa University has 26 buildings and no debt because of endowment, the group didn’t think another university would be possible.
“Instead, let’s move into the 21st century,” Bull said.
She said that multiple for-profit, distance-learning groups have recognized the growing need for educational assistance in Africa and are hurrying to establish a presence there. Because the Global Education Fund is a nonprofit organization the African people tend to trust them and work better with them. This has allowed the group to progress as far as it has.
“We’ve taken steps,” Bull said. “The road is long, but we have given many students the education and the leadership to travel it. We see distance-learning as an opportunity to give other students the same
opportunity.”
Dwomoh-Tweneboah said the presenters hope the symposium offered attendants a glimpse at the current issues in Africa. He emphasized that there is always work to be done, and any chance to inform the public about that work is helpful.
Sophomore Lacey Dean, activities coordinator for A Taste of Africa, said that the students who helped coordinate the symposium had similar goals for their open house, which was held in Jonassen Hall following the speeches.
“We are trying to broaden knowledge on campus and show what we are capable of doing,” Dean said. “We want to encourage interest and participation. It’s not as difficult to create these connections as people think.”
A Taste of Africa club members began creating connections by working with exchange students from Africa as well as with students who have participated in January Term trips to Africa to set up displays about the
continent.
The groups prepared poster boards that featured African countries with ties to Linfield, such as the Congo, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. Attendees enjoyed African music and chants, courtesy of freshman Sabrina Coleman, and learned about Africa through the information on boards and displays of artifacts, fabrics and traditional clothing.
In addition, the group provided traditional African snacks for tasting.
A Taste of Africa President sophomore Mary Odunuga said that the students wanted to increase awareness about their homeland.
She said that people often focus upon the negative images of Africa, such as the Somalian pirates. She said she hopes to emphasize the positive aspects of her homeland and introduce Linfield to the many interesting parts of her culture.
“We want people to see our displays and appreciate Africa, but we also want them to realize that there is something going on there,” Odunuga said.
Dean said she wants to inform students about Africa and encourage them to assist with Bull and Dwomoh-Tweneboah’s mission.
“The work they are doing is such an incredible opportunity,” Dean said. “We really have a chance to make a difference.”

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