Students within a global movement like IFES have much in common, but each national movement has its own strengths and weaknesses. We’ve seen two such movements up close – Tanzania and Australia – and each has things to learn from the other. Next week I’ll post 4 things Tanzanian students can learn from Aussie students, but for this week, here are 4 things Aussie students could learn from Tanzanian students. Of course, these are massive generalisations!
- Student politics matter. Tanzanian students don’t ‘buy out’ of student politics or view it cynically as many Aussie students do. Members of the Christian university group run for student president and other university council positions. They have a keen sense that this is a way to contribute to an environment which is shaping them and others. Not all follow student politics with interest of course, but neither do student politics seem as peripheral as they did in my uni experience in Australia.
- God’s way is best. Students everywhere are concerned with things like friends, relationships, and, to a lesser extent, time management and study skills! But Tanzanian students have a very clear sense that these things are not just about well-being or success, but about experiencing the fullness of God’s plan. What Aussie students might call ‘common sense’ or ‘good choices’ takes on an appropriately spiritual dimension in Tanzania.
- Caring for one another. My conversation partner was late one day, and she told me she hadn’t been good at managing her time. Probe a bit deeper and it turns out that she’s been late because she was taking a fellow student to the hospital and sitting with her while she waited to see the doctor. The emphasis on knowing one’s fellow student and caring for them is costly. Students will take up collections for a needy student, and we’ve seen even conscientious students skip a week of classes to go to a friend’s home village to mourn with them the passing of a family member.
- Belonging to the same family is more important than being right. Denominationalism is strong in Tanzania, and has problems of its own, one of which is that doctrine and learning your faith often take a back seat. However, this means that doctrinal squabbles are fewer and and ‘home base’ can be easier to identify, because you don’t have to agree with people to be a part of them.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.