Editor’s note: During these scary unprecedented months, we are still focused on connecting you to your writing center colleagues around the world. This week, Brenda Wambua, Director of the Writing and Speech Centre in Daystar University in Kenya, shares about her writing and speech centre. You can learn more about the center through their Facebook page: Writing and Speech Centre – Daystar University or visiting their website (linked here).
The Daystar University Writing and Speech Centre (WSC) is affiliated with Daystar University, a chartered Christian University in Kenya. The university has six schools and approximately 5,000 students. English is the main language of instruction in the University although other languages like Kiswahili and French are taught. In the six schools, there are both undergraduate and graduate courses, up to PhD level. The leading School is the School of communication which comprises three departments: Language and Performing Arts, Media and Film Studies and Strategic and organizational Communication. School of Communication offers Masters and PhD in Communication as well.
The Writing and Speech Centre began in 1999 and has undergone phases of ups and downs. The centre was started by two lecturers, Ann Miller and Rebecca Oladipo, both of whom taught English at Daystar University at the time. The need for a WSC was occasioned by the increasing number of students in writing classes. Miller (2002) captures the need in these words, “…with enrollment in many sections exceeding 40 students, there was a limit to what could be done about the problem within the classroom, and faculty did not have time to meet individually with all of the students who needed help”(p. 6). The centre is housed in the Language and Performing Arts Department.
In spite of the slow growth of the WSC due to a lack of funds and sometimes lack of office space, at the moment Daystar University has two branches of WSC, one in each of its two campuses: Athi River campus and Nairobi campus.
The centre is run by peer tutors who are recruited through a rigorous process. To begin with they must have a GPA of 3.0 and above. Secondly, they must have achieved a B+ grade and above in a first-year writing course, in addition to having a personal interest in writing and a passion for helping other students become better writers. Some of the would-be tutors are recommended to me as the WSC director by colleagues who notice outstanding abilities in the students while other students just come forward and express their interest in peer tutoring.
Once the recruitment is done, the students take a 3-hour credit course on advanced speech and writing. The course focuses on a number of areas that are pertinent in writing and peer tutoring such as grammar, sentence construction, choosing a research topic, writing a thesis statement and an essay outline, speech writing, paragraph development, strategies of peer tutoring, handling difficult tutees, citations, among others. Additionally, the tutor trainees engage in role play both in class and at the centre. At the moment, the two centres have a total number of 24 tutors.
Students visit the centre for assistance with writing their term papers, speeches, class assignments and other writing tasks such as CVs, cover letters, minutes, proposals and personal profiles. In one semester, about 300 students visit the centre. The language of engagement is English unless a student seeks help in either French or Kiswahili, which are languages taught at the university. The tutoring sessions are face to face. We are in the process of establishing online tutoring. However, students book appointments via email, text message or phone call.
Owing to limited funding the growth of our writing centre has been rather slow. Additionally, the reality that the concept of writing centres is still a new concept in this region does not make it easier for us. In this light, opportunities to connect and benchmark with writing centres in other parts of the world would be quite helpful to us.
Update: To adapt to the COVID-19 situation, Daystar University has moved its classes online. However, the Writing and Speech Centre is still considering how it might transition to an online platform and train tutors to function in this medium.
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