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Exploring Education in Kenya

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School of Education students with Dean Joanna Masingila and Jeffery Mangram at the Kiambethu Tea farm in Kenya.

After two decades of teaching, learning, research, and mentoring, the ‘Cuse in Kenya program has evolved into a study abroad course, EDU 400/600 Experiencing Education in Rural and Urban Settings in Kenya. Led by Joanna Masingila, School of Education Dean and Professor, and Jeffery Mangram, Associate Professor of Teaching and Leadership and Provost’s Faculty Fellow, the two-week course is an opportunity for seven SOE graduate students and one SOE undergraduate student to engage in learning about the Kenyan educational system, and work with teachers and students in a rural day secondary school and primary school, and an urban boarding secondary school and school for students with disabilities. The group will also visit cultural and historic sites, and engage in lecture discussions with several Syracuse University alumni around education in Kenya and the social, cultural and political history of Kenya.

Dean Masingila was a Fulbright Scholar to Kenya in 1998. She says, “There are many things we can learn from education in Kenya, including how education happens in a more collectivist society and how learners are supported in becoming fluent in multiple languages. For example, children in upper primary and secondary school are able to read, write and speak in their mother tongue, Kiswahili, and English.”

The ‘Cuse in Kenya series of projects began in 1999, when students from Kenyatta University first came to SU for graduate studies through a special partnership. A formal agreement between the Schools of Education at Kenyatta University and SU was signed in 2000, renewed in 2006, and again in 2014. The two schools have collaborated on research projects, mentoring doctoral students, and hosting international conferences. In 2011–2014, the partnership with Kenyatta University resulted in a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that built the capacity of the teacher education faculty members at KU—in teaching strategies, technology usage, and research. Kenyan doctoral graduates from SU are building capacity in Kenya, working in Kenyan universities and at other Kenyan educational institutions. Others are working on these initiatives from the United States.

Last year, the twenty years of collaboration was marked with the first Syracuse University alumni event hosted in Kenya, and hosted by School of Education faculty and Board of Visitors members. A second event will be held this year, and hosted again by Dean Masingila.

“We have increasing interest among alumni in Kenya to support current and future students, as well as network among those who have returned to Kenya to work,” Masingila says.

Beyond the teaching and learning in educational settings, the study abroad group will experience the cultural and environmental wonders of urban and rural Kenya during their two-week stay. Trips are planned to Kiambethu Tea Farm, an animal orphanage and giraffe center, Maasai Market, and national parks and museums.

The class is blogging about their trip and is active on Facebook and Twitter.