Laoshi, Zaijian (Teacher, Goodbye), a photo reflection by Ziqi Deng

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Huhui was not acting normal. He lowered his head, sitting with both knees crossed and not making any noise. It was my last day with Arusha school students, a Friday afternoon, as dry and burning as ever. The next day, I will be on my trip back to the U.S, marking the end of the two months in Tanzania.

Farewell is always a hard part wherever I go. Saying farewell to those people whose life path once crosses over with me and might not ever cross again after. Xu Zhimo, one of the greatest Chinese poets in the 20th century, shared some of my thoughts during his farewell to Cambridge. “Very quietly I take my leave, as quietly as I came here; gently I flick my sleeves not even a wisp of cloud will I bring away.” Now that I am sitting in the public library of Seattle, the first day being outside Tanzania, the past two months’ memory just seems like a long and exceptionally detailed dream. The easiness of transition into a city life brings an unsettled feeling to me. Different from Xu Zhimo, I go to Tanzania actively longing for bringing something away. What have I brought away from Tanzania? Also, is there something I have left there?

One of the most important reasons that I chose this DukeEngage program is the one-hour session spent with elementary school kids every day. I didn’t want to spend too much time with children, as two months are short and long, and I was afraid the end might be something unbearable for the children. At the same time, I believed that if I want to leave or learn something from someone, daily interaction would be most helpful.

The first day of my after school class each student got a Chinese name according to their Tanzanian name, and on the last day, I prepared a “Kong Fu Kid” card for each student in my class. In each card, I attached a photo of the student holding his/her first try at Chinese calligraphy writing. This is a Chinese class, but because most of my students are small boys and misunderstood learning Chinese as learning Kong Fu, I have incorporated Kong Fu into my curriculum. Over the two months’ time, my group of students has learnt some basic Chinese expressions, songs and poems.

For a long time, I wasn’t sure if my students have enjoyed being my students as much as I enjoyed being their teachers. My class wasn’t particularly entertaining compared to others offered by my Duke peers—if I was a child, I wouldn’t prefer spending an hour learning about language to building things in a workshop or acting the part of a queen in a theatre class. Therefore, my students’ reaction to the end of the program made me feel particularly guilty.

Along with Huhui, 6 of the girls wrote me letters telling me how much they love me and will miss me. These students, even if they might not have had as much fun with me, still love me and will have a hard time after I leave. What it is about me that made them so attached to me? It’s probably not my language lessons or teaching style. If it is the two months’ time we spent together, is it really worthy and ethical for me to be in their life for the short two months for my own enrichment and force them to go through the feeling of being left behind?  Is it responsible for me to come and learn, and leave the suffering of leaving to them? Since they are boarding school students, these children only go back home every three months, and our spending one hour accompanying them every day is a lot for them. I was thinking, how much they have to bear each year from their farewell to foreigners like us. And for them, how much did this experience really help them in their life? Does this compensate for their sadness? (I am aware that feeling abandoned can hurt children’s development.)

Things on my side are totally different. Surely I was sad to leave as well. I love them, but because right now there are so many people and things in my life, saying goodbye to them wasn’t as hard. I was teaching them, but as an unexperienced teacher, I learnt by teaching them more than I could offer them, as each day was a new undertaking.

If Duke Engage involves give and take, I was surely taking more from these children than I could give. In the end, they were all waving their hands to the car and all screamed, “Laoshi, Zaijian.”(“Teacher, good bye” in Chinese) We all know that this is the last Zaijian.

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Water and Happiness, a photo reflection by Katherine Morawa

Makes us happy

Towards the end of our trip we visited Saint Joseph’s, a Catholic school for girls. Most of our LTP collaborations were with primary schools, so I was excited to work with older students for a change. St. Joseph’s works with a Sister Cities of Durham program that focuses on improving access to water. Since the school moved out of the center of the city it has been difficult for them to find an adequate source that is not too expensive. So, for our LTP project we wanted to focus on this issue of access to water. The students are all aware of the issue, and I was excited to get started. Each group was given a different subtopic, and the goal of my group was to show the advantages of water.

