African Rural University (ARU) was founded by Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme (URDT). ARU is focused on providing women with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to be effective rural development specialists and change agents. Using methodologies, developed and proven to be effective by URDT over more than 20 year, ARU graduates will be able to help people improve their lives and transform their communities.
African Rural University will draw students from all social-economic levels of society.
The curriculum is highly contextual, and students will master a wide range of skills that will allow them to effectively conduct community development planning. By providing a university experience to a marginalized group, by focusing on how to be effective rural development professionals, by involving students extensively in service-learning experiences, and by drawing on a wealth of traditional wisdom, ARU is one example of the kind of relevant higher education necessary and possible in Uganda and in Africa.
The African Rural University is a natural organic outgrowth from an aware and strengthened rural population, taking charge of its own development and generating information and knowledge that becomes the basis of the University’s research applied learning.
ARU is a pathway through which URDT’s unique methodology is perpetuated for rural transformation. The University elevates the thinking and practice of rural transformation work in rural communities of Uganda and Africa with research, scientific approaches and through the students reintegrates the learning in rural communities.
URDT transformative methodology for rural development is based on visionary and creative approaches, and systems thinking.
The visionary approach permits genuine democratic participation by rural people and communities in development activities, thereby improving their ownership and leadership of development processes. In the methodology, people are accepted as protagonists in the development process; and as such they: a) engage in determining what truly matters to them, their families, and community; b) formulate a clear vision of what they want to create in light of their current situations; and c) use the discrepancy between what they have and what they want in order to make informed choices on how to meet their aspirations.
In sharp contrast to traditional approaches to rural development, where rural people are treated as the object of development, the visionary approach treats rural people as the subject of development. It recognizes that rural people are a repository of valuable knowledge and information that can be used to improve their livelihoods. In this approach, not only do people remain in touch with what truly matters to them or that which they want to create, their vision, but the knowledge and skills learned remain resident with the people, thus enabling them to
become functionally literate in a variety of domains including water management, rural technologies, human rights, gender, environment, education and household income.
For development to take root in the communities there must be a structural shift. To effect such a shift, the best leverage points in the system must be identified. In social economic systems, the key leverage points are individuals. Through their aspirations and conscious choices, they can shift their own life orientations from one where they merely react or adapt to the events as they occur (problem solving), to one in which they themselves are the creators of the events in their lives. In the reactive or responsive orientation, typically referred to as problem solving, people react or adapt to circumstances. Often the levels of emotions determine action. People are mobilized, in a marriage of convenience, to get rid of what they do not want, the “common enemy”’. Once the problem is perceived to be over, they relapse and wait for another problem to stimulate action. In the creative approach, the vision or what one truly wants/aspires to is the motivating force behind change. For each result achieved toward the attainment of that vision, people ask, “what next?” This is the core of sustainability. This is a radical departure from a mere “change of attitude” to a structural shift in the very consciousness of individuals leading to lasting change in themselves, their communities and the nation.
It enables rural people to become fully involved in the process as they realize their deep felt but often suppressed aspirations for well-being.
African Rural University focuses on the development of rural young women’s visionary leadership in recognition that that is the cornerstone for the transformation of rural communities and the realization of their full potential. Besides developing the human resource, emphasis is on using locally available resources and technologies first, as an example of what is possible for community and national development.Click here to watch a summary video