By Yasin Kiraga Misago
Political Scientist and International Relations (B.A)
University of British Columbia Vancouver
Historian and Independent Researches
Oct 8, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — For nearly 13 years, Africans Awareness Initiative students and African studies Committee members have been advocating for African major, masters, PhD and perhaps African institutes with a Library research for African studies. African students continued to agitating their dream to request UBC authority to bridge the gap in the school curriculum to include African studies to show how much Africa has to give to the World, “ (AAI 2014). UBC needs at least only 40 full registered student in African studies in order to accept the African studies major or proven records of students demand for African studies at UBC. According to one of the interview respondent, “UBC is waiting African Awareness Initiative and African studies committee members to bring at least forty full time registered students in African studies program in order to qualify for the major program asked by members African studies. This still a total challenge as one of the executive committee member of African Awareness said, “it’s very hard to find people interested in the program especially Africans, we dislike what we advocating for, so whom do you expect to take it? (interview1)”. This quote indicates self defeating among agitators of African studies at the University, for advocating something you personally believe sour to you, then whom do you expect to take it first if not you?
UBC’S global Citizen in Africa and Out of Africa initiatives.
UBC love with Africa, African studies is un estimated, and it lies in concept of UBC global citizen, a name carried by UBC alone in Canada. This indicates how the University dedicated to be part of the global community than focussing on a particular region as it was historically known with Asian studies. To illustrate this claim, UBC has several international programs for Africa, like recently in March 2014, returned from Uganda in what they called Out of Africa: from Uganda to UBC, according to Dr. Sunaina Assanand, instructor for Psychology of developing Societies took UBC students in Africa, (Uganda) to empower women, through education, micro financing and HIV/AIDS prevention. Although the course looked at a very society globally, Sunaina decided to think about Africa as the first priority, (Waugh 2014). This quote is an important reflection of the global commitment the University of British Columbia dedication to bridge the gap of Africa presence in the global Village. There are many programs at UBC, initiated to bring students from Africa and taking student is Africa, like the famous go global at international house where most of African students work and meet. This section takes students to almost part of Africa including African Unions to understand in-depth Africa, serving the community and sharing back their knowledge in the academic discourse back to UBC community. Meanwhile, who doesn’t know the international learning initiative at block hall with prestigious scholarships International leaders of tomorrow which brings many students from African to train them as new leaders of Africa? In addition, UBC professors and the institution engaged in numerous projects both Agriculture, peace and conflicts reduction initiative, in power generations and many to mention but a few. This is all about love the University owed to Africa as Global citizens. Having heard the interest of African studies from the members of African studies, University of British Columbia introduced African studies minor program because agitators of the program adduce the interests of the program. Even to date, the number of students required to declare a major program are forty, according to University but it become more and harder to get this number, something indicating a big problem in curriculum and advocates.
African Awareness students advocates for African studies at UBC but do they really love program?, understand it or it’s a Mickey Mouse game?
In 2011, Becky Price, a UBC, Abyssey news journalist, wrote an article stated that “students and faculty advocates for African major. She also said that that whiles the minor exists, African Awareness Students claimed that this is not enough for the World class University like UBC but Price left a challenging question that what is matter is to prove that there is an academic demand. (Price 2011). Until now, advocates of African studies have totally failed to adduce these academic demand instead, continuing to advocate the program they dislike to take, sound controversial demand.
I have conducted a survey among African Awareness leaders, African students and African studies Committee members investigate level of preference and perception about African studies at the University of British Columbia and my research revealed that although African students advocating for African studies major, masters, PhD and the need for an African studies institutes, 9/10 don’t know what careers for African studies and what they are likely to do with this program upon the graduation. Majority 8/10, don’t like to take African studies and surely unlikely to take African studies major if there’s any chance to implement it at UBC. I conducted meetings with Professors of the program, students around the Campus and I picked random samples from both Canadian and African students at the Campus whom I could find walking or sitting around the campus.
