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Students, Faculty and Staff Travel to Tanzania for International Service Learning Trip

May 18, 2016

In rural Tanzania, learning the English language is critical for a young child hoping to further his or her education, but it is often out of reach. For the next two weeks, a group of Lasell students hope to make a difference in one rural community there on a new Shoulder-to-Shoulder service learning trip.

Twelve students and two faculty/staff members (Director of Spiritual Life Tom Sullivan and Assistant Director of the Center for Community Based Learning Byrd Hughes) will travel to rural Tanzania from May 17 through June 5. The students will work with teachers in the Vewenge School in Lundamatwe, Tanzania - near Iringa.

"The basic service mission of this trip is to offer two weeks of English as a second language to grades one through seven in a rural Tanzanian school. English is genuinely the second or, more often, the third language that Tanzania students learn, after their local dialect and Swahili, which is the official national language," said Sullivan.

He added that most of higher education is conducted in English, however, as is business, especially in less rural areas. Learning the language is crucial to educational success.

Tanzanian national test scores have been dropping steadily for the last decade, and rural schools find the challenge of keeping up to be particularly strenuous, he said.

During the trip, Lasell students will provide mentoring in basic English skills to all students in a rural Tanzanian elementary school serving as teachers' assistants. This also allows teachers to have more time to work with individual students. The group will also model small group and active learning, which teachers will often adapt to their classroom teaching.

Finally, the group wants to build a relationship which, ideally, will develop over time.

"Even in a single visit, our students provide role modeling, coaching, and encouragement to students whose exposure to the world beyond their immediate experience is somewhat limited," Sullivan said.

Lasell students return to campus having had the experience of a lifetime -- having seen ways of being in the world that are simply unique, and equally unknown to them, Sullivan said.

The group prepared for the trip by studying basic facts and issues pertaining to Africa and Tanzania during the final six weeks of the spring semester and prepared a basic ESL two-week curriculum for grades one through seven.

The trip has the group flying into Dar es Salaam and traveling over land to Iringa in order to get a sense of the geography of Tanzania. The students' introduction to Tanzanian culture includes travel to a nearby national park, in order to explore the traditional flora and fauna of East Africa, and meetings with local US officials and representatives of the village.

The students then travel to the Vewenge School in Lundamatwe and will work in the school for 10 teaching days in small teams with grades one through seven to provide an intense English learning supplement to their curriculum. The Lasell students may also offer an intense mathematics review for the sixth and seventh graders who are preparing for the secondary school entrance exam.

In addition the group will tour a local center for teaching life skills to disabled young people.

At the end of our trip the group will enjoy a two day camping safari in the Ruaha National Game Refuge.