Tanzanian Students, Teachers to Visit Campus Through Benina Foundation Grant

Tanzanian Students, Teachers to Visit Campus Through Benina Foundation Grant

Image of Loyola High School students in their home classroom.

Loyola High School students open the laptops that have made it possible to have better communication between students and faculty at Loyola High School and Fairfield.

A generous grant from the Switzerland-based foundation will enable 10 students and four teachers from Loyola High School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to visit campus next month.

I know with clarity that the benefits of this partnership are more than we can enumerate.

— Loyola Headmaster Martin Waweru, S.J.

The Center for Social Impact received a $90,000 grant from the Switzerland-based Benina Foundation to strengthen its partnership with Loyola High School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The grant will enable 10 students and four teachers from the Jesuit high school to visit Fairfield University's campus next month.

Loyola High School educates young men and women of diverse economic backgrounds. During their visit, the students — representing a variety of grade levels — will participate in workshops in computer science, math, and educational technology, as well as writing, said Melissa Quan, EdD, director of the Center for Social Impact. The Tanzanian teachers will engage in professional development and have opportunities to network with Fairfield professors in order to consider future academic collaborations. 

The students will kick off their visit by participating in the Ubuntu Writing Academy led by Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD, associate professor of secondary English education and director of the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP) Fairfield. Many of the students who participate in Ubuntu Academy are immigrant and refugee youth.

“We look forward to hosting friends from Loyola High School, and having them participate in National Writing Programs,” said Dr. Ripley Crandall. “Several years ago, we were thrilled to have Janet Gabone, a teacher from the school, take part. She returned to Tanzania and used her leadership to support literacy in all ways possible. Now she’s earning a PhD in the United States. This is why it’s an absolute joy that more educators and youth from the school will join us this summer. We love knowing our investment in writing excellence is local, national, and even international."

STEM classes are a big area of interest for the Tanzanian students, “so a lot of the workshops we’ll be offering will meet those academic goals,” added Dr. Quan. “This is our third grant from the Benina Foundation. Besides the visit, it will allow Loyola to enhance the digital resources in its library, and to create more wirelessly connected classrooms.”

In the Mathematics Department, for example, a two-hour math workshop led by associate professor of mathematics  Laura McSweeney, PhD, will engage students in probability theory, challenging them to determine the best way to win at a game of dice. Assistant professor of mathematics Kimberly Barba, PhD, will introduce students to the basics of undirected graphs and graph theory applications, while associate professor of mathematics Janet Striuli, PhD, will use the card game SET to focus on basic counting techniques that are the foundation of combinatorics.

“We aim to expose students to what mathematicians do here, what a computer science major does,” said Dr. McSweeney. “Meanwhile, the faculty will engage in educational technology workshops with the hope that they can bring some new tools back to their own campus.”

Cybersecurity professor Mirco Speretta, PhD, computer science professor Lucy Yang, PhD, and chemistry professor Amanda Harper Leatherman, PhD, will also conduct workshops in their subject areas. Stephaney Morrison, PhD, associate dean and associate professor of counselor education in the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD), will work primarily with the teachers.

“We are humbled to partner with the Loyola High School community to serve our global colleagues with the very integrity, compassion, and innovation that we offer our teacher preparation and human services candidates and our local partners," said SEHD Interim Dean Evelyn Bilias Lolis, PhD.

Past grants from the Benina Foundation have allowed Loyola to create a smart classroom equipped with 30 laptops, wireless connectivity, and air conditioning to maintain equipment. Recently installed solar panels help offset the growing cost of electricity and prevent the formerly frequent power outages in the region.

An added bonus, said Dr. Quan, is that the more reliable connectivity has allowed for easier communication between the two schools. “Our communication has skyrocketed, and we’re now able to work directly with the kids. To be able to connect on a regular basis has really helped us move forward.”

“Global partnerships and the advancement of competency-based education remain important goals among many institutions globally,” said Loyola Headmaster Martin Waweru, S.J. “The building of infrastructure to help grow digital skills and awareness has taken an integral approach. This approach does not only ensure inclusive learning but through it, educational opportunities are explored while closing the gap. I know with clarity that the benefits of this partnership are more than we can enumerate.”

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