From Tanzania to the Tron

13 September 2018

Mohamed Msoroka and Godlove Kyakwe

When Godlove Kyakwe decided to look outside his home country of Tanzania for doctoral study, New Zealand was at the top of his list. Despite never having been here, he had read about the New Zealand tertiary education system, and was impressed with its academic reputation. He received offers from Waikato and Auckland universities, and with the help of an NZ Aid Scholarship, arrived in Hamilton in 2014 to begin his PhD at the University of Waikato.

With bachelors and masters degrees in education, and working in the College of Education at the University of Dodoma in Tanzania’s capital city, Godlove was concerned by an ongoing decline in Tanzanian school students’ academic performance. As a teacher educator, he wanted to investigate teacher efficacy and self-efficacy beliefs, to see if this was impacting student performance.

Arriving in New Zealand was something of a culture shock for Godlove, who found Hamilton to be “very cold” compared to his homeland. “But my supervisors were very supportive, and helped me to make friends and settle in,” he says. “After a couple of weeks I also began to understand the New Zealand accent better, which helped a lot.” Drop in sessions offered by the Centre for Tertiary Teaching and Learning were invaluable to him as a non-native English speaker, and in understanding the University’s systems and processes.

Godlove was so impressed with his experience that he encouraged his friend and colleague, Mohamed Msoroka, to apply to Waikato for his PhD as well. Also an NZ Aid Scholar, Mohamed’s background was in Adult Education and for his PhD, he wanted to investigate the value of prisoner education and whether current policy and practice in Tanzania was meeting prisoners’ needs. He was accepted into the PhD programme and arrived in Hamilton in 2015.

Both Godlove and Mohamed have fully embraced university life, participating in research symposia and presenting at conferences, including the national NZARE conference in 2017. Experiencing different cultures and teaching styles has been of great benefit, and both men say they will be making changes to their own teaching practice on their return to Tanzania, incorporating more of a participatory approach and moving away from the traditional lecture style.

The most challenging part of their studies has been leaving their wives and children at home in Tanzania while studying. “Having Godlove here has been a huge help,” Mohamed says. “As a friend and colleague, and someone who understands the challenges I am facing, he has made my time here a lot easier.”

When they return to Tanzania later this year, Godlove and Mohamed will be presenting their findings to the relevant government officials, including the Minister for Education and the Minister of Home Affairs. Godlove hopes to be a mentor for other teacher educators, modelling innovative teaching practice and embracing new technologies, to help ensure positive outcomes for Tanzanian students. Mohamed’s first goal is to convince policy makers of the value in educating prisoners, to reduce recidivism and improve their contribution to society.

Both men will also be able to supervise masters and PhD students, and continue to build on their own research. Senior lecturer Sue Dymock can’t praise them highly enough. “It has been an absolute pleasure to have Godlove and Mohammed as part of the Faculty of Education. They have both played an active role in the Faculty and have made a positive impact not only on staff but fellow PhD and MEd students.”

While they are looking forward to completing their studies and returning home, they have found their time in New Zealand invaluable, and will support others in seeking opportunities to study at the University of Waikato. “Just don’t worry if you don’t understand anyone at first,” Mohamed says. “New Zealanders talk very fast!”