March 3, 2006

Rhodes scholar screens her documentary on Zambian teachers

Rhodes Scholarship recipient and fourth-year in the College Maria Cecire screened her documentary Momentum at the Film Studies Center on the third floor of Cobb last Friday. Filmed in the summer of 2004, Momentum documented Cecire’s experiences with an American and Zambian collaboration of math and science teachers in Zambia.

Cecire filmed the pedagogical methods used by Zambian middle-school and high- school teachers, who often instructed classrooms of 50 students with a single textbook for everyone to share. Faced with this lack of teaching materials, the Zambian teachers were forced to innovate lab demonstrations with the materials on hand and also taught students how to create their own lab equipment, such as a beaker out of a simple can of food.

Cecire believes that the teachers in Zambia are actually similar to American teachers despite their lack of teaching materials.

“It was amazing to see how much their teachers are just like our teachers, even though their circumstances are really different,” Cecire said. “They tell similar jokes, have similar professional and personal relationships to each other and their students, and the same kinds of things keep them going.”

Cecire hoped to convey a different side of Africa with her documentary.

“We have so little positive media coverage about Africa. I wanted to show some of the good stories coming out of Africa of people helping themselves and developing their own country,” Cecire said.

She has also screened her documentary for the American Association of Physics Teachers; the National Society of Black Physicists; the National Society of Hispanic Teachers; a group of Ph.D. students in education at Stanford University; and a high school classroom in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Momentum was funded with a grant from the Arts Planning Council of the University of Chicago.