Thursday, March 20, 2014

News from Nairobi

By James Chege
Maryknoll Institute of African Studies

Pastoral Reflection Research Workshops

Friday, March 14, marked the end of the eighth week of the second semester at the Maryknoll Institute of African Studies. In the afternoon, the students and field assistants gathered for the second and final (PR session) and research workshops. In the PR, three classes presented skits relevant to their courses, namely, Sociology of Development/Underdevelop-ment and African Religion, African Marriage and Family; Challenge and Change, and African Culture: An Overview.

Students and field assistants from the Sociology of Development/Underdevelopment and African Religion class in action as they present their skit at the PR.
The  class on African culture created a skit depicting a baraza or a meeting of a council of elders which had been convened to give judgment over a case of parental negligence. In the performance, the child’s parents were refusing to take the child to hospital as they had no faith in western medicine and preferred to go and look for a herbalist or better still, a diviner. The local authorities at the meeting decreed that the child be forcefully taken to hospital thus leaving the parents very disappointed.

In the next skit presented by the class on sociology of development, a working-class couple hires a house girl to take care of their children, a boy and a girl, when they go their respective jobs during the day. The house help takes advantage of the absence of the parents to  mistreat the children left under her care making them do all the house chores she is paid to do. The children raise the alarm that they are not being treated fairly. The dispute is ended with an amicable solution after some dialogue.

Father  Lance Nadeau (far left) makes a point as his discussion group listens intently. 
Father Nadeau is the Maryknoll Regional Superior and the Chairman of the MIASMU Board of Directors. He is presently the Catholic Chaplain at the huge Kenyatta public University  with over 7,000 parishioners. He hold a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Temple University, a Licentiate in Missiology from the Gregorian University and  is  presently enrolled in his third MIASMU course.

The skit by the class on African marriage introduced an international businessman who wanted to marry a lady but did not have the time to perform the rituals of paying bride price. In fact he had a plane to catch in a few hours’ time and wanted to leave with the girl immediately. The parents are dumbfounded by the bold request and will not hear any of it. The bride to be is then left with the dilemma of following her traditions or following her heart.

After the animated presentations, three discussion groups were formed to tackle questions arising from the skits. The issues raised were reported back in a plenary session.

After the PR session, students and field assistants participated in their respective field research workshops — foundational or advanced. The workshops are aimed at sharpening students’ research skills so that their data collection techniques are professional and the data collected  is of high quality and can readily be  factored into their course papers and MA theses.