At a recent Tuesday CIE meeting a large crowd turned out for the visit of the Provost, Charlena Seymour and the Chancellor, John Lombardi, of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Daniel Koroma, a current CIE doctoral student from Sierra Leone, organized their visit.
The Provost shared with us some of her experiences in South Africa and the insights she had gained working with students, both domestic and international. She stressed the value of international experience as an opportunity for students to get to know themselves by interacting with others who are different and who see us through different lenses. From her perspective, having international students on campus enriches the learning environment for all students.
The Chancellor spoke of both his long involvement in Venezuela and his experience with the field of international development. He stressed that part of our foreign policy problems come form the assumption that we can make big changes quickly, rather than realizing that change starts with individuals on a small scale. The kind of activity that CIE engages in is precisely this kind of small-scale work that is appropriate for a university. If we are successful he said then "the change agent leaves and the change stays."
Lombardi also argued that the US often over-simplifies the way it approaches regions of the world. The role of International Education in a university is to help distinguish between "similarities and sameness" with a resulting understanding of the complexity and richness of different countries in a region - thus leading to a set of specific policies that match individual situations.
In response to questions about the role of the US in the world, he argued that international students need to understand the US, not because it is good or the right model, but because the US is powerful and is a reality that their countries will have to deal with. For him, development must deal with the fact that power is not equitably distributed. Inequity between countries, he argued, "is not a moral issue but a practical one." Power differences are real and they will always be there. The challenge is to change the way power is used and channeled; to promote the use of power to do good things.
A Gift of Appreciation for CIE
At a recent Tuesday meeting, Elias Moning presented a gift to CIE - a hand-crafted silver relief representation of an Arowana fish, beautifully set in a blue velvet frame. This exquisite artifact was made in Kota Gede, a town adjacent to Yogyakarta, where the Sultan still reigns as the governor of Special Teritory of Yogyakarta.This silver-craft relief depicts an AROWANA fish, known among the Asians as a Dragon Fish. This fish is believed to bring wealth to the owner. Among the AROWANA family, that spread from Asia to Africa, South America and the Amazon river tributaries, the Golden AROWANA is the most highly prized. The Golden Arowana originates from the streams in Kalimantan and Sumatra of Indonesia.If you want to learn about the AROWANA, Dragon Fish please visit this link: http://www.arowana.net/
Elias will defend his dissertation at the end of April before leaving CIE after 14 years! In January 2004 he coordinated a National Seminar on Journalism Ethics in the City of Pontianak, Indonesia He will be continuing his work with Indonesian journalists as well as other tasks when he completes is degree program. For more pictures by Elias see http://gallery56990.fotopic.net/
Tashi Zangmo, a current doctoral candidate in CIE, returned from Bhutan at the end of February where she made a presentation at a Seminar on Gross National Happiness (GNH), the national philosophy of Bhutan. Tashi joined nearly one hundred scholars who listened to presentations and participated in discussions around many aspects of the concept of GNH - economic, social, religious, political and educational. At a Tuesday meeting, Tashi shared the presentation that she had made in Bhutan.
She began by explaining the concept of GNH. She quoted His Majesty the King as saying "GNH is more important than GNP." GNH as a philosophy that strives to maintain a balance between material progress and spiritual well-being. Tashi argued that in reality when there is material progress, the spiritual well-being of the people tends to diminish slowly.
Tashi argued that Literacy for All is a critical first step toward achieving GNH. Without basic literacy, Bhutan cannot achieve sustainable and equitable socio-economic development and good governance - two of the four pillars of GNH. As a devout Buddhist nation, a first desire of people is to be able to read religious texts, but literacy will also enable them to read newspapers and to discover life outside their immediate villages. Literacy can also promote the other two goals of GNH - Preservation of the Cultural Heritage, and Love and Respect for Nature.
However, there are dangers in a program of
Literacy for All. Literacy needs to promote capability in the national
language of Dzongkha and not allow English, especially for the younger
generation, to replace it. There are also the dangers of uncritical
acceptance of Western mores and habits that are increasingly part
of the pressure
of modernization on Bhutan. She argues for a kind of literacy that
promotes the ability to make informed choices about what to accept
from outside and what parts of tradition to strengthen and maintain.
Her recommendations include the incorporation of moral values in the
curriculum and in teacher training; workshops in schools on spiritual
values; use of local knowledge and expertise to solve problems; promotion
of small-scale entrepreneurship; developing a sense of obligation
on the part of educated elite to give back to their birth communities;
and reminding the younger generation that all forms of knowledge,
not just book learning, are entitled to respect.
Tsoaledi Thobejane, a doctoral candidate in CIE, spoke at a Center meeting about his recently published book, A Deeper Wound (http://www.dorrancebookstore.com/deeperwound.html), which documents aspects of the liberation struggle of black South Africans against the tyranny of a racist apartheid system. While not meant to be a memoir, Tsoaledi's insights into the liberation struggle come from his own personal involvement with the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and the Azanian People's Organization as an activist who has personally, physically suffered at the hands of a vicious regime. As Thobejane states in his preface,
Tsoaledi led Center members through an overview of the South African liberation struggle, first presenting a the history of Afrikaner colonization; then discussing aspects of the liberation struggle, including an examination of the similarities and differences between the roles, goals, and philosophies of the African National Congress (ANC), the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM); and finally addressing the role of education envisioned by the liberation movement.
According to Tsoaledi, some of the central ideas of the liberation struggle included anti-racism; anti-imperialism and sexism; anti-collaboration with all ruling class allies and their instruments; independent working class organizations free from bourgeois influence; unity, peace, and power to the oppressed; and returning land to the people and redistributing the wealth. In this context, education is essential for rebuilding a post-apartheid society and as such, education must be linked into the overall struggle for liberation in the following ways: contributing to the cultural needs of the people, promoting and creating programs to combat prejudice, integrating schools and community (including developing the potential of all people to serve the community), and most importantly, providing freedom from ignorance, fear, dehumanization, and oppression. The goal is for the creation of a democratic education based on egalitarian ideals.
Tsoaledi Thobejane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
At a center meeting in early October, Dr. Mac Odell and Mukul Acharya, a current doctoral candidate, discussed the approach and outcome of a combined literacy and micro-finance project they had worked together on in Nepal. The project is known as WORTH - a women's empowerment prograrm. Dr. Odell discussed the principles and methods that they had used while working with David Walker and Keshab Thapaliya, both CIE members, and the unusually successful results of the program. For more information see: http://www.pactworld.org/initiatives/worth/worth_model.htm
Dr. Odell then outlined the basic principles of Appreciative Inquiry and led those present in a mini-workshop using the appreciative inquiry method. He first elicited problems from the group, did a problem tree and got members to express their feelings as a result of the exercise. He then used a variety of techniques to elicit positive experiences that people remembered with development and led them through a process of building on those positive experiences, visioning a better situation twenty years in the future, and finally listing activities that could be undertaken now and what they were willing to commit themselves to doing.
In the process he reminded the group that almost all development work began by eliciting problems, needs and in deficiencies. Then various approaches outline ways to solve the problems, almost always involving outside inputs and assistance. He argued that the result all too often was disempowering, leading participants to feel helpless and dependent on others doing something. With Appreciative Inquiry the focus is on positive experiences and steps that people can take to help themselves without outside inputs.