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You really ate fried termites?

January 26, 2012

Del with the Northview Middle School students

If you want to get the attention of a group of Iowa middle school students just before lunchtime, mention you’ve eaten fried termites and you’re sure to get a unanimous “Ewww!” from the audience.

IRIS Executive Director, Del Christensen spent two days presenting “Sub-Saharan Africa” to more than 600 students of Northview Middle School in Ankeny last November. The discussion ranged from foods like fried termites to farming, transportation, infrastructure, health and much more.

Christensen was invited by his nephew, Jared Sacket, as well as one of the world cultures teachers Mr. Cody Cooper. The world cultures classes had been learning about Africa over the past two months and this was an opportunity to hear from someone who had traveled to this continent on many occasions.

Del spoke about his travels to Sierra Leone, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. More importantly, he discussed the many challenges facing countries in Africa as they work to build the infrastructure needed to survive in today’s world.

He talked about the issue of growing populations in countries such as Nigeria and how to keep up with basic public needs such as water, electricity, sanitation and waste management.

Nigeria has a total land size equal to approximately the five Midwestern states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, yet it’s population of 167 million people equals half that of the entire United States. Providing adequate infrastructure is critical to survival, especially in a country where most people survive on less than $2 per day.

Christensen also spoke about various tribes in African countries and their strong sense of family. He pointed out the high maternal and infant mortality rates in many sub-Saharan African countries and how fortunate we are to have such good health care available in America. Photos were shown He showed displaying different modes of transportation available and the challenges facing students as they try to get the best education they can in schools with limited resources.

At the end of the presentation, a few students had a chance to dress up in traditional African clothing and “represent” different tribes. Del reminded students that they don’t have to travel to learn about other cultures. Hosting an exchange student from another country or just getting to know an exchange student in their school is a great way to learn about other cultures right in their own backyard. 

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