Ugandan-born Jimmy Senteza is hoping that a highly acclaimed movie about Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's reign during the 1970s will spur curiosity about the Uganda of today, and the educational trip he is organizing in May 2007 to a fascinating country that he says has evolved into a stable democratic republic.
Senteza, associate professor of finance at Drake University, is organizing a course, “Sustainable Development in Africa,” that involves a 21-day journey to Uganda that will examine globalization from the perspective of a sub-Saharan African country where the term can mean grinding poverty or opportunity.
As a boy growing up in Uganda, Senteza experienced first-hand the time period depicted in the movie "The Last King of Scotland." Though he witnessed the pitfalls of Uganda's previous regimes, he also has observed the gradual progress made by subsequent governments to improve living standards.
Senteza has used his background and network of connections in Uganda to arrange an itinerary for the trip that includes visits with highly placed and accomplished government and business leaders, as well as excursions to health clinics to study the HIV/AIDS crisis, urban markets to examine Microfinance and entrepreneurship and the source of the Nile River and the Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of Africa's most spectacular game preserves, to explore tourism as a sustainable industry.
Senteza has spent two years organizing the trip, and he hopes to offer it again in future years, potentially expanding to include visits to Kenya and Rwanda as well. Although targeted to Drake students, it's also being offered to university students nationwide, as well as to Drake alumni, business leaders and other adventurous travelers interested in getting an insider's access to a country Winston Churchill referred to as "The Pearl of Africa."
Although current media accounts depict much of Africa as being frequently riven by civil wars, Senteza said Uganda is by and large a safe country, and has been for more than 20 years, with the exception of a low-level civil war in the country's northern quarter. The course's excursions will avoid this area to be on the safe side, although Senteza said a recent signed peace treaty means that area is safe as well.
"My colleagues and I would never organize anything that we thought would put our students at risk," he says. "We'll be going to places that we believe are reasonably safe for travelers."
The one lesson that Senteza hopes trip participants take away from his course is the realization that development and globalization has created extreme differences in living standards around the world. To drive that point home, participants will spend an entire day with a rural Ugandan family, who typically wake up, work in the fields, find sticks to cook their meals, and walk to their village for water that may or may not be safe to drink. Another trip to a health clinic will explore the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, with the director of Uganda's AIDS program in the health ministry.
"They will learn to appreciate what they really have and what development really means," Senteza said. "I think it will be a life-changing experience."
Three other Drake faculty members are working with Senteza in the development and teaching of the course — Deb Bishop, assistant professor of information systems; Glenn McKnight, associate professor of history; and Tom Root, associate professor of finance.
To learn more about the five-credit course, attend an informational session at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, in room 201 of Aliber Hall, 29th Street and University Avenue, or call Senteza at 515-271-3716. Information also is available on the course Web site at http://www.cbpa.drake.edu/root/uganda.htm.