Collaborations in Educational Foundations
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Linkoping University

A few minutes with Johanna Nilsson ...

... student teacher, recently returned from a field study in Kenya.

Johanna Nilsson

You are one of 11 student teachers who went to Kenya and arranged a conference on the theme Ways out of poverty.  How did this come about?

“We are going to be secondary school teachers and we are studying advanced social studies for one year. The course offers the possibility of doing a field study to gain insight into global relations. We spent nearly three weeks in Kenya, visiting different schools, getting insight into global relations and studying local communities. In conjunction with the field study we organised this conference together with Nairobi University. We planned it before we set off.”

How did the conference go?
“It was a great success. Around a hundred people took part, from private individuals who had set up their own companies to representatives of various organisations. The conference was divided into four areas: sport, technology, education and entrepreneurship and we had key speakers in each field from Kenya and other countries. One of the speakers was the political scientist Elin Wihlborg from LiU. She spoke about democracy, rights and online services. I myself took part in the sessions about education as a way out of poverty. As we had already visited schools it was very helpful to hear students, teachers and university lecturers in Kenya tell us more and reflect on the school system there. We really had time to exchange thoughts with each other. There are some similarities and some differences in our school systems. The Kenyans also have free schooling, for example, but even so not everyone can afford to go to school as things like school uniforms cost money. Another subject we looked at was gender issues in school, something they need to do a lot of work on. It was the same thing with human rights. If human rights are not respected you can't have a democracy.”

Did you notice much about the then forthcoming elections in Kenya?
“Not so much, apart from people talking about it and hoping for less corrupt, more peaceful elections. They also said how they would be stockpiling food and supplies as they might be scared to go outside during the elections.”

What have you kept with you from your travels, now that you are home again?
“How education and knowledge, together with a commitment to the other fields that the conference looked into, can be a way out of poverty. And how we are all affected by globalisation, how what we do in the west has an impact on conditions in the Third World. Even that little involvement is important. I also got to experience how different conditions are for people in different parts of the world. We in Sweden and the West are the unusual ones, with our high living standards. The majority live like ordinary people in Kenya, where poverty is widespread. It feels important to have seen this with my own eyes, not least when we are going to teach about issues like global poverty and internationalisation.

Will you and the other student teachers, who were together in Kenya, maintain contact with the country?
“In the future we will work actively with the Elimu school project, which has been run for a year by student teachers at LiU. The project is working together with the non-profit organisation Global Relations, which set up Kenswed Academy in Kenya a little over a year ago. This is an upper-secondary school that targets young people in the slums of Nairobi who can’t go to upper-secondary school for financial, social or other reasons. Elimu runs two classrooms in the academy. For example, this spring we will be selling coffee and cakes outside the HumSam library in  d-building on Campus Valla every Tuesday, and we will also be organising ‘Elimuloppet’ - a 5 km charity run taking place on 28 May, starting from Campus Valla. All proceeds will go to pay for the young Kenyans’ schooling.

Link: Linkoping University