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During one of the lectures at HIOA with professor Halla Bjørk Holmarsdottir, we were introduced to a TEDx talk called «The danger of a Single story». This, coupled with other paradigm shift creating lectures with professor Anders Breidlid at the start of our master program, provided such a good start in loosening our minds and preparing us to be open to ideas and other perspectives.
As an African student, coming into a new society, where the culture was completely different from what I had grown up seeing, this was a good ice breaker to change my attitude.
As I would later discover, a university is a critical knowledge construction site, and as the classwork and social body becomes more diverse, the need to ensure that the process of knowledge construction is as inclusive as possible, becomes even clearer.
The Norwegian Government recently phased out the student quota scheme, ending a vital window that supplied Norway with students from almost every corner of the earth and thus creating diversity.
This diversity provided an opportunity for dialogue in the process of knowledge building. As an African student for example, studying multicultural education with a large focus on issues in education in the global south, the presence of students from almost every continent was very enriching for learning and unlearning.
Create local scholarships for international
Since a major part of the studies were focusing on Africa and Asia/Middle East, and other countries, having us in class made us feel that knowledge and lived experiences mattered, and also made us more curious about the perspectives and experiences of other students whose cultures and world views were different from ours.
We felt part of constructing whatever narrative was being agreed upon within the classroom. We had the opportunity to provide real experiences about some of the things our Norwegian colleagues were reading about which, due to their lived experiences and different culture, perhaps did not make sense if they had only read the text.
We all learned and unlearned in a mutually accommodative manner.
The authentic voices, cultural experiences and knowledge of the areas that were being studied were drawn upon. This way, we felt included, but also ensured, that colleagues who were not from societies that were being studied were not miseducated about these communities.
Our professors situated us in new positions stretching us to think and develop new eyes of looking at issues and at one another.
I have over emphasized this experience because I wanted to highlight the challenges that may arise under the current new funding arrangements. While I appreciate the government’s concerns over the issue of internalization, which was given as one of objectives and not effectively achieved under the quota scheme. But phasing it out may roll back the gains made in improving diversity.
Some current programmes that were designed to focus on issues in countries in the global south, but did not succeed under the new funding scheme, like NORPART, will therefore be left without remedy on how to promote the diversity and ensure the communities being studied are represented.
Under the multicultural education masters programme at HiOA, because of the phasing out the quota scheme, the current first year class has no single African student. Yet, the course has a very large component of its content focusing on Africa, and uses case studies from this region.
The absence of those voices in the classroom makes it absurd both for the teachers and students. The Norwegians and other students miss out on the opportunity to engage in dialogue or hear from people who have lived experiences of what they are studying.
Under the current situation, you deny the students a transformative experience.
In light of this dilemma, I appeal to the government and university boards to consider creating small faculty based scholarships to support a certain number of deserving students from countries or backgrounds considered critical to making the classroom diverse and important for the learning process.
Universities need to have some back up plans to insulate themselves from the risks created by this change.