Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Meeting of the Lutheran Colleges Consortium for Tanzania

On September 18, the advisory board of the Lutheran Colleges Consortium for Tanzania (LCCT) met at St. Olaf College. Consisting of Concordia College, Luther College, Pacific Lutheran University, and St. Olaf College, the LCCT runs an exchange program with the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM).

Students from these colleges go to study in Tanzania for a semester, and UDSM faculty and administrators spend about four months on LCCT campuses, for research and other professional activities. The program started in the mid-eighties and has involved dozens of Americans and Tanzanians.

For many years, the LCCT program was unique among the American programs linked to the UDSM, because it was based on reciprocity, a feature that was noted and much appreciated by all.

The LCCT board consists of people who have an interest in study abroad programs, an interest in Tanzania or Africa as such. We have done research in Africa, taught or written about Africa, led students on study programs in Africa, hosted or mentored African visitors and students on the LCCT campuses. In various ways, we contribute to African studies.

Each of the LCCT institutions takes turns administering the program. At the September 18 meeting, Luther College handed over the administration of the LCCT to St. Olaf College.

As a Tanzanian, I am pleased that many Tanzanians in academic and leadership positions have benefited from this program. Working on the board is a labour of love. We all value the work we do, knowing how important it is to the education of our students and to the UDSM. I wonder if I am a naive idealist, but I believe programs like the LCCT help build a better world.


Anonymous said...

Since this program is ran by Christians I would like to know how does the program help Muslims and Islam? Also did the students get a chance to visit Zanzibar and learn about the people and the culture over there?

Mbele said...

Thank you very much for your question. These colleges welcome qualified students of any faith. I teach at St. Olaf College, and we have Christians of different denominations, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even those who don't believe in any religion. Right now, in one of my classes, I have two Muslim women.

This program gives our students a chance to study at the University of Dar es Salaam for one term. Again, the program will accept any qualified student, whether Christian, Muslim, or other. There they take any subject they want. It is an agreement that was signed between the University of Dar es Salaam and these American institutions in the mid-eighties.

When these students are in Tanzania, they travel around the country, on their own, and Zanzibar is a popular place, as you can imagine. We do not have a formal program in Zanzibar as such. There is no hindrance to the establishment of such a program in the future.

In fact, I have some connections with the State University of Zanzibar. Some of the lecturers there were my colleagues or students at the University of Dar es Salaam in the seventies and eighties. I think the idea of setting up a program with Zanzibar would be wonderful.

Since you mention Muslisms and Islam, I wish to let you know that I want the American students to understand Tanzanian society as diverse, in the cultural, religious and other senses. This year, for example, I made a point of having the students learn something about Islam, as I wrote here.