Visitors eye methods, technology at Imperial County schools

May 11, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

"It is very hot in the Imperial Valley," said Maurice Okiki Abwao, a teacher from Kenya.

Abwao and four other teachers from Africa are part of the Rotary International Group Study Exchange program visiting Imperial and San Diego counties.

Abwao said he was surprised at the temperatures here.

"When they were telling me it was going to be hot, I didn't think it was going to be this hot," said Abwao.

Abwao, Martin Mukasa Kiyaga and Pedison Bbaale Kakeeto, both of Uganda, Suhra Chepleting Magut of Kenya and Solomon George Stephen Kibona of Tanzania are all teachers.


They arrived in the Imperial Valley on Saturday to study education methods at different grade levels in hopes of using their knowledge back home.

"The schools here are very good. They are using a lot of technology and a lot of hands-on planning. There are very small classrooms, which helps the teachers be close with the child," said Abwao.

The group, except for Kiyaga, has toured McCabe Union Elementary School near El Centro, Central Union High School in El Centro, Imperial Valley College and the Imperial Valley Center for Exceptional Children in El Centro. Kiyaga has spent the week in Blythe, touring schools there.

"The education system is the same. The only difference is here it is more focused with more technology," said Abwao.

Abwao said he will take his experience and share it with other educators at his school in hopes of helping better educate students.

Abwao said this is his first trip to the United States.

"The people are very friendly. If everybody in the United States is like this, then I'll definitely come back," he added.

Abwao has been teaching for 11 years. He teaches chemistry and some biology.

Magut teaches English and Kiswahili at a high school.

"Americans believe that without educating their youth, they have no future," said Magut.

"They really put in so much effort in bringing them up, both at home and at school, so that they can have the changes to carry on for generations," she added.

She said of the Imperial Valley, "It's hard to believe it gets so hot because when you drive on the streets you see green everywhere.

"It is because of the same care by people who believe that nothing is impossible," she added.

Magut said she is positive this experience will help her students.

"The children are a part of me and I am a part of them. Whatever difference I can make in their lives I will do," she said.

Kiyaga, the team leader, teaches chemistry and mathematics at a high school.

"Education here is valued," said Kiyaga.

"Customs here are very small. Our customs are very big. People here are very friendly. Everywhere I went I was shaking everybody's hand."

The group will head to San Diego on Saturday, where the members will tour schools and other places.

The group will take the 20- hour flight home May 30.

Some residents of Imperial and San Diego counties were sent to Africa as part of the Group Study Exchange.

Bob James of La Mesa, Philippe Lamoise of La Jolla, Elena De La Rosa of Chula Vista, Timothy E. Kelley of Brawley, Lori Killpatrick of San Diego, Michelle Lynn Patterson of San Ysidro and Julia Stevenson of Coronado are touring Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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