Summary Report of BEST/NEGST Consultation 2004 29 March to 2 April 2004, held at NEGST, Kenya

Consultation 2004 was a follow-up to a March 2002 consultation, which brought together about 35 theological educators from around the continent to discuss practical ways to improve leadership development for the African Church. The participants at Consultation 2002 identified two needs as most urgent: 1) curriculum renewal, and 2) literature development.

They also levelled two serious criticisms at existing programs for training African Church leaders: 1) graduates are inadequately prepared to deal with African realities both in the Church and in society; 2) graduates do not consistently demonstrate personal integrity and spiritual maturity. Participants attributed these weaknesses in their "products" to curricula overly influenced by the West. The typical African program of study differs little from that offered in the West. It includes few, if any, Africa-specific courses. Existing courses often are not taught from an African point of view, largely because the textbooks are imported from the West. Further, as in the West, African curricula focus on the intellect to the neglect of character and skills development.

Consultation 2004 assembled not only theological educators but also Christian publishers, because they needed to discuss issues of curriculum renewal and literature development together. Meetings held from March 29 to April 2 2004 united 60 theological educators and 10 publishers from 19 African countries. The group represented literally dozens of Bible schools, colleges, and seminaries because it included participants with considerable oversight responsibilities.

The participants discussed in depth the desired profile of an African Church leader and the curricular reforms necessary to produce such a leader (including the need for the utilisation of Africa-relevant literature). The meetings concluded with the articulation of the following action points.

Action points

  1. All participants responsible for leadership training institutions or programs will endeavour:
    1. To integrate Africa-relevant courses into the curriculum (e.g., courses dealing with HIV/AIDS, ethnic strife, poverty, community development, justice, and corruption).
    2. To focus on graduating leaders of integrity and spiritual maturity through more careful student recruitment, student/faculty mentoring relationships, and evaluating students¹ character throughout their course of study by means of student portfolios.
    3. To develop students¹ practical ministry skills by cooperating more closely with local churches (e.g., practicum, internship, and preaching with feedback).
  2. All participants who teach will endeavour to "Africanise" the content of their courses through the integration of African realities and the use of Africa-relevant textbooks where possible.
  3. NEGST and BEST will compile, before the end of 2004, annotated bibliographies of Africa-relevant literature. Rich Starcher of NEGST will oversee the completion of the English literature project. David Koudougueret of BEST will oversee the completion of the French counterpart. Africa Christian Textbooks in Nigeria, represented by Sid Garland, will publish the English bibliography. No plan for the publication of the French bibliography is yet established. A list of books identified to date is available at www.negst.edu. Rich and David will continue to encourage contributions to the list.
  4. Four (virtual) committees were established to follow up on matters of mutual interest: a) French literature, chaired by David Koudougueret of BEST, b) French curriculum, chaired by Priscille Ndjéraréou, c) English literature, chaired by Sid Garland, and d) English curriculum, chaired by Rich Starcher. Each committee chair will recruit its members. Angeline Savala (Kenya) and Grace Kogi-Williams (Nigeria) have agreed to serve on the English curriculum committee. Matters to be taken up by the committees include the following.
    1. Each literature committee will liaise with publishers and institutions of theological education to improve the distribution of existing relevant textbooks.
    2. Each literature committee will identify needed textbooks, recruit authors, and liaise with publishers to produce the required texts. Literature committees also will liaise with "end users" of these textbooks to gauge market demand. (Publishers appear very willing to produce books if they can sell a minimum of 500 copies.)
    3. Each curriculum committee will encourage curriculum evaluation and renewal by coordinating the sharing of information and experiences.
    4. The Francophone curriculum committee, in particular, will interface with institutions subscribing to the "Common Minimum Programme" among French-speaking schools to ensure the inclusion of Africa-relevant courses in their common core.
    5. All four committees will endeavour to organise a regional consultation to promote action in each area of concern: 1) French and English literature discovery, development and distribution, and 2) curriculum renewal in Francophone and Anglophone schools. It was suggested each institution designate a portion of its annual budget to finance subsequent consultations.

Remarks

While western, central, and eastern Africa were well represented at the consultation (both Anglophone and Francophone), the organisers would have wished more participants from southern and, particularly, Lusophone Africa had been free to respond positively to our invitation. Those who attended found the formal meetings and informal interaction very valuable. While the need to function in two languages slowed the process, it enriched mutual understanding. Nevertheless, separate consultations in the future would allow Francophone and Anglophone participants to address contextual concerns in greater depth needs.

Invitation

Interested parties are encouraged to participate in the ongoing conversation on curriculum renewal. In particular, we are very interested in input on 1) specific examples of the lack of adequate preparation (academic, spiritual, moral, or practical) for service to the African Church, 2) recommended modifications to existing Bible college and seminary curricula (explicit or implicit), 3) suggestions for Africanising courses or curricula, 4) laudable initiatives of curriculum renewal, and 5) textbooks relevant for African theological education.

Please copy all four virtual committee chairpersons:

  • Richard Starcher, English curriculum: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
  • Priscille Ndjéraréou, French curriculum: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
  • Sid Garland, English literature: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
  • David Koudougueret, French literature: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Reported by Richard L. Starcher