Computer Assisted Learning bridges strengths in North American and Congolese church
Education offers girls a chance to dream and boys an alternative to military recruitment by military groups. The role of education – especially for women – in healthier families is one factor that drives Gloria Mwangi and Theo Fumana of Edmonton. The members of River West Christian Church are fundraising, collecting computers and getting ready to pack up their family to move to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2019 as directors of Computer Assisted Learning Congo.
Leave a legacy
Between 2015 and 2016, both Mwangi and Fumana lost a parent, causing them both to reflect on life in a deeper way.
“We saw our parents’ lives, how they served God, and left a legacy,” says Mwangi. “We started thinking about our relationship to God, and how life is not all about us.”
Though Fumana bears the town of Winkler, Man., on his birth certificate, DRC is his homeland. (His father was studying at Winkler Bible Institute on a leadership development scholarship for international MB leaders in the 1970s).
So Fumana and Mwangi took an exploratory trip to seek opportunities to serve in DRC.
“My first reaction was to run, but the Spirit told me this is
why you need to stay and help,” says Mwangi.
Preach peace and do it
After some conversations with MB Mission, they encountered Dave Hubert from Lendrum Mennonite Church [MB] in Edmonton. The Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) project and village-building initiatives of Hubert’s organization Christian Peacemakers International (CPI) were just the kind of enterprise they wanted to be involved with.
“We evangelize indirectly through our work,” Mwangi says. “You preach peace and you do it.”
Mwangi and Fumana travelled to Honduras, where CPI’s program has operated for years, to learn how to run the education program they desire to bring to DRC.
Discover and develop assets
In DRC, expensive fees and overcrowded or far-away schools deter students from formal learning. Recent violence in Kasai province resulted in masses of displaced people, barely able to afford food much less education.
National data indicates that 3.5 million children are not in school, and only 67 percent of children who enter Grade 1 will complete Grade 6.
“The biggest asset is the mind,” says Mwangi. CPI’s accessible education through CAL enables learners to recognize and develop their strengths.
Curriculum is loaded onto the computer, so a shortage of teachers is not a barrier to learning. Each computer includes curriculum for Grades 7–9, Grades 1–6 (for adults), the GED preparation manual, and a library of more than 450 titles.
The local Mennonite churches can help provide spaces for learning. A DRC-generated curriculum integrates Anabaptist-Mennonite beliefs, values, and ethics.
Students’ learning is self-paced and accomplished in collaboration with other learners.
Fumana and Mwangi will recruit and train facilitators to answer questions and troubleshoot computer problems. Material that isn’t mastered can be repeated without pressure. “There is no stress from strict, disciplinary teachers,” says Mwangi.
Mwangi also dreams of using CAL to support vocational training; for example, loading manuals to repair the motorcycles that are ubiquitous in DRC.
She hopes to use the computers to raise up church leaders as well. Recordings of pastors from North America can model methods, teach, and inspire pastors in DRC – “and vice versa for partnership purposes,” Mwangi says.
Children’s ministry is not given much attention in DRC, Mwangi observed. Her background is in finance; Fumana’s in economics and psychology. To learn tools for working with children, she arranged to serve at Lendrum alongside children’s ministry pastor Sherri Guenther-Trautwein.
In addition to the large Mennonite Brethren conference (CEFMC), there are two other major Mennonite groups in DRC. Fumana and Mwangi hope CAL can be a resource for all three. The other two Mennonite churches have been affected by the violence and displacement in Kasai.
River West Christian Church is active in assisting the Fumana family with the CAL project.
“Theo and Gloria are passionate Jesus followers, stepping out in faith,” says River West pastor Erica Boschman. “Their relationship with Jesus and the way they raise their children is an example.”
Mwangi hopes CAL Congo will act as a bridge between MB churches in North America and DRC, envisioning exchange programs for the youth. “Intrinsic ideas will be exchanged and stronger partnerships will be forged,” she says.