Ever since the creation of African studies minor, very few members of the African Awareness indicated the interests in the African studies in action, it’s as if a Mickey mouse political game. If you advocate something, you have interests in it and high chances of taking the initiative but how many advocates of African studies really specialised in African minor since previous years? Although all participants indicate strong love for African awareness parties, dance and discussions about Africa, they reality it’s in reality that they dislike the program and most of claim that “I how come that am from Africa and come to UBC to take African studies”? (current leader for African awareness). They dislike the program for African studies then how come you will persuade a Canadian or Chinese to take the initiative? African born students who non members of African Awareness don’t even want to know much the program and majority doesn’t like the program because they don’t know the outcomes of the career, upon the completion of African studies major of minor this is entirely the same situation engulfed the program.
Why African students born in African don’t like to specialise in African studies at UBC.
Although Abyssey Journalist Price, recommended African Awareness to “build upon on that is not going to be hard” (Price 2011). This is an interesting quote that sometimes it may be harder to build upon if advocates scare to take initiative of what they advocate, it’s likely to fed up and eventually faces a total failure, and otherwise something has to be done my committee members. The UBC is ready to grant African studies major but the challenge we are facing is to prove these demands on paper and in practice and hence, chance granted. In my investigation, I asked students and Professors, why so hard to meet UBC demand for African studies major? Many responded that:
African parents don’t want their children to graduate with African studies degree at UBC.
African Awareness members I interviewed responded that they can’t take African studies because their parents spend a lot of money to come to study at UBC and it’s totally impossible to graduate with African studies degree. This indicates that African students prefer to be educated in Western academic programs but not in African studies. As one responded claimed, “imagine, I come far from Africa, and how come my parents hear me that am studying African education? (Student from Kenya). This also tell how difficult among members of African community likely to major in this Program. Students come with a mission to get western education and show very limited preference to African studies and thus unlikely to take the program at all if granted.
African studies, what for and what career?
Students dislike African studies because they don’t see any value in the program and majority claimed that its career is very invisible in the public discourse. I met African students around the campus and asked whether they study African awareness, all of them no one, I asked why, they told me “African studies, what for and what career?” (Interview). This is very interesting quote that indicates lack of awareness campaigns and education for those who would love to take the course they don’t know totally about African studies career. When I asked another girl from Ghana how many times she has visited advisors, she replied that where? I said, do you know Robert at arts advising department, she declined or anybody there at the office? She nodded in rejection. Finally, the girl told me that after all even if you study this program is matter of wasting time because I know everything about my Country and African history (interview). This is very important to African students and African Awareness agitators to explore the buriers and progress in African studies whether possible or impossible dream. Also, students need critical analysis to understand whether, we really aware of careers in African studies and the process to attain them and if not, they should tackle first the steps to orient themselves, seek advisors to educate them career majors in African studies program. This will attract more students in the program and this is really African awareness.
Student considers African studies courses unattractive for their careers.
Students believe that courses are offered should be changed if the committee need more students in this program. The courses offered do not much with the interests of the students. Many of them gave negative comments on the courses claiming that too hard to understand and lot of readings materials. A boy I met in Irving told me that I tried African studies and finds them less interest because I could figure what to do with the courses and totally nothing and I decided to withdraw (Nigeria student). Another girl from claimed that she tried African studies because she need language courses to major in African minor but when she researched into all courses offered at UBC African studies program, there was no any language courses and eventually went to Arabic. (Ghana student). When I asked what type of courses they would prefer in African studies, they responded like all other course related to African politics, migration, environmental, economy, Psychology, philosophy and any discipline that brings the real image of Africa to UBC but none of these courses be found in the minor, it’s really pathetic
(South African student). I also found this very interesting that student prefer courses that benefit them but at many times, what instructors designed contradicts with the demand of the students and hence decides to quite the program.
African language is not accepted at UBC that’s why I can’t take African studies minor program.
