Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

The Challenge to Educate: An Account of Inaugurating a Catholic School in Tanzania/Les Defis Presentes Par L'education: Compte-Rendu De L'inauguration D'une Ecole Catholique En Tanzanie/El Desafio De Educar: Relato De la Inauguracion De Una Escuela Catolica En Tanzania

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

The Challenge to Educate: An Account of Inaugurating a Catholic School in Tanzania/Les Defis Presentes Par L'education: Compte-Rendu De L'inauguration D'une Ecole Catholique En Tanzanie/El Desafio De Educar: Relato De la Inauguracion De Una Escuela Catolica En Tanzania

Article excerpt

May 2016

In 2009, I left an academic position and moved to central Tanzania, where I joined a team of other Jesuits planning the opening of a coeducational boarding secondary school. The Jesuit province there had received a generous donation from a family foundation for this purpose, but faced a difficult challenge: It had the material resources necessary to open the school, but not the necessary personnel. Because of my experience as a principal of a Jesuit high school and my research on the professional development of teachers, superiors identified me as the most suitable Jesuit to serve as the school's first headmaster. I would be responsible for registering the school with Tanzania's Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MOEVT), establishing school policies and procedures, hiring faculty and staff, and recruiting and admitting qualified students.

In fact, my chief responsibility was a less tangible one: engendering the ethos of the Jesuit tradition in the new Catholic school. This proved to be a much greater challenge than I had initially envisioned. Soon after my arrival, I was confronted with the reality that my notions of the mission of a Catholic school in a developing country were at odds with the designs for the school set by the government officials and bureaucrats who would play an important role in its opening. Over time, I came to realize that these differences regarding the purpose of schooling were "rich points," signaling differences between the Tanzanian public servants and me, differences worthy of attention as a research focus (Agar, 1996).

In the pages that follow, I explore these differences with the conviction that without appropriate attention and analysis such as I propose to provide, important decisions affecting apostolic commitments like beginning a school rely too heavily on implicit or assumed problem identification. The case study that follows is an exercise in applied qualitative research; its intention is to put forward for consideration ideas to guide decision-making regarding Catholic educational projects in the developing world where the neoliberal policies of the World Bank (WB) and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), hold sway.

In the first part of the article, I trace my emerging understanding of the differences between the officials with whom I dealt and me. After examining how I came to realize both the nature and the significance of these rich points, I trace the postcolonial history of Tanzania that explains in part the stance of the civil servants. In the following section, I consider the influence of Catholic social teaching (CST) and the thought of Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Tanzania's first president, on my own stance. Ultimately, I formulate five principles to be considered when establishing Catholic educational institutions in the developing world.

Exploring a Rich Point

During my three years working to open the secondary school in Tanzania, I kept a personal journal and regularly published reflections and updates on a blog meant to keep family and friends informed of the progress of the school. At the time, I did not refer to the journal as an ethnographic or research journal because I did not foresee writing up the experience. It was simply a personal journal in which I regularly recorded my experiences and reflections. My training as an ethnographer certainly affected the sort of journal I kept; and, in reviewing the journal now, it is clear that, whatever my intentions, it can properly be termed an ethnographic journal if only because my writing served to keep a detailed account of events as they unfolded.

The journal, my blog entries, and other artifacts like photographs are data that can be used for an autoethnography. Ellis, Adams, and Bochner (2011) provided a succinct description of this approach to research:

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno) (Ellis, 2004; Holman Jones, 2005). …

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