Friday, June 30, 2017

Learning in Rwanda

Rwanda offers our students an extremely rich and diversified learning experience.  None have been in Africa before, let alone Rwanda.  They learn that these Rwandans who look so different, whose language, Kinywanda, is so different from Chinese, who eat a lot of beans, bananas, maize, cassava, and sorghum, are no different from themselves as human beings.  

They learn about Belgian colonialism, one consequence of which is the older generation speak French, while the younger are learning English to connect better with the world.  They learn, of course, about the Genocide and Reconciliation.  They learn how 800,000 people can be killed in the frenzy of 100 days, at the rate of 8,000 a day.  They also learn that it is possible to recover and rebuild from the ruins of such devastation and deep animosity.  

They learn why Rwanda is so clean.  Rwanda is extremely clean physically in the sense of the absence of garbage anywhere, in the city as well as the villages in the mountain.  The Rwanda government is also well known to be clean in the sense of being very low in corruption. 

They learn about extreme poverty, when people live in mud houses in the 21th century, without electricity nor running water.  They learning about extreme isolation, where people cannot afford to travel to the city, where there are no newspapers and no television, where most people do not even own a radio.  They work inside someone’s house for 2 hours at a time, going through all the rooms, and interview the owners.  They get to know intimately what the household owners eat and do for a living, where and how do they sleep, how they dress, who is going to school, who is sick, and what their aspirations are.  

They work along side students from University of Rwanda and youth volunteers from the village for 2 weeks. They learn a little of the language Kinyawanda and their music.   Some learn a bit about Christianity because many of the youths are fervent believers.  They get to know about the job prospects of university graduates as well as the young people from the villages.  

They learn about working together with fellow students from Hong Kong and Rwanda to install electrical wiring.  They learn how to organise themselves to install 24 kilogram solar panels on 15 feet high roofs.  They learn how to arrange to have 2 people on the ground pass the solar panels to the 2 people on the ladders, who, in turn, pass the solar panels to the 2 on the roof.  They learn how electricity works.  They learn how to use hand and power tools.  They learn about the digital gap and appropriate technology.  

They learn to step up and take responsibility.  They learn to be honest about the mistakes they make, and to correct their own mistakes.  They learn to lead by example, by having the courage to take up challenges, by serving others.  They learn the joy of working hard to achieve something meaningful for other people.  They learn the joy of being part of something bigger than themselves.  They learn about themselves.  

People often ask why we bring our students to Rwanda.  These are the reasons.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A most invaluable and reflective experience for the students, I am sure they were very touched by it and will remember the trip for a long time to come. Very well organized by the faculty, it seems. Congratulations.