Eight Kenyans visited Blacksburg, Va., in the spring of 2008 to gain an understanding of the rights and responsibilities inherent in a democratic society. In this “Citizen’s Exchange,” sponsored by the Virginia Tech School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the visitors learned firsthand about governance at national and local levels. They also participated in internships with area agencies and schools, lived with host families, observed the importance of volunteers, and took part in several cultural events.
“The outputs of the ‘Exchange’ directly impacted over 500 people,” said Patricia Kelly, primary investigator on a grant from the U.S. Department of State. Kelly, along with Josiah Tlou and David Hicks, who are all faculty members in the School of Education, worked collaboratively with faculty from Kenyatta University to implement the program.
The participants' goal was to become trainers and implement small community projects on their return to Kenya. Each project below details the participant and the initial outcome. These projects were created to reflect the program's overall goals of citizenship, governance, transparency, and accountability.
To combat student illnesses and the resulting absenteeism, Makori Moronge developed hand-washing facilities by installing spigots in large plastic buckets. Involved in making decisions about placement, students also set up a system for monitoring and maintaining the buckets.
Helping students to distinguish between charity and volunteerism, Esther Chege established a 20-member youth group that volunteered its services throughout the school and the community. The students established operating procedures and decided on an agenda, beginning with cleaning and re-organizing projects in their own school before tackling community projects.
The effects of deforestation in Kenya have altered the climate to the point that many farmers now work as day laborers instead of farming for themselves. Ochieng Khairalla said he wants to reclaim his family farm with sustainable, organic farming that provides a model for other farmers.
Inspired by a one-day workshop given by Mohammed Abdi on the role, duty, and responsibility of citizens in a democracy, 20 Kenyan youth leaders formed a group and formally registered with the government. The group will take the messages of participatory democracy to villages in the form of discussions, music, drama, dance, and the arts.
Evelyn Andolo developed a booklet that describes various ways to enhance caregivers’ knowledge, understanding, and care of students with physical disabilities. Since returning to Kenya, she has distributed about half of the 1,000 booklets and was invited to speak on the radio about her initiative.
Ahmed Hassan organized a soccer tournament as a way to target the drug abuse problem among 16-22 year-old men in a coastal town outside Mombasa, Kenya. As a result of the match, a soccer club has been established that provides a positive outlet for young men.
Tom Amadi developed a tree-planting project for Frere Town Primary School in Mombasa, the second-oldest school in Kenya. A group of 60 students planted 200 lucindo trees around the school property and tended them during the sustained dry time. The group will also take on responsibility for maintaining a clean environment.
Rose Kiriungi established a small business center at Karen Training and Technical Institute for the Deaf to provide a sustainable service for the school and community, as well as a training model for the students. An operating board helps the center demonstrate accountability and transparency in its governance.
Established in 1933, Coast Girls’ High School has a rich history that Nancy Gathu is working to preserve. Together with other teachers, students, and alumni, Gathu is gathering and electronically documenting pictures, documents, ledgers, and records to help the school respond to academic requests. The work continues as Gathu develops a way of presenting and accessing the archives.
School of Education faculty members George Glasson and Michael A. Evans facilitated connections among community elders, primary school teachers, and science teacher educators using mobile phone Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, and instant and text messaging to learn about Africa’s sustainable agriculture.
As a Fulbright scholar in South Africa, Mary Alice Barksdale implemented a literacy program in which children wrote, illustrated, and informally published their own stories.
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