Going to Uganda in a search for common ground

Jerry Lynott jlynott@timesleader.com

October 20, 2013

WILKES-BARRE — A group from King’s College will take distance learning to a new level next year when it visits Uganda to study the East African country’s educational system.

King’s received a $75,000 Fulbright-Hays grant and was one of 16 schools across the country awarded the competitve funds for the Group Projects Abroad Program.

It was the second time King’s applied for the funding, said Margarita Rose, project director, professor and chair of the school’s economics department.

Rose, a faculty member since 1989, had been to Africa a number of times since 1988 as a student and educator and developed contacts with members of the Holy Cross community, the religious order that oversees King’s and other schools such as the University of Notre Dame.

Her project, titled “Learning from Ugandan Models of Education,” will take a 12-member group to Africa next summer for four weeks.

“So that’s going to be interesting for us to look at some of the government-funded schools versus the private mission schools,” she said.

The group’s itinerary has visits to the capital, Kampala, the town of Masindi and Murchison Falls National Park to meet with some people who do environmental education.

Uganda, like Northeastern Pennsylvania, has wonderful natural resources, and how to best use those resources in an efficient way will be another area of study, she said.

Language and technology shouldn’t be problems. English is the national language, but there are local languages spoken throughout the country. “We’ll have enough people around, even Ugandans who speak English,” to assist with translation, Rose said. And the Internet and cellphones are widely used and available.

In addition to visiting the schools, the group will meet with students studying to become teachers and their teachers.

“I hope this whole project will be seen as mutually beneficial,” Rose said. “I think there’s a genuine desire among Ugandan teachers to learn from US teachers, and I hope the same can be said of US teachers.”

The country’s schools have pretty basic resources, she added, and “doing more with less” is a likely topic to be covered.

Soon applications will be available for educators interested in joining the group. Those selected have to attend four, four-hour orientation sessions next year and commit to a month abroad and additional time upon return home to implement what they’ve learned.

Rose said King’s is covering her cost of the trip. The other participants will pay approximately $500 to cover their costs, including passports and immunizations for overseas travel.

The group will also have an exhibit in Widmann Gallery at King’s and a web-ready presentation for area schools.

“The plan is to also photograph those artifacts … and put them on a website that we’ll create that will be on the King’s server, ” Rose said.