To brainstorm about our topic I asked the girls think about what it would be like if they had no water at all. I told them to imagine what they do when they wake up, as they go to school, and to think about all the parts of their day but without water. Then I asked them what they would not have in this scenario. I asked them to tell me what is missing when you don’t have water. The girls rattled off many different answers including anything from diminished health to problems with irrigation, but one particular answer stood out to me. One of the girls said, “Without water you can’t have happiness.”

This answer really struck me, and it made me reflect on how often I use water and how important it is to my life. I thought about the shower that I took in the morning and how it was definitely too long. I thought about the half cup of water it took to brush my teeth and the bottle of water I drank in the morning. I thought about every drop of water.

What was even more impressive was the way they set out to take the picture. I am struck by the way that the water is falling and how the girls are smiling.

That day at St. Joseph’s the girls in my group taught me a lot. Granted at every school with every student I learned a lot, but this seemed so applicable to my every day life. I know that I don’t understand all the complexities of the water situation at St. Joseph’s, but I do know that I can be more conscious about how I use water. Water does give us the opportunity to be happy, and that’s something I came to better appreciate that day.

Monkeying Around, a photo reflection by Adrian Gariboldi

Athumani

This is the work of Athumani, a student at Meru Primary School. As a part of our lesson at Meru that day, Athumani was asked to compose a self-portrait that featured his favorite body part. But the product above is more than just that – it is a reflection of much of what I love about LTP.

Although Meru Primary is located in the heart of Arusha, the eastern half of its campus is flanked by a picturesque creek surrounded by tall trees. Unsurprisingly, Athumani and the two classmates he worked with (Muhammad and Elia) headed directly for this area to take their portraits. Once there, the students spotted a tree that was easily scalable and Athumani quickly began to climb it. Athumani told his friends that he wanted to be photographed as if he were a monkey, gazing down at the rest of us. Athumani’s eyes, his favorite body part, are obscured in by the shadow of the tree in the picture. At first glance this may seem like a mistake on the photographer’s part, but I think it was intentional and lends an air of mystery to the photo. Once he and his friends’ photos were taken, Athumani quickly headed inside to affix his picture to a piece of construction paper and adorn it with the illustrations above. Athumani blends into the scene, towering above the animals in the leaves. To me the drawing also represents all the things he can see with his eyes, the myriad of colors and animals present in a Tanzanian landscape.

I’m fond of Athumani’s work not just because it is aesthetically pleasing, but also since it validates my conviction that LTP is a powerful and valuable tool for teaching. From the start of this trip I have held the lingering anxiety that somehow what I am doing here is not worth the associated costs of my coming. Further, the very idea of an American traveling to Africa to do volunteer service is wrought with potential negative implications. However, works like Athumani’s have at the very least reassured me that the work I am doing with these teachers and students has the potential to make a positive impact on this community. I say this for a few reasons. One of the central goals of LTP is to have students learn via active participation, for them to be enthusiastically invested in their own education. Taking this photo required Athumani to think deeply about how he wanted to be photographed and then directly coordinate with his classmate to get the picture he wanted. He then took the time to decorate the whole paper surrounding his photo, meticulously coloring the jungle below his picture. Having the time to make his own creative decisions about his schoolwork is not an opportunity he would normally be afforded due to the curricular limits of the education system in Tanzania. This picture also captures the essence of learning through play. While in the classroom, Athumani, Muhammad and Elia appeared somewhat disinterested in what we were teaching. But as soon as we left the classroom and gave them the freedom to take their own pictures they were instantly passionate. I can remember being an elementary student of similar nature – I as most interested in lessons when they were conducted outside. Often when working with children there is no better way to get them engrossed in what they are learning than to make the process of learning fun.

