NEWSLETTER: Teaching about the Community at Hope Africa University

When I reconnected with Burundi in 2007, I was invited to return to teach at Hope Africa University. I began by teaching a course on community needs assessment to undergraduates in the Social Work and Community Development Department. When Hope Africa University started the Community Development Master’s Program, my  course became a graduate course.

Hope Africa University sought the Government’s approval for the Community Development Master’s Program. In doing so, I was asked to contribute a “philosophical” description of the Community Development Program; a program that is designed specially to help Hope Africa University students and graduates contribute to the University’s social change motto; Facing African Realities.

Community Needs Assessment

The recently approved Community Development Master’s Program includes my Community Needs Assessment, 5-credit course as a mandatory requirement within the curriculum.

Teaching Community Needs Assessment Course

The Community Needs Assessment Course is designed to be a practical course. I like small classes so that there can be a lot of student involvement. I use brief lectures and discussion to cover the course content and I ensure that there is class participation, small group discussion, structured exercises and student presentations.

Student Participation

During my recent visit to Burundi, I taught my course to the only three Community Development students who had not taken the course previously. With only three students in the class, it was not difficult to organize small discussion groups and have the students extensively involved in structured exercises.

Small Discussion Group

Emphasizing Community Health

During my most recent visit to Burundi, I had the opportunity to contribute to another course. I was invited by Carol Vitolins, another Visiting Professor, to contribute to a community health component of her course.

Carol, a Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner, was teaching a Deontology course, a course on ethics, duty and moral obligation, to third-year students in Anesthesia.

Carol Vitolins Deontology (Ethics) Teacher

Health science courses frequently have a singular clinical focus. Commendably, Carol wanted to draw her students’ attention to the obligation to consider community health. Carol wanted all of her students to learn about the importance of community health, including having some of her students visit a real community and meet and interview a few real community members.

As a contributor to community development and community needs assessment at Hope Africa University, Carol invited me to contribute to the community health section of her course. I attended her class and briefly reviewed five major methods used in community needs assessment.

  1. Document and Record Reviews
  2. Key Informant Interviews
  3. Focus Group Sessions
  4. Community Surveys
  5. Community Forums
Reviewing Community Needs Assessment Methods

My presentation was followed by a brief presentation from a student in the Community Development Master’s Program and a student in my Community Needs Assessment course. Gloria IRAKOZE briefly addressed the Document and Record Reviews method and for national and provincial community health information she described the impressive and valuable Burundi Demographic Health Survey 2010 (available in English and French) and the Burundi Demographic Health Survey 2016 – 2017 (available in French only).

Gloria Describing Community Health Information

Gloria is well-suited to describe the two national health surveys because she was involved in the data collection, she was one of the interviewers for both surveys.

Gloria Describes Burundi Demographic Health Surveys

For local community health information, Gloria also described the information that is available through the local Health Office at the commune level.

In preparation for the Community Survey; the field visit to meet and interview community members to find out about their view of the priority community health needs in their community, we had the all students in the class work in small groups to identify the types of questions to ask the community representatives.

Small Groups Developing Questions for Community Survey
Developing Survey Questions

By the end of the exercise, we had a brief list of questions that were designed to identify the priority health needs of the community.

For the field visit, we arranged to take a few students for a visit to one of the development projects that was funded by the Student Grants Program of the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund.

  • Women Shopkeepers in Buterere Zone, Bujumbura Mairie Province: Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA

This is the second development project that Audace has designed and implemented in Buterere, a very poor part of the capital city, Bujumbura.

Audace, Project Manager

The development project started with an association of 10 poor women but has attracted an additional 15 women. The project provides literacy training, business training and start-up capital for small shops or income-generating businesses. Through the association, the project is expected to become self-supporting, self-managing, self-governing and self-sustaining.

When we arrived for the field visit, some of the association members were at the site working. In addition to the small shops and businesses, the women decorate and sell sheets and pillow cases. All of the association members are involved in decorating the sheets and pillow cases that are sold for as much as 70,000 BIF.

Working Together on Decorating Sheets
Three Women Decorating a Sheet

The association was asked to provide a visit to the project and five project representatives who would be willing to be interviewed about the major community health needs in their community of Buterere.

A Student Interviewing a Community Member with Gloria’s Assistance

It was interesting, but not surprising, that four of the five community women who were interviewed, indicated that the top community health need for their community is addressing poverty and poverty reduction.

At the end of the field visit, the members of the development project unexpectedly presented me and Audace with a gift.

Project Women Present a Gift

The gifts were beautiful decorated sheets and matching pillow cases.

Generous Gift; a Decorated Sheet
Matching Pillow Case