Thursday, October 30, 2014

News from Nairobi

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

MIASMU director Michael Kirwen addresses new and returning students together with their field assistants during the orientation.
MIASMU Welcomes New Students

The Maryknoll Institute of African Studies began its new academic year in full gear welcoming new and returning students. Seven new students, coming from different countries including Malawi, Mexico, Uganda, DR. Congo and Kenya, were registered. This variety of students adds to the cultural diversity of the student body.

This semester features the following courses: Contemporary Political and Economic Realities in Kenya, taught by Edward Oyugi, African Culture: An Overview, by Prof. Mary Getui, African Religion: Major Beliefs, Practices and Contemporary Forms, by Dr. Michael Katola, and Sage Philosophy: The Root of African Religion and Philosophy, by Dr. Oriare Nyarwath.

After the orientation session, field research workshops for both foundational and advanced groups were held as part of the opening day’s activities. The foundational workshop is especially helpful to new students who may not have prior experience with ethnographic research, and it acts as a useful introduction to the MIASMU method of learning in which there is a required hour of professional-quality field research for every hour of class.
MIASMU students and field assistants discuss the questions raised by the PR skits.

First Pastoral Reflection
During the fourth week of the program a pastoral reflection (PR) session was held. The PR  is an assembly of all MIASMU students and field assistants where different classes make presentations to share various themes and subjects they are currently covering. The students groups discuss questions arising from the presentations and then share their findings in a plenary session. Two classes, African Culture: An Overview and Contemporary Political and Economic Realities in Kenya, presented.

Where Will I Be Buried?
The first class presented a skit in form of a discussion among elders regarding a death in the family. The discussion focused on the burial rites where a deceased lady had a child out of wedlock and the father of the child could not be traced. Strictly following the traditions and despite protests from younger members of the family, the elders prescribed that she should not be buried within the homestead as she is considered to belong to the clan of the child’s father. This brought to light some challenges facing the practices of African cultures in contemporary times.

For Whom Should I Vote?
The second skit featured a female politician seeking election at a political rally. She spoke well and had good plans and policies that would tackle the problems the community was facing. However, mid-way through the rally another candidate emerged from nowhere and ‘hijacked’ the crowd’s attention dishing out money and hand-outs. The crowd left the woman and followed the money-man promising to vote for the hand that feeds. This illustrated how voters in poverty stricken areas are prone to electoral malpractices.

After the PR discussion and reports, the second sessions of the foundational, and advanced field research workshops were held.