NORFOLK, NE – Northeast Community College has established partnerships with educational institutions in several countries, but its present work with a college preparatory school in Malawi is the first on the African continent for the Norfolk-based college. Three members of a delegation from Northeast recently returned from an eight-day visit that was centered around its work with Norfolk Schools in Malawi.
Dr. Michael Chipps, president, John Blaylock, executive vice president, and Lyle Kathol, vice president of educational services, were invited by the country’s ambassador to the United States and by Dr. Joe Mtika, founder of Norfolk Schools in Malawi, to partake on a mission to continue discussions on a partnership with the school.
Chipps said one of the reasons the Northeast Board of Governors asked him to come to the College six-years ago was to expand the institution’s global outreach. He said it was with reason.
“We want (global) to be integrated with faculty and students through the curriculum. Our students need to believe there is something else besides the Northeast Nebraska service area (of 20-counties). Our board is very visionary, so they felt that it was important to continue to add that as a part of what we’re trying to do with our students and this College. We certainly have a heart for global.”
Chipps said working with Mtika’s school is a good opportunity to increase enrollments at Northeast while addressing how to attach the global initiative to the College’s enrollment growth concept.
“We have a goal of growth at this institution and we’re trying to do that in spite of the figures that continue to show a decline in rural America, especially rural Northeast Nebraska. We’re trying to figure out ways to increase the enrollment, and frankly, get new faces. The new face concept is not only important for maintenance and the growth of this College, but for the future of Northeast Nebraska and the workforce.”
Chipps said the workforce development issue is “absolutely critical.”
“It’s actually the thing I hear a lot more than any other concern … the growth of our skilled workforce is a huge issue.”
In addition to increased enrollments, Chipps said attracting students from places like Malawi would become an important component to the Northeast mission of expanding the diversity of the College’s student population while also addressing the global workforce issue.
“Because most of our students will not be traveling to the Malawis of the world, how do we bring the Malawis to our students? These new students will be immersed in our Northeast system – by enrolling in classes, taking part in activities, living in our residence halls … at all levels. This gives our current students a broader understanding of a global workplace and also that it is more of a flat world than it is a world that is round as defined by Columbus.”
The Northeast delegation witnessed the desire of the Malawi students in wanting to continue their education during a graduation ceremony at Norfolk Schools in Malawi. All 12 graduates have applied to attend Northeast.
Chipps said, “They all want to come to Northeast to get started. What’s beautiful when looking at their biographies is that they have hopes and dreams just like my children and grandchildren do. They want to be in areas of applied technology as well as doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers … you name it.”
The students will have to meet thresholds to attend college in the United States. Blaylock said one of the goals of Norfolk Schools in Malawi is to use the American curriculum and methodologies in teaching and learning.
“That’s unique because Malawi adheres to British education that doesn’t focus as much on grades, but more on levels of learning. So Dr. Mtika has brought the American culture into what can be considered as a college prep high school at his school where some of the other schools there are just trying to get through the various levels of education,” he said.
Blaylock said one of the things that the teachers in Malawi wanted to know was a better understanding of the curriculum as to how to prepare students to be successful at Northeast. He said they also wanted to make sure that as they are working with their students and they complete their education in Malawi, the students are prepared to be able to attend Northeast and be successful.
“So we went through and spent a couple of hours with them to just given them a general overview of what’s expected in Northeast’s general education core components courses. We talked about our different degrees that we have and how those may vary from what they’re used to in Malawi. It was a very rich conversation with their teachers so that they felt better about how to bring the American education system to their students.”
Kathol said in order to ensure the American curriculum taught at Norfolk Schools in Malawi corresponds with the Northeast curriculum, he shared course syllabi so they understand what is to be expected at the college level and to be better prepared.
“The students have also completed an ACT test. That is the same indicator that we use so, again, they can be better prepared when they get to college.”
The work taking place at Norfolk Schools in Malawi has been noted by Malawian higher education and agriculture officials the group met with during the eight-day trip.
“They’re all very interested in this Norfolk Schools in Malawi,” Chipps said. “They’re looking at American curriculum, which they love, rather than the British system. And it’s not about test scores. The schools in Malawi will take students with the knowledge they have and then build upon that with the Northeast syllabi and textbooks to get them to a point where they are rigorously prepared.”
The Northeast Foundation Office has supplied some scholarship funds that Malawian students may apply for so they have some means to be able to finance their education when they are in the United States. Chipps said they will be working with Mtika, his wife, Jane, and others to sustain the partnership and look for outside resources to assist the students while they are here.
“They see hope in their futures. These are bright young people who are just looking for opportunities. Northeast is going to do everything possible to give them opportunities and to continue to give them hope on their journey.”
Chipps, Blaylock and Kathol all said they admire the students and their families for the work and sacrifices they are willing to make to come to America to further their education at Northeast Community College.
“Whether you are rich or poor they seem to be very happy people. They’re very gracious people. They are so thankful for everything they have which is limited to almost nothing, Chipps said. “And yet they see a way to a better life through education. If there is something to take away from this, they are willing to sacrifice at great lengths in order to accomplish that for the future of their country and their own families.”
Blaylock said, “These students will be successful when they get here, there is no doubt in my mind. They have that level of drive, initiation and motivation to make a difference in the world.”
Kathol said he saw a very motivated population, calling the students and their families “brave.”
“Are we brave enough to go to another country and be away from your family for the length of time it takes to be educated? They know what they need to do to succeed. They’re determined to do it.”
Lyle Kathol, vice president of educational services at Northeast Community College, (left) and Dr. Michael Chipps, president, speak to students at Norfolk Schools in Blantyre, Malawi. Kathol and Chipps were joined by John Blaylock, executive vice president, on an eight-day visit recently to the African Republic.