JMU Alum Premieres “Teaching Kenya” Documentary at Court Square

Marcus O'Malley -- January 22nd, 2008

On January 27th at 7 p.m., Teaching Kenya, a documentary about Kenya’s educational system as seen through the eyes of 15 local teachers who traveled there in 2006, will premiere at Court Square Theater in downtown Harrisonburg.

The teachers were participating in a Fulbright-Hays summer seminar overseas in order to broaden the cross-cultural material in their classrooms, and the film follows them as they work in five schools in two areas of Kenya.

A discussion panel featuring the film maker, Alex Sirney, and participants in the program will follow the showing to answer questions from the audience.

Teaching Kenya runs for approximately 30 minutes and is designed as a teaching aid for use in middle and high school classrooms. It addresses controversial topics including free education, poverty and the overall quality of the Kenyan education system.

The film is especially relevant now as a look at everyday life in a country that has seen an alarming increase in violence and insecurity in the last month, where before it had been a beacon of peace and stability in Africa.

7 Responses to “JMU Alum Premieres “Teaching Kenya” Documentary at Court Square”

  1. finnegan says:

    What time is this? I’m interested in going, depending on when the Sunday screening is.

  2. finnegan says:

    Who’s the JMU Alum? Alex Sirney?

  3. marcus says:

    Sorry about that, updated!

  4. linz says:

    Sounds great! Thanks for the info.

  5. finnegan says:

    I just got back from the screening. The turnout was really good — I’d say there were at least 120 people there tonight.

    The 30 minute doc tracks 15 teachers and (grad?) students from JMU to three primary schools in rural regions of Kenya. Sirney’s film lays out the positive and negative aspects of trying to teach in overcrowded, underfunded classrooms. One of the Kenyan teachers said the ratio of teachers to students at her school was 9 : 402.

    After the film, four panel members (three women from JMU, and one Kenyan man) further explained the challenges Kenyan teachers face — not the least of which is the escalating violence that erupted after Kenya’s opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) claimed President Mwai Kibaki rigged the election in his favor.

    JMU’s Kenya program is on hold until summer 2009, at which point JMU organizers hope to resume it.

  6. JohnLL says:

    I really enjoyed the screening and chat. It made me homesick!

    It would have been off topic, but I wish that the election could have been explored further- how it is much, much, MUCH more complicated than “just” a rigged election. Of course, the Kenyan people deserve to have the elected official that they choose lead them, but the truth is that Raila Odinga has been in the government for years, and he’s as corrupt, if not more, as anyone else. When we lived in Kenya, he was minister of transportation, and he stole millions, leaving the roads in pathetic shape.

    The election was not a good vs. evil scenario, with evil rigging the election. (And by some accounts, both sides were busy rigging)

    Unfortunately, as these things go, the people are the losers. And the Kenyan people are a delightful, open, friendly, and wonderful people. I can only hope and pray that Kenya can find a way to reconcile these differences and reach the potential that it has as a nation.


  7. finnegan says:

    Thanks for that insight, John.

    There are stories about this screening on the DNR and TV3 sites.

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