LTP is more about children exploring their own creative and imaginative potential than it is about learning to take photographs. This is an important distinction in light of the fact that many schools we have been working with lack the infrastructure to provide their students textbooks, let alone cameras to take photographs. Once we leave Arusha many of the children we have worked with, including Athumani, will likely not have the capability to take and print photos. However, it is our hope that teaching LTP as a methodology will help Tanzanian teachers approach the education of their students in a novel way. I am confident that doing so will make their lessons not only more intriguing but also more memorable. In the meantime, I think it is important for my colleagues and I to invest ourselves wholly in making this goal a reality while not forgetting the structural inequalities that afford us the privileges most of our Tanzanian LTP collaborators do not possess. We should also be sure not to forget to have fun in pursuit of this goal, to monkey around from time to time, just as Athumani did above. This in turn will help us all to make our time here worth the many expenses of our visit.

What Will Remain? a photo reflection by Brittain Hughes

Photographs for me have always represented so much more than just a record of an event. You see, for one reason or another, I don’t have that great of a memory. So, instead, photographs serve as my memory – not only as a documentation of what I was doing when the photograph was taken, but also a record of how I felt during that moment. When I look back at old photographs, even if they are taken of only specific details, I am able to remember where I took the photograph, when, why, and how I felt.

Whether I am behind or in front of the camera, photographs show me a still moment from my life, one that is hard for my memory to retain alone without visual representation. I exclusively think in photographs and images. So, when I learn, my retention is always best when I am able to use photographs (and this is one of the reasons I am such a big proponent for Literacy Through Photography).

Because of how I learn and remember, the way I start to think critically about a lot of situations is often through photographs. Through the details I have to focus on when shooting, the interactions I have to take note of, the little nuances (cultural and other) in every situation. Below is a photograph that I took while our DukeEngage 2016 LTP team was working at a teachers’ workshop in Magugu, Tanzania. After a long morning drive from Arusha, our team drove straight to the teachers’ workshop, walking into a room of 30 teachers anxiously waiting. Groggy and unaware that we were driving strait to the workshop, each of us piled out of the car, stretched, and prepared for the next unknown stretch of time. After a quick introduction, we all got straight to work.

 

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In taking this picture, I had a set frame and composition I wanted; I had observed the interactions between teachers and the Duke students, and I knew what I wanted to capture. I wanted to show how in LTP, there is a focus on cooperative group work, attention to details, and participation. During our reading photographs exercise, an activity that is a pillar of LTP learning, I saw three of the main LTP principles playing out in the group work, so I snapped the shot above.

But what I found particularly interesting was the shot that I took below, a picture with the exact same framing, just taken two minutes later. And more than taking away some lesson about how any minute, something can change and look completely different even from the same point of view, I started to think about how after everything is done and said with Duke Engage’s time here in Tanzania, working with multiple schools and trying to further LTP’s methodology and its presence, what is going to be left? Will the photographs we leave behind be of any use? Will the teachers be able to apply what they have seen and learned in our workshops to their students?

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Our impact in our time here has been a huge question for our group this summer. What is our role here, what is our impact, and what will we leave behind? Stemming from these questions, we have been focusing a lot on determining how we can increase out lessons’ transferability so teachers can use their knowledge from the workshops to apply the methodology in their classrooms. We have come up with some beginning ideas such as using cameras and printers less in workshops and asking teachers directly how they can apply these LTP lessons in the class.

But even with our more direct focus on transferability, I still wonder: what is the next frame in my story of being here? I see my time here, I see the work I am doing and the effective direct impact of an LTP lesson. But what comes next, after I leave? Are we focusing enough on how the teachers can use the limited resources they have to apply the LTP methodology in their classes? These are questions I don’t yet know how to answer or how to predict. But what we can focus on is making sure the teachers understand how, for LTP, you don’t need a camera or a printer; you don’t need paper or pencils or chalk. It’s all about getting kids to think creatively and moving away from the idea that there is only a right or wrong answer all the time. It is about finding a way for all the students to learn, and to learn well. A shift to this kind of student-centered, participatory education is what I hope to leave behind.

