Tutorials for my Swahili literature course have finished now as the semester draws to a close. They’ve been a highlight of the course. There are about 40 people in mine and everyone sits in rows on one half of the classroom, facing into the middle. The presenter stands in front of them, sometimes with a lectern, and the teacher sitting off to the side.
Before the class, everyone mills about outside and then as soon as the previous class has finished, they bolt inside, causing a complete blockage in the door as the other students try to exit the classroom. At first my approach was to simply wait until the jam had cleared and then take my seat but I quickly discovered that by this point there are no seats left! I spent one class standing but then I found a friend who advocated for me (without me asking him to) and even booted someone else out of his seat for me! By the end, I was barging in like a pro.
The class is presented by a team of students who all take turns standing up the front to give their part of the presentation. At the end, they ask for questions from the class and the relevant student stands to answer. This is also a chance for the class to challenge some of the presenters’ ideas and for the presenters to defend them. Some of these discussions have become quite heated! At the end, the lecturer stands to give an evaluation of the presentation and perhaps some corrections or clarifications.
Each tutorial is an hour long and this at the beginning of the course when my concentration span was shorter, this was an excellent length for me. I was often able to follow the intricacies of the argument and even anticipate what people would say. Sometimes I could identify where their argument was lacking or how it could be strengthened. However, I contributed very few times, preferring to take it all in.
A few of the topics we discussed were:
- With sufficient examples, prove that within Swahili literature there exist Classical works.
- What is Romanticism? Discuss two works of Swahili literature which carry the characteristics of Romanticism.
- Discuss the principles of Realism using the play ‘Nguzo Mama’ and the novel ‘Kuli’.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.