IAP Sponsors African Science Teacher Oliva Nalunkuma For Two-Week Exchange

Traveling over 6,500 miles from the East African city of Kampala, Ugandan chemistry and biology teacher Oliva Nalunkuma was welcomed to the Andover campus on Monday at the start of a two-week cultural exchange completed under the auspices of the International Academic Partnership (IAP). Ms. Nalunkuma was nominated by an educational service agency and her headmaster in Kampala to participate in this program. In July, Andover will send physics instructor and Ms. Nalukuma’s PA Science Department host, Kathy Pryde, to Uganda to complete the exchange. For Ms. Nalunkuma, one of the most important aspects of her visit is the time she has to observe classes. “Her goal [in attending classes] will be to look at what’s going on, look at how students and teachers interact, look at how teachers use materials, and think about the teaching techniques we use here,” said Instructor in History Christopher Shaw, director of the IAP. “Ms. Nalunkuma will be the first person from Uganda to have looked at this school and climbed inside of it,” said Shaw. “I’m hoping she’ll be able to go home with some great curriculum ideas, some very tangible things she can use in her teaching, but I’m also hoping that she can home with a much better sense about how Aga Kahn High School can assist Andover in what we want to do.” At Wednesday’s All-School Meeting, Acting Head of School Rebecca Sykes introduced Ms. Nalunkuma to the student body. This introduction is one of many this African teacher has experienced since she arrived on campus at the start of this week and has seen immersed herself in all facets of the Andover community. Ms. Nalunkuma has toured the campus, sat in on Dr. Shaw’s “Africa and the World” history class, and employed her teaching skills in Instructor in Chemistry Kevin Cordozo’s Chemistry 250 class by quizzing students on African geography. She has also attended more classes, observed faculty meetings, toured various campus facilities, and surveyed a palate of extra-curricular options throughout the campus. Ms. Nalukuma’s schedule for this coming week is purposefully open to allow time for second visits to classes, research, and project work. In addition, the IAP wants to provide time for other non-academic pursuits beyond campus and into Boston. Dr. Shaw explained that a major objective of Ms. Nalunkuma’s visit is to give her a chance to observe the ways in which Phillips Academy is similar and different from her high school in Uganda. “She comes from a very different type of school,” he said. The high school where Ms. Nalunkuma teaches is one of a cluster of private schools in Uganda, established in the 1930s. In the early 1970s, the Asian community was forced out of Uganda, and schools like Aga Kahn’s were simply boarded up or controlled by the government. Recognized as one of East Africa’s finest learning institutions, the Aga Khan schools were recently refounded after Uganda underwent a major political shift. The current Ugandan President invited the Asian Community back to Uganda several years ago and rebuilt the country’s economy and social contracts with foreign entities. The Aga Kahn was welcomed back into Uganda and encouraged to reopen his schools. The Aga Kahn High School in Kampala is a day school, which is connected to a primary school and nursery school. The high school itself has roughly 700 students. Traditionally, these students have only been preparing for the Ugandan curriculum, but their school is currently changing the entire curriculum, offering courses which will prepare students to apply to universities outside of Uganda. While the high school boasts many up-to-date facilities, it is historically an under-resourced school compared to some of the other schools in the Aga Kahn network. “One of the ways that high school students from Uganda and students from PA differ is that the [Ugandan] students have many more subjects and much, much less homework. If you think about how the academic day works, the onus is really on the teacher to deliver the goods in the classroom. Students are not expected to have a lot of personal responsibility for their learning. That is a very different model of learning from what we practice here,” Dr. Shaw noted. “We are very spoiled here. We can teach you virtually whatever we want. They are not lucky enough to live under those kinds of freedoms, but at the same time they are looking well beyond even their continental borders. They are much more aware of what’s going on in the world,” Dr. Shaw continued. Nalunkuma’s visit is part of a teacher-exchange between Phillips Academy and the Aga Khan Education Service (AKES). Both institutions, along with a third link—the Institute for Educational Development at Aga Khan University—comprise the PA-based International Academic Partnership. Founded in 1993, the International Academic Partnership (IAP) is an organization that links roughly 400 schools and 55,000 students throughout North America, Asia, and Africa in an effort to promote student-centered teaching and global education. Andover has benefited from the IAP in many ways, both curricular and professional. In its short life, the IAP has helped to develop new, innovative course curricula school-wide, and has offered opportunities for teachers to expand their skills and teaching methods distinctive international settings. Andover teachers recently named IAP the most significant professional development opportunity, after sabbaticals, at Phillips Academy. Since 1992, 65 Phillips Academy faculty and over 500 AKES teachers have participated in IAP programs. The IAP’s involvement in Uganda is a relatively new undertaking because the schools there are new.