28 Days, what have we been up to? a post by Camila Vargas

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28 days, 7 schools, 3 locations, 8 Duke Students. Since our program and our work here in Arusha is all about Learning Through Pictures and Learning Through Practice (LTP), I decided to create a picture to practice my data visualization skills and to illustrate for you all what we have been up to the past couple of weeks.

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As you can see in the image, we have been pretty busy: working with both children and teachers in Arusha and outside the city. We have also been students ourselves; taking 2 full weeks to learn some Kiswahili was definitively a great way to get closer to the Tanzanian culture and to the people with whom we work.

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At Arusha School I am working with 15 kids of different ages on an after school program focused on drawing. We first practiced line, then shading, and this week color (we spent an entire week working on the color wheel!). This process has reminded me of how much I enjoy working with children, it has shown me how fun and important it can be to teach art, and it has taught me that art is a great tool to get a better sense of how a child is developing.

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Drawing has also played an important role in my personal experience (you can see in the visualization that I have been trying to draw at least twice a week). Illustrating in my small yellow notebook has allowed me to reflect upon my experiences and to record memories in a way that creates meaning. Drawing has been my way of doing LTP at a personal level.

28 days into our program, I have certainly gotten closer to the LTP methodology and have had the chance to see its benefits in practice. I have also had the opportunity to work with enthusiastic teachers, a hard working and wise community partner-Pelle Shaibu, and a great team of tireless Duke students. I am looking forward to what is coming up and to a sustainable relationship with our community partner.

Opening Up, a photo reflection by Katherine Morawa

At home my family and friends call me the loud one. I talk way too much and at a volume that’s uncomfortable to almost anyone (thanks for passing that on, mom). In many spaces that I occupy I quickly become the loud one. However, the opposite became the case in my DukeEngage group. I became the quietest, most introverted version of myself. In group discussions I would feel accomplished when I could squeeze one quick sentence out of myself. I wanted to talk, to be myself, but I just couldn’t.

Then came our after school projects. Each DukeEngage student has the opportunity to run an after school class on whichever topic we want four times a week for an hour. Our program director, Katie, told us all that this was often the DukeEngage student’s favorite part of their trip. But, before leaving for Tanzania I became nervous. Other students were doing music videos, yoga classes, and history lessons, and I couldn’t think of a single thing. On our fourth day in Tanzania we went to visit Arusha School to meet with the Headmaster and talk about our ideas for after school. Katie helped me decide on doing a school magazine, and I felt confident that this would be a fun and informative class for my students.

Right when I thought we were about to leave, a teacher at Arusha School told us that today the students would pick which group they wanted to be in. He told us that we would all line up with the name of our class on a sign, and the students would run up to us and decide which class they wanted to be in. I felt my confidence draining but went and stood in my spot waiting for the students to run up. A few minutes later, I looked around me and other lines were filling up. Students were excited to learn Chinese and become an engineer, but only a few small faces looked up at me when I turned around. When Riswanee came by he tried to even out the lines a little, and he pulled students from other groups and put them in mine. I felt like I was back in middle school, where I was only picked in P.E. by default because everyone had to be on a team. After every student had the chance to pick a group, I turned around and saw ten students behind me. I looked to my left and there were what looked like thirty students lined up behind another DukeEngage student. My confidence was gone. I went and sat down with my group of students to explain to them what we would be doing, but every word I spoke was returned with blank stares. It looked like my group was filled with quiet, introverted students.

