Study Tour Enlightens Rwandan Scholars

August 15, 2011 5:45 AM

Joseph Halm

To learn best practices in social work, a trio of professors from the National University of Rwanda School of Social Work spent the month of July at Tulane University on a study tour. In Rwanda, social work is a new profession formed in 1999 in response to the country’s mental health needs following the 1994 genocide.

Tulane Empowers


During a month of study in New Orleans, Jeannette Bayisenge, a faculty member from the National University of Rwanda, discusses best practices in social work that she hopes to take home to her country. (Photo by Joseph Halm)

“Although they had psychologists and counselors trained, the knowledge needed to attend to the psychosocial care needs of the population was very limited,” says So’Nia Gilkey, an assistant professor of social work at Tulane and study tour coordinator. “Social work seemed to be the best fit to get people trained to meet those needs.”

During their visit, professors Consolee Uwihangana, Charles Rutikanga and Jeannette Bayisenge attended classes at Tulane and Southern University at New Orleans and worked at three different field agencies — NO/AIDS Taskforce, Healthy Start New Orleans and Total Community Action.

In learning about community organizing, Uwihangana says, “We’ve seen why it is important to have the community participating in all of the activities, but first, we need to do an assessment so that we can create programs that really address the needs of the community.”

Rutikanga says he was impressed by the level of student participation in classes here, and he also learned how field placements are supervised by social work professionals who guide students in their development.

The group plans to enhance their university’s field placement program using what they learned at Tulane.

Gilkey says the goal of the study tour is to have the visiting lecturers take what they’re learned here back to their colleagues in Rwanda to develop contextually relevant training for fellow instructors, practitioners and paraprofessionals doing social work.

The study tour was a collaborative effort between the Tulane School of Social Work and the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane Law School.

Joseph Halm is marketing/communications coordinator for the Tulane School of Social Work.


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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000