Students Co-Design African Rural University

Posted Saturday, April 13, 2013 in Innovation by Patricia Seybold

ARU Learning Circle I have been a part of the gestation, birth, and early childhood of this fledgling university as a member of the University Council (its governing body) since its inception. This truly is a unique undertaking—an all women’s university, designed to train the women who will help transform the African bush, bringing impoverished and illiterate people into the 21st century in a manner that preserves the best in their cultural traditions and in their natural environment, but lets them create prosperous livelihoods in their own rural communities.

The story I chose to tell in this case study includes some of the highlights in this organization’s journey from a seed planted in 1987 by its founders, Mwalimu Musheshe, Ephrem Rutaboba, and Silvana Franco, to its current status as a newly minted University with students two years into a four-year program. But the journey to this point is fascinating. Because, in order to co-design the University, all of the constituencies—students, faculty, people in hundreds of communities, local government officials—ran a 7-year pilot program—starting with 29 “researcher-students” who piloted a 5-year curriculum (3 years of courses and 2 years of internship in the field), and winding up with 17 graduates who are now working as professionals in 17 different sub-counties, helping hundreds of thousands of villagers create and actualize their dreams.


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