I looked around and other groups were playing games and singing songs, and my group was uncomfortably staring at me. Each question I asked felt like I was pulling teeth. I wondered how I got so unlucky to be stuck with the quietest bunch. Why did I get put with all the students who didn’t want to talk? Not only did I feel completely unlike myself around my fellow Duke students, I felt that my after school class was going to be filled with awkward silence and blank stares.

It was not until almost four weeks later that I realized how lucky I am to have the group of students that I do. It had been our longest day since arriving in Arusha, and we still had after school left. It was a Friday, and since many of us were tired a few groups decided to join together and play games. Toward the end of the session one of my group of Standard 7 girls quietly walked up to me and said, “Teacher can I borrow a book?” I bring books to every class for the students to use and read, but I take the books back at the end of the class. I turned to her and said, “Which one?” Her face lit up and she said, “Teacher I didn’t think you would let me borrow one.” She paused for a moment and then she said, “Thank you for trusting me.”

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When I was looking back through the pictures I took that afternoon, this picture struck me. Two of the Standard seven girls are laughing in such an open and genuine way (and if you look closely you can see the book tucked safely under a sweater). I realized how much trust has gone into my relationships with everyone I have encountered. Opening up is a vital part of Learning Through Pictures (LTP) and DukeEngage as a whole. When we work with LTP, taking pictures and encouraging participation, our students trust us to represent them the way they would want to be represented. I can see it when I work with my girls in after school. The way that they shied away from conversations and the camera the first week, compared to the huge smile in this picture shows me how much they have opened up to me. Looking back at the past four weeks I realize how much my fellow Duke students and I have opened up. We’ve had political discussions, we’ve talked about relationships, we’ve cooked together, and basically spent every moment of four weeks together. The openness that has come along with our work has pushed me, and I hope those I have encountered, to grow even in some small ways. Looking back at this picture, I realize that a quiet bunch of students was exactly what I needed to learn to open up.

One Way or Another, a photo reflection by Kara Fox

As I try to write this reflection, I am frustrated. I type a beginning sentence, and then I erase it. I’m worried that I’m not doing it right. Is this right?

I have seen this exact emotion on the faces of many students and teachers throughout our first month in Arusha. We ask an open-ended question about what might be going on in a photo and are met with quiet stares; someone hands the camera to me after timidly taking a picture and asks, “is this good?”

They are worried about finding the single, correct answer, the one way to do things. The challenge gets especially frustrating when groups have to take photos of more abstract concepts or things that they don’t have. In Magugu, I worked with a group of teachers that wanted to take a picture of an egg, but alas, there were no eggs to be found. How can you take a picture of an egg without an egg?

The idea of being correct or incorrect comes from aligning one’s thinking with someone else’s. LTP values one’s thinking as is, without comparison. When taking pictures, there isn’t any one answer. Everyone sees the world in different ways and in many ways. The LTP methodology accepts them all as valid, effectively removing the paralyzing fear of being incorrect. With LTP, people feel more comfortable trying out many possible solutions to a problem.

However, the problems to be solved, the ones with many answers, are complex, and with a complex problem comes frustration. I get frustrated trying to write about LTP because of all of its nuances. It is hard to represent all that it is in words. I have learned in the past four weeks that the way to deal with this kind of frustration, the feeling of having no idea where to start, is to just start, and see what happens. One thing always leads to another.

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The Magugu teachers started by drawing an egg on a piece of paper, labeling it with the Swahili word, “yai”. They showed it to me: “is this good?” I asked, “What do you think?” It mattered what they thought, not what I thought. They couldn’t be wrong unless they, themselves, were dissatisfied.

In response to my question, one teacher shook his head. He said he wanted to take a real picture and stepped out of the classroom. Our group followed him to the edge of the campus and stepped over some prickly plants. Again, I asked, “what do you think?”

The teacher pointed to a hen and her chicks. “Yai,” he said.

 

He held the camera close to his face and carefully lined them up in the frame. He showed me on the camera screen, nodded definitively and said, “good”.

That’s the way he saw it, and he was right.

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