Kenyan Visitors Experience Solid Orange
Narok University College, the first university in Maasailand in Kenya, sent three representatives to strengthen ties with the College of Health, Education, and Human Development (HEHD) of Clemson University. Over the course of the ten-day visit, Dean Larry Allen introduced Principal David K. Serem, Dean Misia M. M. Kadenyi, and Dean Simon K. Seno to the “Clemson Family.”
Clemson University has Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with several institutions in East Africa that facilitate cooperation, such as student or faculty exchanges and research collaboration. The Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management of the College of Health, Education, and Human Development has relationships with the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania, and the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in addition to Narok University College in Kenya.
“Ecotourism development in Africa only will work when the people’s needs for better healthcare (sanitation and water quality), economic opportunities (tourism) and natural resource conservation (parks) are integrated into one model for the future,” Ian Munanura said. Ian Munanura, who managed a number of projects in Rwanda and Uganda for USAID and served as country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Rwanda, chose to pursue his Ph.D. at Clemson University because he knew that the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at the College of Health, Education, and Human Development would help him increase his knowledge of both conservation and tourism development.
While the delegation from Narok University College was here, they flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Natural Resources Management, and Education officials and the National Park Service. The Kenya USAID PROMARA project aims to protect the Mau Forest Complex, which is a watershed to the Serengeti, the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and ultimately provides water for over thirty million people. Clemson University has been invited to be a part of this project when it is finalized with Narok University College.
In Washington D.C., the Narok delegates also met with the International Reading Association to discuss literacy, the highest international educational priority for developing countries. Narok and Clemson are working with the Maasai Heritage Preservation Foundation to introduce an “e-learning program to help upgrade and enhance educational opportunities…to give students the chance at a global education without leaving Kenya.” Clemson University, which has one of the strongest literacy faculties in the nation, could offer online degree programs through a joint enrollment process with Narok University. In return, professors, graduate, and post-graduates could participate in internships and research in Kenya.
While the Narok and HEHD delegations were in Washington DC, a second team of Kenyan government officials were here to discuss the creation of a Global Road Safety Institute as a joint venture with the Clemson University Automotive Safety Research Institute (CU-ASRI), Narok University College, and the Government of the Republic of Kenya, Mr. H.A.M. Kamwaro, Chairman of the Transport Licensing Board in Kenya, headed this delegation to Clemson University. Dr. Kim Alexander, Executive Director of the CU-ASRI, organized their trip and the series of meetings with South Carolina and US Transportation officials. Their meetings were very productive and they are hoping to secure funding for the Global Road Safety Institute soon.
After the Narok and Clemson delegations returned to South Carolina from Washington, DC, the delegates visited Clemson Elementary School and Daniel High School. In the elementary school’s auditorium, over ninety national flags represent students’ countries of origin. South Carolina and Clemson University are already involved in the international community. Maintaining and developing these international relationships is critical for a shared future. The Narok delegation was very impressed with the facilities and programs that exist at both elementary and secondary levels in the United States.
Kenneth Backman with the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University has a deep passion for developing relationships abroad and making a difference in the personal capacity of the people in East African communities. Here at Clemson, he has worked as a PhD advisor to Aloyce Nzuki, a Ford Foundation Scholar who went on to become the director of the Tanzanian Tourism Board. As a result of Dr. Backman’s involvement abroad, James Nampushi, a Kenyan Maasai student, decided to attend Clemson. He is working toward a post-graduate degree, and will teach at Narok University College upon graduation.
Misia M. M. Kadenyi of Narok gave a talk on the importance of not only literacy but another high international priority: education access for women. Her story about the ongoing marginalization of women revealed there are many issues of human rights and social justice that still need to be addressed by the global community. Misia Kadenyi is currently sponsoring several young women by paying their secondary school tuition.
The partnership between Narok University and Clemson University’s College of Health, Education, and Human Development has many exciting opportunities to offer students and faculty alike.
“This collaboration is going to lead to the establishment of a joint teaching and research center being developed on the edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya,” Backman explained. “This facility will be developed as a partnership and will allow students both undergraduate and graduate as well as faculty to travel to Kenya for classes and field studies from numerous faculties, where Clemson students and Narok students would work and learn in teams. We have graduate students doing research there and more planned for the future. We have more students from Kenya this semester and more expected in the future.”
The Maasai Mara National Reserve, approximately five hundred and eighty square miles of savannah, has incredible biodiversity. In addition to wildlife like giraffes, lions, cheetahs, gazelles, elephants, rhinos, and hyenas, this park boasts of one of the most breathtaking natural spectacles, the migration of well over a million wildebeest. Clemson University faculty not only have the opportunity to increase their expertise and capacity but also to research with internationally recognized faculty. This research is critical to the economy in Kenya, which is heavily based on safari tourism. A sustainable model needs to be created so that that tourism can have a minimal impact on the wildlife and environment of this region.
“Well,” Backman said, “for now the next step is to make this collaboration expand into the other countries in East Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and others in the region. This is due to the scale of some of the anticipated projects, particularly environmental issues, which extend beyond political borders.”
According to Dean Larry Allen, the delegates left “with a deep sense of appreciation and excitement about the future. They are dedicated to making this partnership very productive and rewarding for all involved. We have outlined future directions in both the education and tourism and natural resources areas but there are many more ideas and needs to be explored over the next few months and years.”