A lasting change of perspective


In February 2014 begun the second last cultural exchange between the two Tanzanian secondary schools Mkwakwani and Usugara, and the Norwegian high school Greveskogen VGS, in which six Norwegian students travel to Tanzania during the winter, followed by four Tanzanian students traveling to Norway in the month of May.

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James Magoma, Tanzania

James Magoma from Tanga, Tanzania and Mikkel M. Møystad from Nøtterøy, Norway, were two of the students who took part in the exchange project, funded by Vennskap Nord-Sør (Friendship North-South). In two separate interviews I got to hear some of the experiences Møystad and Magoma had from the exchange, as well as how they benefit from the experience 2 years after the exchange.

Before traveling to Tanzania, Møystad had very little knowledge about the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. He had some basic understandings of the situations regarding corruption and the generally lower standard of living, “I was surprised of how little I did know about the region” he said, going on to talk about how welcoming the people there were. He was surprised that the people of Tanzania was willing to give so much from themselves, when they didn’t necessarily have so much themselves.  

When asked about his expectations Magoma said he was looking forward to meeting new people, gaining new friends, being confronted with new cultures and finishing by saying, “none-the least enjoy myself”.

The project, arranged by the three schools involved is focusing on cultural exchange, friendship and demeanor towards cultures. Møystad and Magoma are both convinced that projects like this can be largely beneficial to the countries taking part in them. Møystad believes that he got to see a very honest side of Tanzania. In Western media we have a tendency to learn about the African continent as one place where people are poor and need our help. This project though, showed him both negative and positive sides of Tanzania. “I’m happy that I experienced Tanzania through a cultural exchange, because that makes me more capable to contribute with anything if I were to do a charity project later on”, he said. He also believes that the students from Tanzania got to see an honest version of Norway as well,

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Mikkel M. Møystad, Norway

showing them that Norway has faults, and that Norway can learn a lot from Tanzanian culture.

Magoma seemed to have the same view as Møystad, though he is also convinced that regular aid with regard to health and education is just as important. He believes that the project is very beneficial, not only to him, because, as he said it; “I normally share the experience I had in Norway with my colleagues. I might express to them how things are done there, and there are a lot of things that I see changing, through me.” James is also playing a leading role in student communities at his university, as well as his country, which is giving him the opportunity to share his experience with many people. He also experienced that the teachers that took part in the exchange changed as well: “Our teacher changed their perspectives. The way they face their students, the way they would associate with their colleagues and the way they teach. They improve.”

Magoma’s experience is reflected in Møystad’s view of what the students visiting Norway gained, experience-wise. Comparing the school-systems in both countries, one can argue that the Norwegian system works better. Møystad speaks about the Norwegian school system as a more open one, giving the students more freedom without leveraging the efficiency and outcome of the education. The Tanzanian schools suffer from often occurring absence of teachers in classes, and student misbehavior is punished with caning, which might differ in intensity from one school to another. Møystad is convinced that he got to portray a functioning school-system, where punishment of physical nature is unnecessary.

The different way of managing schools is not the only perspective Magoma brought home. In Tanzania there are generalized biases of the western cultures in the same that western cultures generalize Africa. “Many people say that all people in Europe is homosexual. But you learn that that is not true.” Many people also believe that there is no discipline or respect in the family structure. When sharing his experience with his friends and colleagues, Magoma changes their biases about family values and homosexuality.

Due to changes in the national budget in Norway, the project ended after the last group in 2015. The Norwegian government has argued that there is no effective, nor clear, benefit from such programs, a statement which is contradictory to Møystad and Magoma’s experience. Magoma has argued that the project is not efficient enough, but only because there were not more than two students from his school, Mkwakwani and two from Usugara that got to take part in it. He believes that the project could bring greater changes to his school and country if more people got the same experience as he did.

Written by Christer Myklebust.

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