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Teachers for East Africa and Teacher Education in East Africa Hold 40th Reunion


  TEA First Wave, 1961.

First Wave of TEA is sent off to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (then Tanganyika) in 1961.



  First Wave, today
TEA First Wavers, today.


TEA Classroom 1964

Professor R. Freeman Butts, at lectern,
with David Scanlon and Karl Bigelow
(seated, left and right) with students in a
TEA classroon at TC in 1964.


Kenyan students, 1962City

Students in Kanguru, Kenya, in 1962.


  R. Freeman Butts

R. Freeman Butts, today.

Ed Schmidt, Ugandan Ambassador Edith Ssempla and John Bing

Reunion organizers Ed Schmidt and John Bing find Ambassador Edith G. Ssempala of Uganda enthusiastic about a reunion in East Africa in 2003.


Teachers for East Africa (TEA) and Teacher Education in East Africa (TEEA), two important projects that provided teachers for secondary schools and teacher training colleges in East Africa in the 1960s, held their 40th anniversary reunion in Washington, D.C., from September 20 to 23.

TEA was one of the first international initiatives of the Kennedy Administration, launched in February 1961 with a grant to Teachers College from the International Cooperation Agency, the predecessor to the Agency for International Development (AID).

TC had the professional responsibility of recruiting, selecting, and training American teachers for educational service and providing technical assistance to help increase the number of local qualified teachers who were trained in East Africa. According to R. Freeman Butts, William F. Russell Professor Emeritus in the Foundations of Education, who as Director of International Studies was responsible for TEA/TEEA, the credit for the program's inception goes to Karl Bigelow, who originally won a Carnegie Corporation grant to form the Afro-Anglo-American Program in Teacher Education. Butts said, "heroic service was rendered by Dave Scanlon, John Laska, Ken Toepfer, and Jim Shields, and I don't know how many other loyal staff members and students who made it work."

Butts, speaking by phone, said, "I happen to believe in all modesty that TEA was one of the most successful, well planned, and effectively carried out examples of multilateral cooperation for the benefit of Third World Development."

Butts, who is 91, shared his "First Impressions of Teachers For East Africa," which he had written in 1961, after a visit to 47 of the first wave of Americans who were teaching in East Africa. He wrote, "TEA is helping to make possible not only the expansion of secondary education, but the expansion of teacher training as well. Our job, in the long run, is not to run the schools of East Africa, but to make it possible for East African countries to train their own teachers and run their own schools."

Jim Shields, who is now an adjunct professor in the Department of Arts and Humanities and Project Director at TC's Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation, worked on the selection and orientation of teachers and as a researcher, called TEA/TEEA "extraordinary." He said, "It tapped into something that was going on in America at that time among young people, which was signified by Kennedy's election to the presidency and the desire to go out into the world and help the emerging new nations. It also succeeded on the ground, in the villages, in the schools, to help people."

Despite the tragic events in New York and Washington on September 11, few TEAers cancelled their plans to attend the reunion. There was a determined spirit to meet in celebration of the TEA/TEEA experience and to recommit to the shared values of education and democratic society, which motivated the participants.

One of the TEA reunion organizers wrote in a group e-mail on September 12, "As a group we have experienced numerous challenges-deciding to join TEA and teach in Africa, not knowing where it would lead us, and how it would take us on a journey to places and career paths not many Americans have experienced. Probably for all TEAers it gave us a unique perspective and different view of the world. We need that inner vision now. We all have a lot to say, even more than we might have had before yesterday's tragedy."

TEA was announced in February of 1961 and 150 teachers began training at Teachers College in June of that year. Three waves of TEA went to East Africa: 1961-62; 1962-63; and 1963-64. By 1972, TEA supplied 631 teachers for secondary schools and teacher training colleges in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The project was instrumental in expanding secondary school education in preparation for independence in the three countries between 1961 and 1963-a time when there were a mere handful of secondary schools in these countries. Orientation and further education for some participants took place at Makerere College in Kampala, Uganda. Teachers were assigned to secondary schools and teacher training colleges for two-year periods.

Butts pointed to a bit of history that is rarely told-the relationship between TEA/TEEA and the Peace Corps. He said, "By March 1, 1961, the Peace Corps was announced and Sargent Shriver, the Director of the Peace Corps, reported directly to President Kennedy. He began to argue that the Peace Corps should replace TEA in East Africa. However, the East African countries would not agree. The leaders were so satisfied with TC's selection and training of TEA that they would not accept the usual Peace Corps volunteers who only had liberal arts education and no professional preparation for teaching."

Eventually new training officers at the Peace Corps were able to work out an agreement with Teachers College for a modified training program for Peace Corps teachers. By 1965 Peace Corps training for East Africa began at Teachers College. During the same year, TEEA began at TC with appropriations from AID. According to Butts, "the Peace Corps raised no objections to TEEA because it was professional training for elementary and not secondary school teachers in East Africa."

The TEA/TEEA reunion was attended by 130 former teachers and their spouses, who came to Washington, D.C., from every part of the United States and Great Britain. TEA was an Anglo-American program, drawing teachers from England
as well as the United States.

The ambassador of Tanzania, the Honorable Mustafa S. Nyang'anyi, and the ambassador of Uganda, the Honorable Edith G. Ssempala, attended the reception and connected with old friends and teachers. President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania was remembered as speaking to the first wave of teachers just before their flight to East Africa in 1961.

The group organized panel discussions on TEA/TEEA history and impact, and was brought up to date on East African education, politics, economics, and current affairs. Several sessions were devoted to an oral history of the TEA/TEEA experience and its subsequent influence on lives and careers. The National Museum of African Art provided a special tour for the group, and discussed ways that cooperation would be possible in African education programs.

The reunion concluded with a number of important recommendations to carry on the work begun 40 years ago. These were:

o To create a website as a means of continuing communication and information sharing among group members and others;

o To plan for a reunion in East Africa, tentatively set for 2003, in cooperation with East African institutions, such as Makerere College in Uganda;

o To create an ongoing working group and planning mechanism for future activities;

o To compile and organize TEA/TEEA history as a record of the group's activities and achievements, available to scholars of international education;

o To begin a clearinghouse for individual and group activities in East Africa and the U.S.
to continue our contribution to African education and development. This would enable individuals to participate in activities of their own choosing in a variety of programs and projects.

o To work closely with East African, American, and British institutions to develop and carry on activities and other forms of cooperation to promote education and renewed ties between former TEA/TEEA participants and the citizens of the three East African countries.

Special thanks to Ed Schmidt and Kay King, and especially R. Freeman Butts for their time and valuable assistance with this article.

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