During the past four years, Nipissing University Brantford campus students have been saving their pennies and counting the days to when they embark on the trip of a lifetime.
On April 28, that day will finally arrive.
With instructors Rick Denton and Lynne Leduc, 28 fourth-year bachelor of education students will head to the rural Masai Mara area of Kenya to take part in a three-week international teaching placement.
“Our goal is to have them become global educators so that they understand not only the education in their own country, but in other countries around the world,” Denton said. “We want them to understand what education in developing countries is like and what the culture of a developing country is like.”
On Monday, students were filling large hockey bags with supplies that will be needed for their lessons. They raised about $2,400 to purchase them.
No matter how much preparation has gone into the trip, they have no idea how it will transform their lives.
“It will change our students and they don’t know that yet and they don’t know how it will change them,” Denton said. “As much as we try to prepare them for this trip we don’t want to tell them everything.”
The Nipissing students average about 22 years in age and will teach Grade 3 to Grade 7. They will also take part in a building project and cultural activities, including going on an African safari and visiting village mothers in their homes of straw and clay.
Most rural communities have no hydro or running water.
“What is often interesting is that students go there thinking about how much they are going to help those people and they do,” Denton said. “But they come back home feeling like, wow, that’s a culture that has very little but they have each other and it’s a culture that sees family and community as really, really important.
“They realize ‘I don’t have to be rich in material things to be happy.’”
Students will teach curriculum developed in Kenya while also showing teachers how to engage students in lessons. With few resources at their disposal, Nipissing students will bond quickly.
“In North America we are privy to so much technology and there is nothing there,” Leduc said. “They really have to rely on their own resources and on each other and they become like a little family quite quickly.”
Conor Bruzzese said he is excited about the opportunity.
“When I was in Grade 12 this is the kind of thing that I wanted to do,” Bruzzese said. “This was kind of the big kick to come here (to Nipissing). I’m excited to have the opportunity to teach and to also learn from them and learn the culture.”
Rachel Kivell has heard many positive stories from students that participated in the teaching practicum in the past.
“I’ve heard how the kids are really excited to see us each and every day and how they chase the bus every day as we leave the school,” she said. “I think I’m going to cry everyday.”
The trip will be a challenge unlike any the students have encountered before. At the same time, it will be an eye-opening life lesson they will never forget.
“I look at past years of students who have gone on this adventure and they come back with a self-confidence that often allows them…to teach in a place they may never have thought of before,” Denton said.
“It will change them in that way, too. They don’t know that yet.”