Strike at Fourah Bay
The staff went on a strike a few weeks ago to demand back pay, settling recently for part of what they sought, to be paid over a period of time. Then the faculty went on strike for non-payment and benefits. One university official says the state has not only been slow to pay employees at the university, but also to pay students their scholarships, which dragged out enrollment for weeks, causing many students to miss the start of classes.
To honor the strike but still honor students’ need for education, I offered to show up at our regular times for a free “tutorial” and not a class. I announced attendance would not be taken, nor tests given until regular classes resumed. Roughly 20-50 percent of my students have continued coming to these informal sessions at which we have been having good discussions. In my large (130+) freshman class we have spent a good deal of time discussing research methods since they have to complete a research paper (the first ever for most of them) and do ten hours community service (teaching human rights in local schools and other institutions).
One student in that class asked a very basic and important question: “How do I learn.” So I spent some time with him suggesting ways to get more out of the assigned readings. It has made me rethink how I present materials. My students have gotten me to shift my approach slightly to first preview readings before holding them responsible for knowing the material. It gives them some study questions and points to ponder, which I hope will help address that question: how do I learn?
Class update: in a recent session of my freshman class on human rights, where we focused on civil rights, including the life of Malcom X, two female and one male student presented the topic in such marvelous detail and context that I applauded their example. In my third year class, student teams have been presenting the week’s theme with great skill and fielding touch questions from the class. These students are not only eager but very capable.