Two weeks after we arrived in Bujumbura, Burundi, semester classes began. Randy was asked to teach forty-five hours of pediatric lectures (a two hour session twice a week) to the 4th year medical students. Here he is doing his first lecture to about fifty students using a power point in french with lots of pictures, speaking in French and some English. That was on a Monday. By Wednesday, the day for his next lecture the students were on strike. Yes, that happens here too. Unhappy with the rising cost of their medical education they (and some of their parents) wanted to make their complaints known to the administration. After several meetings in which grievances were heard and costs explained the strike was over. Or so we thought. Only five students came to class the next time. Then we heard the strike was still continuing. Another week passed with more meetings and then, voila! Strike over. Students back in class. Randy’s lecturing again.
As inconvenient as strikes can be it is good to know the students care about their education, its cost and are engaged in making their voices heard in peaceful ways. It gave Randy a little more time to get ahead on preparing the lectures which is challenging for him because he has to find all the slides on line and translate the information into French. Some of his colleagues in the States have shared their lectures with him so then he just has to translate them. That has been a huge blessing!
He has also been going into the “clinic” (think private hospital which is across the street from the HAU) every morning for morning report and rounds on the in-house patients (mostly pediatric). These are all done in French, of course, so he’s feeling like the train just left the station and he’s running to jump on. Mostly because the African accents. Also, just recently the hospital was approved by the government to be reimbursed for treating pregnant women and children under five. So in the six weeks we’ve been here there has been a rise in pediatric inpatients from about 8 to 28. It’s nothing like the 400 a day in Malawi but the expectation is it will grow as word gets out. In the afternoons he’s working on more lectures, so the strike days gave hime a chance to get a bit ahead and those missed sessions will be added in.
We are both happy to be engaged in teaching as that is what we came to do. We are also challenged as learners as we adjust to life in Burundi and at HAU. And we are thankful for the grace daily given to us as we grow in living and loving here.