A group of PE teacher students from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences spent two weeks in Tanzania before Christmas. An idea for an intensive course for third-year students in Africa came from the students themselves in connection with an Afro dance lesson. A group of 20 students, led by Senior Lecturer Mariana Siljamäki, got familiar with local secondary school and university teaching during their stay. For students, the trip was an extraordinary learning experience.

The group spent the first days of the trip at the Kijichi secondary school near Dar es Salaam. Senior Lecturer Siljamäki says that local pupils had already started their Christmas holiday but they returned to school for two days when their rector asked them to come to meet the group from JYU.

The students held PE lessons for pupils from 13 to 15 of age and taught them, for example, the Letkiss dance, volleyball, street dance and body control.

“Then the secondary school pupils taught us different group games and speed games with stones,” says Sini Impiö, one of the PE teacher students.

After the visit to the secondary school, the group toured the unit of sports studies at the University of Dar es Salaam. At the university, they participated in sports pedagogy classes and got familiar with local study methods and culture. In turn, the PE teacher students taught Tanzanian students physical activities through various teaching methods and introduced them to a new sport: floorball.

“We taught many ballgames and their didactics to the local sports students. In general, the study of sports pedagogy took place through sports,” Impiö says.

Intercultural communication

During the second year of their studies, the teacher students of the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences have a course in interculturality in physical education. The course got a natural continuation in Tanzania in a new cultural environment.

“Absolutely the best thing in the trip was to get to know local people and culture. We were able to compare Finnish and Tanzanian teaching in a comprehensive school and a university, and it was very educational. There were many similarities and also differences. Both had something to learn from the other,” says student Esa Kuivanto.

The local culture made an impression on the students and the different conceptions of time took punctual Finns by surprise, for example, when starting lectures.

“At times we felt like rock stars in Tanzania because all the local people were waving and smiling to us. We felt more than welcome all the time. I was also moved by people’s wonderful attitude towards life – they smiled and laughed and enjoyed every moment of life,” Impiö says.

Funding for the course from JYU and partners

Head of International Services Tuija Koponen says that the University of Jyväskylä has funded intensive courses organised by faculties, units, master’s degree programmes or disciplines since 2016.

“Reports from teachers coordinating the projects have been rewarding: the goals set for courses have succeeded well, cooperation with the host universities has strengthened and students’ feedback has been enthusiastic,” Koponen says.

For the Tanzanian trip, the students of the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences received mobility funding and also funding from the faculty for vaccinations. The non-governmental organisation LiiKe Sports & Development helped to arrange accommodation. Important assistance during the trip was received from the organisation’s Executive Director Ari Koivu, who is an experienced traveller in Tanzania and speaks Swahili.

The students and Siljamäki agree that the trip was a great experience and that they learned a lot during it. Even illnesses did not slow the group down, as they learned from their difficulties and supported each other.

“The group was incredible and everyone participated 100% all the time. Students showed fantastic flexibility and team spirit regardless of some minor illnesses. The trip was a fantastic experience for all of us,” Siljamäki says.

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