Thursday, February 6, 2014

News from Nairobi

By James Chege
Maryknoll Institute of African Studies

MIAS three-week immersion
course final day activities

Students and field assistants share experiences over lunch during the final day ceremony for the special immersion.
Jan. 29 marked the end of a three-week immersion course at the Maryknoll Institute of African Studies. The program featured the course “African Culture: An Overview,” taught by Dr. Michael Katola, as well as field research workshops given by Dr. Edith Chamwama. The course focused on the basic aspects of African cultural knowledge in general and is one of the prerequisite courses for the master’s degree in African Studies.

As part of the final day celebrations, the class was treated to lunch as they shared their various experiences in the field and in the classroom. The special three-week immersion course was not on the regular academic calendar at MIAS but was organized after a special request from a Franciscan missionary community. The Franciscans opened a mission in the Archdiocese of Juba, Southern Sudan last year where they work in pastoral activities. They are also engaged in sharing Catholic social teaching, and peace building and reconciliation activities. To adequately perform these tasks they recognized a need for a deeper understanding of African culture, hence the program.
Elizabeth Evans hands a gift to her lecturer Dr. Michael Katola as a sign of appreciation for his hard work and effort in teaching the course.
Two students from this Special Immersion course have enrolled full-time in the 12-week second-semester program after getting a taste of the MIAS method of learning, which combines field-research and lectures, and with it an appetite to learn more about African culture as well as their own cultures.

One-week justice and peace 
workshop kicks off
Brother Matthias Kule (right), a participant in the five-day workshop and his field assistant Keta Kida Jacob listen and keenly take notes as a respondent explains a point during one of their field work sessions
The month of February at the Maryknoll Institute of African Studies began on a busy note with a one-week justice and peace workshop given by Dr. Emmanuel Manayasa, running concurrently with the second semester courses. The workshop ran Feb. 3-7.

This workshop is a follow-up to the three-week  immersion course that presented an overview of African culture. The availability of such workshops demonstrates the flexibility and versatility of the MIAS programs, and the eagerness to foster its unique educational method which combines in an equal manner lecturer material with professional-quality field research data. This method helps students who are unable to attend the semester and immersion programs to begin to  learn the deep structures of African cultural knowledge and domains.

The five-day workshop covers areas such as causes and effects of armed conflicts and responses to conflicts and reconciliation from an African perspective. Through the lectures,  the participants are exposed to an in-depth understanding of the concepts of human rights and peace within the context of contemporary, vibrant African cultures, and through field research they begin to understand and appreciate the deep African heritage that exists on issues of human rights and peaceable co-existence within societies.