​Learning to look at things in New Ways: An Enriching Internship Experience for One Student

The Global Engagement Office (AKU-GEO) at Aga Khan University officially launched its Reciprocal Virtual Internship Programme (AKU-RVIP) in September 2020. Since its launch, 22 AKU students have received internship placements with AKU’s university partners in the Global North. The 12 week-long internships allow students to have a structured yet flexible work opportunity with their mentor. 

"Establishing partnerships in a related field can serve to provide different enriching experiences around the globe." - Paul Mala

Currently, a student at AKU’s Institute for Educational Development in East Africa, Paul Mala’s focus is on “Teacher Preparedness in Developing Digital Literacy Competencies in Kenyan Primary Schools.” His goal for this internship was to become a better teacher through curriculum development and understanding of school programmes. Paul interned under the mentorship of Rachel Nelson, Associate Director, Partnerships and Programmes at Simon Fraser University in Canada.

As a teacher and student himself, Paul’s participation in the AKU-RVIP gave him an opportunity to work with Canadian educationalists and learn skills to benefit the students he teaches. His team members for the duration of his internship included Trisha Dulku from Simon Fraser University; James Speidel and Merideth Verma from the Surrey Schools; and Canaan Boy from the Aga Khan University.

"Many introductions during sessions were captivating. All the sessions started with ice breakers which are something I had not done with my students. Through this internship, I have learned how to make lessons captivating for my students to hold their attention." - Paul Mala

He learned a lot from Rachel’s me​ntorship, including holding regular ice breakers and informal sessions to ensure cultural diversity was not a roadblock. Her techniques created an open and friendly environment which strengthened the cohesiveness of the team. Resources such as reading materials and website access were provided to Paul to widen his understanding of the Canadian schooling system he was working with. This aided Paul with developing objectives, key themes, and topics, and content for community outreach programmes carried out by Simon Fraser University students.

"I learned a lot when it comes to time management. I am now a good time manager in my professional duties and personal engagements." - Paul Mala

The major project Paul worked on was the ​development of a curriculum for a new after-school programme on Digital Citizenship for children in Canada from grades 5 to 7. Already having experience in working with children and youth in different capacities, Paul brought his own ideas and understanding into the project. Through his external perspective of the Canadian system, the team was able to identify areas where the project was lacking and address them – the identification of problems the team had overlooked before shows precisely how cultural diversity and global perspectives add value to the programme as a whole. ​

Further, Paul said, “As a teache​r, I have become a better planner. I am now in a position to craft programmes for learners of all ages on Digital Citizenship”. He added, “being selected for the programme out of the many applicants at Aga Khan University campuses was not easy, it was very competitive, and being selected as one of the interns was in itself an achievement.”