When 25 lecturers from Charles Lwanga College of Education in the Republic of Zambia arrived in Spokane almost two weeks ago, the only thing that seemed familiar was the temperature outside.
Chulu Lewis laughs at the comparison.
“It’s hot and dry where we are from,” Lewis said. Charles Lwanga College is about a two-and-a-half hour drive south of Zambia’s capital Lusaka. “You travel on the main road and then you go about 10 kilometers off the main road and there we are.”
Gonzaga University invited the 25 teachers to participate in a specially designed master’s program delivered in Spokane, online and at the college in Zambia. By December 2014 they all will have a hybrid master’s degree combining education, leadership and administration.
That in turn will make it possible for Charles Lwanga College to grant four-year bachelor degrees instead of the current two-year degrees.
“Almost the entire faculty of our school is here,” said Peggy Chilema, one of the Zambian instructors. “This is very important for our future. We want to be able to grant bachelor degrees.”
The idea for the program came from Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh after he visited Zambia in 2007. Gonzaga faculty returned to Zambia in 2008 on a fact-finding mission, looking for ways in which the university could help improve the quality of education in the central African country.
“One thing we shared with them was how to become tutors for younger students,” said Deborah Neiding, professor in Gonzaga’s teacher education department, and one of the first faculty members involved with the program.
Charles Lwanga College is in a rural southern area of Zambia.
It’s a smaller Jesuit school, and the lecturers all said their biggest problem is the lack of infrastructure.
“We don’t have the teaching resources that are available here,” Chilema said. “We have Internet, but it is very slow or it stops working.”
According to data compiled by the World Bank, most of Zambia’s 14 million people live in or around a few larger cities. The rural areas are sparsely populated and the recent recession means that road and other infrastructure maintenance has been deferred. More than half of Zambia’s population lives in poverty.
Lewis, a science teacher, said there are some language challenges too.
“English is used for instruction,” Lewis said, “but we speak seven different languages in Zambia.”
The focus of Charles Lwanga College is the education of elementary school teachers.
Chilema said the Zambian government focuses on elementary school education, and that not every student makes it through the elementary school years.
Aubrey Moono said it can be very difficult to get into college – both because a student needs a certain number of credits and because it costs money.
“You have to pay to go to school,” Moono said, adding that just like in the United States students travel from far away to attend college. “It can be difficult to pay for it.”
The group of 10 women and 15 men said they’d enjoyed their stay in Spokane and that Americans are friendly.
“People talk to you and smile at you,” Moono said.
They’ve enjoyed a few trips downtown, but class work and instruction has kept them busy and on campus.
“We have great professors,” Lewis said. “You can tell they live their commitment to teaching.”