Rosaleen Smyth: Rosaleen Smyth’s CommUNITY News no. 1

Professor Donatus Komba and his secretary Monika
I have finished one academic year at Ruaha University College (RUCO) in Iringa, a small town in the southern highlands of Tanzania and, with the current state of road repairs, a nine to ten hour bus ride away from Dar es Salaam. RUCO, a constituent college of Saint Augustine’s Catholic University of Tanzania, was established by the Tanzania Episcopal Conference in 2005 and offers courses in Law, Information and Telecommunications Technology, and Education and a special diploma course for laboratory technicians. It currently has about 1,500 students with the majority enrolled in the law degree. A business stream is to be added in the coming academic year. RUCO has a very practical mix of subjects directly tailored to the professional needs of Tanzania at this stage of its development. External examiners from the University of Dar es Salaam spend a week at the various universities checking through the results at the end of each semester which is a good quality-control measure.

The BA (Education) was just introduced in the last academic year and is dedicated to improving teaching standards in secondary schools. I am teaching those who are majoring in English in the Department of Language and Linguistics and was the only English lecturer in the past academic year when we had an enrolment of 118 students. I found myself teaching English Structure, Phonetics and Phonology, Semantics and The History and Development of the English Language. Another English lecturer and a trainee assistant are set to join me for the 2009-10 academic year. The resources are very limited, and I have to rely on the whiteboard rather than PowerPoint which becomes a bit problematic when it comes to drawing phonetic symbols, especially with my decadent handwriting. The library is sparse with only one copy of most of the texts. I have got around this problem by producing copious lecture notes which I hand out to the wonderful Josephine Mrope at the end of each lecture and she arranges to get them photocopied and the students buy the copies, if they can afford them.

RUCO has a very practical mix of subjects directly tailored to the professional needs of Tanzania at this stage of its development.

Rosaleen's students with Josephine Mrope (centre)
I live in a kind of motel owned by the University which is very safe and secure and within the grounds of the university. Iringa has two other universities, Tumaini owned by the Lutheran Church and with linkages to the Lutheran community in Minnesota and Mkwawa which is part of the University of Dar es Salaam and dedicated to the training of teachers. The Anglican Church supports a thriving craft centre which includes a workshop, sales outlet and cafe providing employment for a number of people with disabilities.

The RUCO students ( with the usual exceptions) are quite inspiring in the way that they cope with the kind of problems not faced by students I have taught at universities in Australia, Dubai and Taiwan. They don’t have the luxury of a PC or laptop, the computers at the university are few in number and the Internet connection is rather slow. My students are a mix of school leavers and those who have spent some years teaching in the secondary schools and have now received grants to upgrade their qualifications by acquiring a university degree. I am particularly impressed by the teachers who know what the problems are like in the secondary schools with overcrowding, lax discipline and the late payment of salaries and yet they still seem to have a spirit of dedication to the teaching profession and apply themselves keenly to their studies.

As an Australian citizen in this age of globalisation I think it is particularly important that we make these people-to-people connections with people on the other side of the digital divide who don’t lives cushioned by welfare safety nets. It is not just a matter of the transfer of skills but of acquiring a greater appreciation of the lives of others in this interconnected world.

…in this age of globalisation I think it is particularly important that we make these people-to-people connections…

The Internet Cafe nearby RUCO.
An endorsement from one of Rosaleen’s students

To Prof. Rosaleen Smith I feel I am Lucky to be trained English Language under your arms. At first time you came and introduce yourself to us, I was afraid on how I would learn the language from some one who do not know even a single word from Swahili language. But as the time goes I realise why God brought you to us. I am so pleased with your presence my lecturer, you have made me love the language and always you will be my role model. Thanks a lot for what you have done for us and may God bless you.

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I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands
to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. - Mohandas Gandhi