Here They come
Posted by Keith and Lyn Scott on Wed, 15 Mar 2017 | 1 comments | Bookmark:
When we arrived in Kitwe in January there were just us chickens, Francis and Shelter next door, Steven just further along the road through MEF campus. Berry, our Academic Dean lives off site.
Now they are here. The students that is. Now we are in the business of what we came here to do.
Theological education at third level is a challenge, not just intellectually but personally and spiritually as well. Nothing will ever be quite the same again. Technical theological material is challenging, not just because some of it is, well technical, and tough going. It’s challenging because it raises so many questions which demand so much effort to come to terms with. You can’t step away from it in a theological college and you simply can’t “unlearn”. You have to grow, wrestle with the ideas, wrestle with the Scriptures, wrestle with your self, your doubts, your fears.
If your teachers are any good, if they are honest and committed, then you will grow, slowly, painfully as if through fire. You are being formed into the ministry of the Church, you are being shaped into the sort of person to whom any reasonable mother would entrust her daughter. You are having the self-discipline and the 24/7 work ethic driven into you like nails. You are being sifted and refined so that when you emerge from three long, hard years, you become that person of integrity and honour that is the average parish priest, the person whom the average parishioner meets every Sunday, and calls upon when they are at their most vulnerable and distressed, knowing that they will be there, honest, safe, caring and Godly.
The course we deliver is a ‘Distance Learning’ course from a University in South Africa. The lecturers In South Africa work out the programme, deliver the central lectures and then we, the local tutors and facilitators, help the students work with the material.
It sounds as if we don’t have much to do, but that would be wrong. It can be full on and very intense and incredibly varied. Our students come to us with Zambian second level education. Their ‘Grade 12’ exams are about the standard of an A/S or an O/A level in the UK, a bit beyond Junior Cert in Ireland, but not up to Leaving Cert. They are studying in English, which is not their first language, and often the South African lecturers are Afrikaans speakers.
We too deliver lectures, but more often we are working directly with the students as they grapple with their assignments and prepare for their exams. Lyn and I have been running tutorials, looking at the work produced by each student for their assignments set in South Africa, making suggestions for improvement, offering alternative insights and guiding their reading and writing.
None of this comes cheap. Lectures are ‘live streamed’ over the Internet, which means the Seminary should supply Internet access. The Internet services have improved vastly since our last trip here. Then it was dial-up or a creakingly slow WiMax service. Today it’s all 4G mobile broadband and usually works. The cost, however, is breathtaking and the Seminary budget makes a shoe string look secure and robust. Finding the where-with-all at the bottom of a very deep and empty barrel to pay for enough bandwidth to receive a 40 minute live streamed video broadcast is one of the regular challenges faced by Francis.
Sometimes the students just have to dig in and buy bandwidth for themselves. I try to helps out, by downloading material from the university website and sharing it around or using my MacBook to run a couple of old monitors for all the students to crowd round and watch a broadcast. A bit like the 1950s or early ‘60s when people gathered around the one tiny black and white TV set.
If change has to happen to the students the staff are also involved in change. You would talk to me for a very long time before you thought ‘morning person’. The fact is that I don’t voluntarily ‘do’ early mornings. Lyn, on the other hand is more of a lark. But even she winces at the typical working day, which starts with the alarms going off at 05:00. Showers and a gallop out for Morning Prayer at 06:00, gobble yer breakfast and off to the first lecture at 07:30.
After that it depends on the day. Lyn is teaching the English/Study skills course and sharing Homiletics. I’m teaching Old Testament, sharing Homiletics and helping the students learn Greek (it would be wrong to say ‘teaching Greek – I’m about one page ahead of the students in Wenham at the moment).
By 21:00 Lyn and Keith are showering (it’s hot and sticky at the moment, two showers a day are not a luxury) and heading for bed. In case you are wondering time is measured in Zambia by the 24 hour clock, and most Zambians have to stop and think what you mean by 9 O’Clock in the evening. Whether you call it 21:00 or 9 O’Clock it’s known to everyone as ‘missionary midnight’. Sometimes, ever the night owl, I stay up as late as 21:30. The decadence of it!