Embracing the Complexity of Problem Solving, Fostering Friendships, and Reflecting on the Past Two Weeks

Our team in Freetown has had quite the eventful week both inside and outside of the classroom.  Charlie, Sabrina, and Manal gave lectures at IPAM and Vanessa led a workshop on clinical public health skills at COMAHS. Additionally, our team traveled to St. George’s Home in Regent to visit with children that had been displaced in the August 2017 mudslides. The professors brought treats  for the children and had the chance to speak with the children about themselves, their lives and school. Our team was truly moved by the children’s joy and resilence.

Majeks,Vanessa, and Sabrina visit with the children at St. George’s Home.

With the end of the program fast approaching, Sabrina was able to reflect on the past two weeks of teaching. Please enjoy the following blog post from Sabrina.


It is the eve of the last day of teaching at IPAM, and I can hardly believe just how quickly the past two weeks have flown by.  Just as we are getting into the groove of the city, it is all coming to an end. It is funny how quickly a place that seems so unfamiliar can suddenly, almost out of nowhere, feel entirely familiar.  I’m not sure when this switch happened for me, but it must have been somewhere in the past few days.

My class on Peace in Pieces has asked students to critically question broadly accepted terms and approaches to development, peace-making and governance. It has pushed students to question the foundations of approaches and concepts, and to embrace complexity in problem-solving.  While Charlie, Vannessa and I did not collaborate prior to arriving on our respective classes, somehow we are on the same page, and all of our lessons complement each other. I would argue that we as a team complement each other too, as in our short time together, we have become a little family (Vanessa and I even refer to Charlie as ‘Pops’).  I have no doubt that I will work to nurture these friendships beyond this trip, and hopefully collaborate in future PROWIBO projects.

Vanessa leads a workshop on clinical public health skills at COMAHS.

Tomorrow our students will be participating in a Model Governance Simulation, where they will consider many relevant stakeholders to try to make a plan for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Sierra Leone, a plan which reflects all of the material that Charlie, Vanessa and I taught (economics, leadership and international development, respectively).   The simulation requires them to view Sierra Leone through many different lenses in order to: find out what the overlapping and competing interests of relevant stakeholders are, and use this information to pool together resources, ideas and know-how to make a plan which is holistic and multi-dimensional, true to the Sustainable Development Goals themselves.


In all my years of teaching, I have found that getting students to demonstrate what they have learned through ‘doing’ not only helps me to see what they have and have not learned, but it also gives them a chance to develop a confidence in their own abilities, and even to discover previously unknown talents.   While our session tomorrow is far shorter than the usual rigorous two to five-day Model UN Conferences I am used to, I hope that this ‘taster’ will inspire new ideas and more critical thinking. I’ve been reflecting today on how this ‘doing’ translates to my experience in Sierra Leone as a lecturer; I’m fairly well travelled, am comfortable in most travel situations, and have a reasonable amount of teaching experience (9 years) in international relations, human rights and development.  Yet, teaching in Sierra Leone is the first time I’ve actually taught in a developing country. Being here, with IPAM’s extraordinary students has added a new, far more illuminating lens to my eyes. There is so much that we take for granted at universities in the UK, such as internet and a library stocked with books! The students here are able to do so much with such limited resources, but despite their talents, I can see how they are limited in what they can achieve. I hope that future donors to such universities will prioritise shrinking the digital divide so that these students can not only keep on top of the literature in their field but compete in and contribute to realms of knowledge and scholarship in meaningful and impactful ways.  

Manal gives a lecture on Public Health at IPAM

There will certainly be more reflection to come after tomorrow, but I hope this gives some insight into our time here.


Many thanks to Sabrina and our team of lecturers in Freetown. We wish you luck on the last day of classes. We have enjoyed following your experience.

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