The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

The Village Genius
 / 

Here’s a good WaPo series (Parts 2 and 3) on a woman from a rural Kenyan village sent to college in America, on a scholarship and with considerable financial help from her fellow villagers. She was sent with the agreement that she would return to the village after she got her degree, build a school there, improve the water system, and possibly even bring electricity.

It’s a good read, looking at American culture, and at an American college, through an unfamiliar lens. The portrait it paints of rural Kenya is most fascinating. Do the villagers have unrealistic expectations for what a college degree means, or is it legit to think that one person with a degree could transform life for the folks back home? I mean, I’m pretty proud of my degree and all, but I don’t know if it would equip me to start even the most humble school. And I sure don’t know anything about irrigation or electricity.

I guess if I went to college with such predetermined needs for what I wanted to learn or accomplish, I might have gotten some great insights into bringing irrigation or electricity to a rural village. Kakenya Ntaiya, the woman in the article, started out planning to be an economics major. I wonder, would an economics major feel s/he’s graduated with the skills necessary to reform the life of a town? Prod, prod.

December 30, 2003 / Uncategorized

2 comments

Robin says…

No, I don’t think the economics I learned in school would be too useful. Some of the basic concepts, sure. But sketching out supply and demand curves would be about the least useful thing a village reformer could do.

More useful would be all the math and science I’ve learned: basic electricity, statistics, AP biology, 10th-grade geometry, etc.

Most useful of all, though, is the fact that I could learn how to make a generator, or how to purify water, or whatever, pretty easily. And a big part of this is the fact that I have huge bookstores, vast libraries, and the power of Google at my fingertips.

So it seems to me the most useful things Ms. Ntaiya could bring back to Kenya from the United States are a solid command of English and a tall stack of science and engineering books.

I have no doubt that her village is already filled with capable learners and potential engineers; they just need material to learn, machines to engineer.

Is there a how-to book explaining all the basics of modern living standards — how to generate a small amount of electricity, set up a simple sanitation system, control disease, etc.? If such a thing exists, in whole or in part, it’s probably one of these great projects of UNICEF, UNDP, etc., that not enough people hear about.

This book isn’t the kind of thing you could just drop into a village — mainly because most of the world’s poorest are also illiterate, but also because you do need to understand a few basic concepts before you can understand a wiring diagram or a blueprint.

So it’s a two-part project: Bring a local kid to school for a couple of years, teach him the basics, and then send him back with a copy of the Encyclopedia of Development.

This reminds me of the original mission of the Land Grant universities in the 19th century — except the young students were taking modern science and agriculture back to the rural United States.

So… Global Land Grant, anybody?

Meredith says…

I just came across your posting. Just to update you: the land for girls school in Kenya’s village has been set aside, large grants have been won, the school’s website is being designed as we speak. Moreover, the widest watched BBC World documentary ever featured Kakenya’s story and progress towards her original goals.

It seemed like you were very excited in 2003 about the article, or sarcastic. Either way, you are completely entitled to your thoughts or opinions. As a friend of this particular Kenyan woman and as a firm believer in girls’/womens’ education, I thought I’d share.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06330/741347-298.stm

Best Wishes.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

Below, you can use basic HTML tags and/or Markdown syntax.