Igniting eLearning at FTC

April 2020

Friends Theological College Ignites E-Learning
amid Covid-19 Lockdown

Friends, this newsletter comes to you with hope that the Lord has kept you safe amid these difficult times. In most cases, human understanding has it that tough situations bring stringent undertakings in one’s life. Despite the humdrum brought about by the partial lockdown and dusk-to-dawn curfews in Kenya, the Covid-19 situation has opened our eyes and minds here at FTC. It has set us on a path we would have otherwise taken long to realize. In this newsletter, I want to lead you on a glimpse of events that have taken place in the past one month. 

Personally, Covid-19 has made me spend more time with my family than I ever have in the history of my active academic career. I have also read more newspapers, magazines, and journals of all forms – print and soft copy – than I ever did under normal circumstances. But surprisingly I have spent less time surfing the internet and chatting on Facebook and other social media than I used to. I pride myself to have read and completed two books between March and April 2020. I began with Marcus Rediker’s historically-informative and inspiring story about the little known and less celebrated slavery abolitionist, Benjamin Lay. The title of the book is The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf who became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist (2017). Marcus Rediker is a distinguished professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh and Senior Research Fellow at the Collège d’études mondiales in Paris. He passionately brings to life Benjamin Lay’s single-handed fight against the evil practice of slave trade on the African people in North America. Lay spoke out strongly and often let out a stream of invective against Quakers who owned slaves in the mid-1700s.

My second reader was a coveted, indelible narrative of Levinus K. Painter’s Hill of Vision (1966) on the History of the Quaker movement in East Africa. The third one, which is now in my hands is another rare collection, The Steps of a Good Man Are Ordered by the Lord (1976). Hellen Kersey Ford and Esther Ford Andersen lead the reader into the missionary footprints of Jefferson W. Ford right from Berea College to Cleveland Bible Institute (1898-1900) in the U.S., to Jamaica as a missionary, and eventually his laying of the foundations of the Friends movement at Lugulu region between 1914-1949.

At the beginning of April, I made a random check on how the FTC students were handling themselves and/or coping with the Covid-19 situation. As I highlighted in my March newsletter, two of our five international students were quarantined for 14 days at the point of entry into their country, Rwanda. Despite the appalling experience they encountered in the quarantine center, which was in a high school, results on their tests showed negative and they have been released back to their homes. I have not been able to reach two students from Uganda, Joseph Wabomba from Nangóma and Deocratious from Kampala, but I hope they are doing ok. I am in constant communication with Alfred Wasike, FTC Communications Director (on work-study assignment), and also a Bachelor of Theology degree student from Shibuse Friends Church, Uganda. He was locked out by the time he got to the port of entry from Kenya. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni enforced country lockdown at the initial stages when the wind of Covid-19 began blowing across the East and Central African region. To date, Uganda has registered relatively low numbers of infected cases and no deaths. This could be accredited to President Museveni’s gallant effort to lock down the country and enforce preventative measures as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Alfred lives with his cousin’s family in Bungoma in which he participates in family worship every Sunday. 

Online Learning: As I pointed out in the March 2020 newsletter, the Covid-19 pandemic awareness hit us below the belt and has teetered FTC to a precipice. From the beginning of April, we have had several Zoom meetings with a variety of Friends whom I can describe as gurus in Information Technology and online learning. These include Donn Weinholtz of the University of Hartford and current chair of the Friends Association for Higher Education (FAHE); Dr. Stuart Brooking of Overseas Council, Australia (OCA); and Steve Angell of Earlham School of Religion (ESR) who eventually introduced me to Dr. Steven Schweitzer, the Academic Dean of Bethany Theological Seminary. Steve Schweitzer is coordinating an online program with students in Nigeria. Kellum Ashuma, the FTC Information Technology (IT) instructor also reached out to Jonathan Vogel-Borne, the brain behind our FTC website. And in the evening of May 5 the FTC Academic Dean, Rodgers Wekesi organized another productive Zoom meeting with Prof. Eloise Hockett of George Fox University. 

With these intellectual resources, the administrative wing and students feel we are ready for the online learning, which was officially launched on Wednesday, 22 April 2020. We desperately need Ksh. 50,000 ($500) as early as yesterday to enable us to sign up and hook our e-learning program to Moodle Cloud. According to Dr. Steve Schweitzer, this Moodle Cloud platform is convenient and relatively fair in price as compared to other online learning platforms. This is the same platform Bethany is using to engage students in Nigeria. However, since we do not have finances to sign up right away, we have electronically put arrangements in place to engage our students via other social media platforms – Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, and email communications. The exam schedule for residential students is now out and students will do exams in the convenience of their homes at specified time periods. Exams will begin on May 18 at 10 a.m. and end on May 26 at 3 p.m. Modular students will cover their April module syllabi from the first week of June and end in the first week of July 2020. Lectures will be done online - in most cases via Zoom and other social platforms. The FTC administration and IT instructor are also busy training lecturers and students in each of the four FTC satellite campuses in e-learning skills.

Of course, we have launched this online learning program with expectation of challenges at the back of our minds. Due to overwhelming poverty brought about by Covid-19, some students may not afford compatible appliances required for online learning such as smartphone, iPad, laptop, etc., and a good number of them are ‘computer klutzes’ in matters of information technology. We are using this window between now and May 15 as a period of training for both students and faculty. Whoever said, “Necessity is the mother of invention” was probably right!

Dr. Robert J. Wafula
Tel. +254 734 728564
FTC faculty and staff taking in e-Learning presentations. Right: Zoom meeting with Dr. Stuart Brooking of Overseas Council, Australia (OCA)  
In the midst of the lockdown, Quakers resort to worship in their homes. Bachelor of Theology student, Alfred Wasike at his cousin's home for Sunday family worship. 
Despite the lockdown, the FTC campus has to maintain a good face. Thanks to the staff on the ground.
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A message from Eden Grace, FUM Director of Global Ministries:
Robert Wafula has served as the Principal of FTC for nearly six years now, and it's time to renew his pledges of support for his next three-year term. I can hardly believe the changes that we've seen at FTC since Robert began! He started out in 2014 by articulating his "Vision 2020" for where he hoped to lead the College by the year 2020. In nearly all aspects, he has exceeded the goals set out in that vision! I hope you agree with me that the College has never been stronger. FTC is the centerpiece of any strategy for spiritual renewal and growth among African Friends, and the vitality of its intellectual and spiritual life make me so proud to be associated with this very special learning community.

Robert isn't able to travel to the US to visit his supporters, so I'm making a personal appeal to you today, to join me in pledging your support of Robert's ministry. Please click here to go to a Google Form where you can make your commitment. If you are already supporting Robert, please let us know your intentions about continuing. If you are a new donor, thank you!! May God bless you!

Praise and Prayer:  

  • We thank God for the life and safety endowed to the FTC community. We are yet to hear any one member affected by the Covid-19.

  • Thanks be to God for the opportunities to organize and launch online learning for the FTC students. For the lecturers who managed to come back to campus and are now investing their time and effort to make the online learning become a reality.

  • Please pray for a bachelor of theology degree student, Mary who lost her son through an auto accident early this month. 

Click here to make a donation of support for my ministry
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