Many students I met complain against the devalue of the African languages and disqualifying denying them admission to International Relations courses because their languages unacceptable in the major. A participant claimed that imagine, when you have the required GPA for international relations but they disqualify you because your language is not spoken by many people (Cameroonian student). This quote indicates that students are unaware that UBC accept languages from Africa into International Relations. I myself I did speak Swahili and when I want International Relations, it was easy for me because they Arts advising accepted my language requirement for Swahili. What is needed is the awareness campaign and coordinates with the UBC Arts advising or program chair to help students to benefit from the program by using the opportunities set up by UBC or to inquire from other career services departments.
Lack of awareness campaigns to attract Students and UBC to get interested in African studies program hinders the program progress and likely to bring it to total failure.
Many African awareness members believe that there are very strong evidence for lack of awareness campaign to market the African studies to stir the interest of faculty and students to get interested in the program. Although others they hear about it, they totally never seen it at UBC career and learning services or to the Campus on the market. Lack of awareness from both instructors and the African Awareness members sparked off the lack of interest for the program. Student claim that whether they could take it or not who ever came up to speak about it in the public?. African Awareness and Committee members haven’t done enough to coordinate with faculty members, career service and advisors to help student major of minor in the program because they are rarely hear about the program. In 2011, Robert Miller a claimed that there is a real danger to convince the University about the demand for African studies, maybe we could be working against our own and if we insist that the current program is not enough, we are not doing enough to Attract students to take the program” (Price 2011). As I said earlier, UBC, has variety of projects and courses about Africa, but there is no coordination for African studies program to dig deep what actually interests UBC and students to Africa. The courses offered at the campus might contradicts with the interests of the public and hence failure.
African studies should also focus on Political Science or other discipline to attract students.
Since 2007, student of African studies believe that the program should also involve courses from other discipline focusing on Africa and this is the only way to include Africa in the global village. For example, in 2007, Amanda stutt who was a UBC-abyssey journalist wrote a provoking article, UBC Students advocating for African Political Science minor. Amanda claimed that, “while the African minor had been implemented in the faculty of Arts, ironically, while classes that had aspects of African politics among them, there where no classes that focuses solely on African Politics”, (Stutt 2007). This quote has interesting idea, many courses are offered at UBC in different classes about Africa but very few African advocates of African studies are actually aware and how they can coordinates with faculty members to promote the program based on mutual interests of these discipline. In 2007, Professor Barbara Arneil said, that, “there were no faculty specialised in African Politics but there were some whose work connected to Africa, “ (Stutt 2007). This is interesting that even to date, there are currently no faculty specialise in Africa but there are many faculties at UBC whose work connected to UBC. How can African studies bridge this gap? This will be a challenging and provoking question to deal with unless there is a strong awareness, and coordination among African awareness and the Polytypical Science, International Relations and other disciplines to link up with the programs.
In conclusion, if you want to expand the program at the campus, and more students to get involved, we need to market it and examine why and what is working and what is not so that the curriculum should meet the students need at the campus. This approach would attract the number of students and the University in general. More African languages should have be taught at the campus to encourage non Africans to explore the wealthy of Language Africa need to offer or consideration given to Swahili as a language at UBC. This is because; African leaders decided that Swahili should be taught or Hausa, Yoruba and any widely African spoken language to attract both African and non African student to take the program. The curriculum itself need to be fixed to match with courses that attracts students and the University in general and then focus working with Advisors and career services to attract students enrolment.
AAI, African awareness inetiative. “African Awareness University of Brish Columbia.” About AAI, 2014: 1.
Price, Becky. “Students and Facult advocates for African Studies.” Students and Facaulty advocates for African Major, November 29th, 2011: 1.
Stutt, Amanda. “Students Advocating for African Politics Minor.” Students Advocating for African Politics Minor, April 10, 2007: 1.
Waugh, Basil. “Out of Africa.” Out of Africa, March 5th, 2014: 1.