The importance of the “Learning to travel, travelling to learn” period in teacher training and in the development of Pan-Africanism, by Agripino Chipassa
The first year of training at the ADPP Teacher Training Schools is called The International year of the Teacher, and includes a 3 to 4-month study trip in Angola and Southern Africa, as one of three main program elements. Here Agripino Chipassa, Director of the ADPP Teacher Training School in Zaire, recounts his experience of how the travel impacted on Team 2014. The team started in 2014 and completed their education with a full year of teaching practice in rural areas in 2016.
"The African population is mostly young and consequently needs teachers. What is needed however in not just any teacher, but that particular teacher who is ready to help the community in all issues.
The international journey “Travelling our Continent,” is rooted in this ideal. First, the trip is for the future teacher to make a comparative study of the various societies of Africa. Students from Team 2014 toured countries of Southern Africa, which helped them a lot in the long teaching practice period to adapt to the communities where they worked. After all, one of the basic questions associated with any education is the relationship of the educated person to the person they are going to work with, and the community in which they are going to work. This means that the closer you can establish contact with the future environment during training, the greater the opportunity to fertilize cooperation with the environment after training. This community-teacher relationship is much better for students who have travelled.
Second, the trip improves the knowledge among students in disciplines like geography and history. In geography, for example, students learn about time zones and with all theoretical assumptions, but when they arrive in Tanzania, they experience in practice how the time is different, and this was one of the situations that moved students a lot. They learn in theory about Mount Kilimanjaro, but only by seeing the mountain do they have a real notion of what is being talked about. The borders of Angola and other countries take on a new meaning just by crossing them. The students gain more than a notion of, for example, the Zambezi River between Angola and Botswana passing through the Jangada. In general, when speaking about practical knowledge of geography, we cannot compare a student who has travelled with another who has not.
In history, there is much to comment on. Beginning in Namibia, we can talk theoretically about how Germans massacred the Hereros, but when we speak to a surviving elder, we experience the feelings associated with that moment of time. This is impossible for someone who was not there. We can speak of Julius Nyerere and African socialism, but when we arrived in Tanzania we become infected with incarnations of his thinking. We can talk about Zimbabwe’s independence, but it is more striking to the student if we talk to a Zimbabwean politician about his fight for independence. We can talk about the Civil War in Angola, when South African troops invaded Angola from the side of UNITA. But when we talk to a veteran of Namibia who participated on the South African side, we deeply understand the subject and it becomes something remarkable that students and teachers will never forget;
Third, the trip provides insights into other countries and cultures. In Tanzania, for example, we were amazed by the fact that on Independence Day, instead of having a party as is usual, every population under the president’s leadership went out to collect garbage in the city of Dar es Salaam. In Zambia, we witnessed a demonstration for the election campaign. Such events cultivated in us the feeling that we are not an isolated island, but that we are part of something much larger, and that the political cultural manifestations that take place in Angola also happen in other places and in other countries. In addition, in the countries visited, it was possible to observe in practice how neoliberal policies affect the day-to-day lives of populations, as the policies of the World Bank and the IMF have adversely affected the populations of countries like Tanzania and Zambia.
In each country we visited, we investigated the education system. We visited schools and sometimes we even lived at the schools, and it was possible to see and debate what could be improved in the Angolan educational reality. In Zambia, for example, we noted that the method of group work is much used in primary schools. The use of teaching materials is compulsory. For the success of the classes, teachers are deeply committed to preparing their lessons for the following day.