Thursday, June 12, 2014

News from Nairobi

By James Chege
Maryknoll Institute of African Studies
Editor: Father Michael C. Kirwen, Director

Three-week Immersion Program 

Students and field assistants share a word over coffee during the first immersion program.
The first Immersion program of the 2013-014 academic year at the Maryknoll institute of African studies began May 20 with an orientation and introduction to field work methods and techniques session. The program has registered 14 students with representation from different countries such as Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, South Korea, USA, Mexico, Argentina and Eritrea.

As part of the first week activities, a public lecture on the present political and economic situation in Kenya was held. The lecture was delivered by Prof. Edward Oyugi, a MIASMU faculty veteran. The lecture touched on Kenya’s ethnicity problem and the current security situation in light of recent terror attacks blamed on the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. The new system of devolution as prescribed in Kenya’s new constitution was also a major talking point.

Students and field assistants keenly follow the public lecture.
The program features three courses and runs for a period of three weeks ending on June 11. The courses include: African Culture: An Overview taught by Dr. Michael Katola; Spirituality, Personhood and Psychotherapy in an African Context taught by Drs. Hubert Pinto; and Sociology of Development/Underdevelopment and African Religion taught by Dr. Emmanuel Manyasa.

Pastoral Reflection (PR) Session:  Spirits at Rest, and moral rectitude

Victor O’kubasu of the sociology of development/underdevelopment and African religion class makes a point during their presentation at the PTR.
Students and field assistants in the first three-week immersion program of the Institute were treated by their colleagues to some dramatic entertainment as they acted out skits during the first Pastoral Reflection session. Two classes presented themes that closely tied in with what they are currently studying in their respective courses.

The first class presented a skit about a young man whose death in a foreign land had brought about  a major dispute in his family. The younger members of the family argue that it is not economically sound to fly the body of the deceased into the country, but the parents and community elders will hear none of that. They believe that the spirit of the deceased will not rest until the proper burial rites are performed. After all, the dead are seen as living and thus still part of the community. In the end the elders have their way and a harambee (fund raiser) is organized to cover the airfare.

The next skit was about a young man who decided to make a living from stealing from tourists. Strangely, he is convinced that it is an honest way to make a living. In the skit the young man grabs a phone from an unsuspecting tourist. Upon noticing that it is an old make he proceeds to scold the dumbfounded victim about his choice of a phone. They then begin a strange conversation where the young thief defends his ‘occupation’ and ends up stealing even more from the same tourist. The skit highlighted how many of the youth in today’s world are intent on making easy money no matter what, and how they are increasingly shunning the African values of hard work and moral rectitude.

Students Samuel Hong and Vitalis Otieno act out a skit on behalf of the African culture: an overview class.

These presentations are an African way to share what students in different courses are currently learning. This also gives them an opportunity to reflect upon and openly discuss current issues and themes highlighted through the acting.