Professors discuss sabbaticals

Pioneer Talk hosted a seminar with UW-Platteville’s professor of animal science John Tembei and associate director of education Daniel Leitch to present their findings during their sabbaticals during 2016-2017. Tembei traveled to Cameroon, Africa to build relationships with international institutions via opportunities given through education and applied research. Leitch traveled to Darmstadt, Germany to fully immerse himself into the refugee crisis and to work on three different projects.

Tembei took his sabbatical with the Catholic University of Cameroon, however West Africa’s war status prevented him from completing his initial plans. Tembei had decided to begin his project by contemplating how the students at CATCU could benefit from UW-Platteville students and vice-versa. He made the decision to redesign and align a brand-new animal sciences curriculum. Tembei was hoping to mimic the Pioneer Farm while in Africa because students in Africa are unable to experience agriculture in real life. In Africa, most agriculture is done on paper because the students are said to be pushed through school until they’re done. Cameroon’s source of feed is inadequate for their pigs, preventing agriculture students from using pigs because they aren’t well nourished from lack of feed. By doing this redesign, he hoped to create a better experience for exchange students going and coming from America. “When we bring their students here, they love it! But when we take our students there, they don’t love it,” Tembei said.

West Africa’s war status also prevented him from teaching in a classroom and he was forced to sneak away to the farms. He also had to hide his car so no one would steal it. The school never had a full faculty. Soldiers were even burning down schools and creating ghost towns where people weren’t allowed to be in school due to the potential of riots occurring. When Tembei returned, he collected old agriculture textbooks to give to CATCU so their students could have more opportunities.

Leitch worked on the refugee crisis which includes Germany’s pay-to-leave program, where the German government tries to pay refugees to leave Germany for roughly two to three thousand USD. His first project took place at the Refugee’s Welcome Café. The Refugee’s Welcome Café is a Turkish community center that refugees are allowed to use on the weekends.

The café has a three-part program, beginning with a community meeting where refugees come together to talk about where they’re from and find what it is they all have in common.

The second part of the program is where German volunteers come in and work with them on paperwork applications. The third part of the program involves the German volunteers and the refugees sharing a meal. His second project was the Afghan Refugee Movement, which is run by one of his students. This project mainly focused on the Afghan community, holding protests and attempting to organize the community. Leitch’s first community meeting with the Afghan Refugee Movement informed him that most of the issues they dealt with were informing the refugees of legal processes from how to find a lawyer to  emergency cases of deportation.

Leitch’s final project was the Helping Hands Program. It is a self-help, peer-to-peer group of 17 volunteer refugees who help any newcomers adapt to their new locations, language training and other professional services. This was to serve as a bridge between refugees and members of the community.

“If I work in Germany or eastern and western Europe there’s going to be a big refugee population so I need to learn how to teach them and how to accommodate,”  sophomore elementary education major Nadia Waterson said.