E-readers bolster theological education in Congo
In early January, Pierre Omadjela,the Field Project Manager of ICT4D and Church initiatives at United Methodist Communications, traveled to Kindu Methodist University in the Democratic Republic of Congo on behalf of the E-Reader Project to deliver devices and led training with theology students. The E-Reader Project is a joint project of Discipleship Ministries and Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.
“From January 18 to 20, I trained 27 students in the faculty of theology, three lecturers and university authorities.” Omadjea said. “We taught about e-reader functions and care. We demonstrated how to charge the tablets and add more books to the device. Today, Kindu has 83 e-readers, offering an adequate library, though we plan to keep expanding it.”
The University’s Dean, Rev. Martin Kasongo, opened the training with a devotion from Proverbs 4:5, encouraging those participating to receive wisdom and insight from this training. He concluded his devotion with some recommendations to books on the devices that will be kept in the University’s library so that students from other areas of study will also have the chance to read them.
The benefits of e-reader are not lost on the students. Mashaka Mutoma, a student studying theology said the devices are bringing modernity to the university. Another student, Jocia Tembo Bienfait, said he couldn’t have imagined using devices like the Kindle in rural areas like Kindu.
However, the e-reader is the ideal device for Kindu, which is located in a remote part of the DRC. The device can hold up to 1,000 e-books, is not dependent on internet, and holds an electrical charge for two to four weeks — critical in remote locations that depend mostly on solar chargers. The e-readers contain 336 French e-books and theological documents: multiple versions of the Bible, dictionaries and John Wesley’s sermons, as well as texts on theology, pastoral care, United Methodist beliefs and liturgy, church history and classics, including contributions by African authors.
The Reverend Antoine Otoka, a faculty member at Kindu, believes the e-readers are doing just more than putting a “library in the pocket” of the students.
“After reading many books in the e-readers, I found that the tool is helping to equalize the resourcing available to students studying in Congo,” Otoka said. “The E-readers help to reduce the ‘inferiority complex’ of pastors trained in Africa and those trained in Europe or America.” He added that the devices are equally helping both students and faculty.
Otoka said that since adding the e-readers, he must read more and more since both students and staff are using the same Kindle with the same books and references.
“It’s hard to tell which group knows more than the other!” he said.
— Pierre T. Omadjela is Field projects manager for ICT4D and Church Initiatives, United Methodist Communications/Congo Central Conference. Omadjela, served as the primary trainer, teaching in French.