Dr. Christopher Stonebanks of the School of Education has returned from his seventh annual trip to the Chilanga region of Kasungu, Malawi, where he leads the “Transformative Praxis: Malawi” project. The project, which includes aspects of Education, Health, and Development, focuses on the assessment, creation and implementation of a curriculum that is a fusion of local Malawian culture, knowledge and resources with Quebec’s competency, constructivist-based education program. “Transformative Praxis: Malawi” aims to create a novel, collaborative, sustainable model of community development that can be transferred to a variety of situations. Canadian students from the U4 universities (Bishop’s, Mount Allison, St. Francis Xavier and Acadia) and McGill University have the possibility of undertaking a five-week research learning experience as part of a credited university module, and bring their expertise in Education, Health or Development to work with Malawian co-learners towards knowledge-transfer initiatives and community capacity building. This project is carried out in close collaboration with Dr. Fintan Sheerin of the Nursing and Midwifery School of Trinity College Dublin, and Malawian businesswoman Jenyala Paradise.
Dr. Stonebanks, Dr. Sheerin and their Malawian partners have set up a number of collaborative initiatives through the supervision of student research projects in education, health and well-being and community development, projects strongly rooted in the principle of knowledge transfer. Recently, the local women’s cooperative in Chilanga has built a chicken coop with the assistance of a Mount Allison student in Development Studies and a Bishop’s University Education student. This combined Health and Education initiative may lead to improved methods of local production of quality food and to the development of new or best practices in farming. Likewise, a team of Canadian and Irish students working under the supervision of Dr. Sheerin worked alongside Malawian collaborators to create a tripartite plan that will help address some of the most pressing health challenges faced by the local population in Malawi, namely diarrheal diseases, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and respiratory conditions. Outcomes of this research collaboration will include the setting up of a weekly doctor-led clinic, the provision of monthly “under-5” clinics within the community centre as well as the preparation of a community health volunteer program.
Dr. Stonebanks and Dr. Sheerin are members of Bishop’s University’s “Crossing Borders” research cluster, a group of researchers committed to studying the socially constructed categories and boundaries that mark differences among nationalities, ethno-linguistic communities, genders and social classes – particularly how these boundaries are constructed, challenged and transcended. As a result of their research collaborations, education links and partnerships are being created between Bishop’s University and Trinity College Dublin, as well as with the other U4 universities.