BOLIVAR – Education students at Southwest Baptist University (SBU) were in for a surprise when they began a Mystery Google Hangout Dec. 3. Before the camera went live on the projector, they heard – and recognized – the voice of one of their professors, Delta Cavner, who has been in Ethiopia since September teaching and doing research through the Fulbright Scholar program.
Jennifer Fox, instructor of education, arranged for the Google Hangout with her Teaching Social Studies class so they could learn about the Ethiopian culture and the research Cavner is doing concerning how to improve education at all grade levels in Ethiopia.
Though Cavner, associate professor of education, is still collecting information for her research, she shared two observations that are holding back the Ethiopian education system.
“Teacher salaries are $30 to $75 per month,” she said. “Even the best teachers who love teaching are out of teaching as fast as they can. I think that’s one of the reasons the education system is not improving.
“Also, education is very rote. When you tell teachers it should be more interactive, they have students stand up and answer questions over what they just read. They have learned about active learning in theory, but they have never seen it in practice.”
Ethiopia is a “least-developed country,” as determined by the United Nations based on income, human assets and economic vulnerability.
“Life is really different here, and I do really miss you a lot,” Cavner told the students. “I have to say living here isn’t as easy as it is in other countries I’ve been in. It has been harder for me to adjust to.”
Adjustments include living in a higher altitude where it gets cold – and with no heat in the buildings. Grocery stores are very small, and the nearest one is about a 30-minute walk from her apartment. Fresh produce is limited. Internet access is difficult to find and is not always reliable.
Another challenge is staying dry during the rainy season.
“I have an umbrella, a poncho, a raincoat and waterproof boots, and I use all of them every day,” she said.
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Cavner also encouraged the students to consider participating in the Fulbright Scholar program or consider teaching at one of the international schools in Ethiopia.
“International schools here beg for teachers,” she said.
Cavner will return from Ethiopia in June 2014.
For more information about the SBU Department of Education, contact Dwight Haun, department chair, at (417) 328-2043 or dhaun@SBUniv.edu.