Saturday, May 30, 2009

SAUT Worldview Workshop: 23 May 2009

The flyer that we posted all over the campus

Saturday, 23 May 2009, was a true highlight for our experience of this semester of teaching at St. Augustine University (SAUT). The idea for a workshop on worldviews which compete for attention as we teach at the university grew out of discussions with our colleagues here inTanzania. We recognized a desire to teach in an integral Christian way, but most of our colleagues had done their graduate work at secular universities, either in Africa or overseas, and were shaped by that. SAUT labels itself as a “secular” university, owned and operated by the Episcopal Conference of Tanzania. "Secular" in this case means "not pontifical"; it also means that it is open to students of all denominations and faiths. Both of us have Muslim students in the class. Not all lecturers are Catholics; there are also a few Muslims on the faculty. 

The Vice-Chancellor opening the workshop with prayer

We had planned the event for some time, providing the groundwork through preliminary discussions with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Mfumbusa, as well as Dr. Kitima, the Vice Chancellor. Flyers had been placed all over the campus, and we had spoken with the colleagues we knew, to invite them to this event. Most promised to come. We had also invited the Tanzanian IAPCHE members to come to Mwanza for the occasion. So we worked carefully to prepare a set of power-point presentations for the workshop. And we urged those supporting our work to pray for this event. So you can imagine that we were very thankful that the workshop turned out to be successful, especially because on the day itself there were a number of significant SAUT events competing with ours. We had hoped for twenty participants, but had prepared chairs for as many as fifty people, realizing that under the circumstances half that number would be a good turnout. Indeed, the total attendance for the whole workshop was twenty-two; not everyone was able to stay for all presentations. 

Adrian and Wendy looking over the program before the workshop

For the workshop we had chosen the title, “The University Teache and Competing Worldviews,” hoping to demonstrate that a Christian worldview can play a constructive role in a context where it has competition. We planned two sessions; the first was to deal with some operative worldviews, especially the western or secular one that is dominant on many university campuses, as well as the African or traditional worldview that continues to influence lecturers and students alike here, and finally, the Christian or biblical worldview that we want to encourage lecturers to implement in classroom teaching. The second session was intended to show our colleagues how one can teach from within this Christian worldview. Both presentations were well received, as we heard from later reports.

We were especially grateful that the Vice-Chancellor of SAUT, joined us to open the workshop with prayer and a word of encouragement for this project. He was accompanied by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic of the university, but they had to hurry off to another event which hosted a local Member of Parliament. The head of the department of philosophy, Dr. Aidan Msafiri gave a general introduction for the sessions, and welcomed the lecturers and graduate students who represented various faculties and departments. We were grateful for his support and participation, for we had specifically invited him to show how a Christian worldview might be applied more concretely in his own discipline, which is environmental ethics. We also asked one of our colleagues specialized in African traditional religion, Julian Mugishagwe, to introduce the African worldview. In this way we wanted to make sure that this was not a workshop introduced only from outside SAUT. Our hope is that the program we developed can be adapted and used again in the future. We left two cd's with copies of the program with Msafiri, who has already stated plans to repeat the workshop.

Msafiri making his presentation on using a Christian worldview in teaching environmental issues

Our colleague Julian who presented the African worldview

Wendy using a card made by our daughter Sharon that illustrates how time binds us in the secular worldview

Before closing the workshop we took the opportunity to donate a number of relevant and valuable books for the library of SAUT. These were eight publications of Dr. Benny van der Walt, from the University of Potchefstroom in South Africa, all dealing with the issue of worldviews. Benny had sent copies of these books to us when he knew that we would be teaching in Tanzania. Little did he know that we were planning this workshop on worldviews. We thought it a great opportunity to formally hand them over to Msafiri.

Presenting the van der Walt books to Msafiri

Sister Esther, a colleague from Ireland

The group picture was taken at the end when some participants had already left

Isaac Mutua with one of the participants

For this workshop we had invited Rev. Isaac Mutua from Kenya, director of CPCHEA (Centre for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education; see the website: and Africaregional director for IAPCHE (International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education; at the website:, to attend and use the opportunity to introduce the work of these organizations. In that regard he was successful. Most of the participants of the workshop signed up to become members of IAPCHE. Later that day, and on Sunday afternoon, Isaac had further opportunities to talk with both the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, about SAUT becoming an institutional member. Both of these university officials are supportive of the goals of IAPCHE and CPCHEA, and said the matter would receive careful consideration. We certainly left a number of our colleagues with a new enthusiasm for teaching from a Christian perspective. So all in all, we are thankful for this workshop, and pray that the benefits will continue to multiply in future.

Isaac with Adrian and Peter, a IAPCHE member from Tanzania

Isaac with Adrian and Wendy

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