Visiting Professor: Javier Aranguren from Spain
It has been an exciting sabbatical year in more ways than one for Prof. Javier Aranguren, currently in Strathmore Universitys School of Humanities & Social Sciences as a visiting professor teaching philosophy. After teaching for over 20 years in Bilbao & Navarra regions- Spain, the choice of where to spend his sabbatical year found him eliminate Europe, South America, North America because of a conviction that a year in the heart of Africa could be life-changing for him, and indeed it has not disappointed thus far.
Javier Aranguren had previously been to Strathmore University on short stints teaching philosophy units in the Master in Philosophy & Applied Ethics (MAPE). Philosophy is a subject in which he is an expert having studied 2 PhDs in that specialization.
His first PhD was in philosophical anthropology looking specifically at the Union between Body and Soul. He undertook his studies in University of The Holy Cross, Rome, and no sooner had he completed that than he begun another PhD journey this time at University of Navarra- Pamplona Spain. For the 2nd PhD, he further pursued philosophy, looking into the topic – Virtue of Courage- his doctoral dissertation was titled To Withstand in the Good. He candidly acknowledges that the 5 years spent studying both PhDs was quite intense for him, thankfully in his own words he was young and energetic then.
While at SHSS this year, Prof Aranguren is teaching philosophy and ethics to both undergraduate BCOM students and graduate students (MAPE, MSIS & MSc. IT), he is quite engaged and busy. It is as interesting as it is demanding he says. He has been teaching MAPE this last month and coming from a Spanish-speaking world, he was at first struggling to express himself fluently in the English language, however that challenge has now been overcome with plenty of practice while teaching. It helps that the students and people in Kenya are generally very friendly; just last weekend I was at the sports grounds, and one footballer took it upon himself to chat me up and show me around.
Prof. Aranguren says that while in class, one can hardly differentiate between students in Kenya and anywhere else in the world- they are young, full of life and are attached to their mobile phones. Speaking of his experience at Strathmore, he is moved by the kindness and politeness of Kenyans, not only in campus, but also outside the university. The different African cultures impress him and he is excited to learn new things and meet new people. There is an up-side, and a down-side to every cultures, for example all food here is overcooked as compared to the cooking in my culture, he comments with a smile.
While away from the University, on weekends, Aranguren takes time to visit parts of the country and the city; he has been to a golf club, and at the same time has been to Kibera slums. One day while walking along Ole Sangale Road just near the campus, he met a group of street children who requested money for food from him (being a mzungu- he stands out), and he decided to help them buy food and clothes after getting in touch with their parents. He has also recently been collaborating with friends from Spain to mobilize funds towards a social project run by a Moses Muthaka- who takes care of the poor. This, he says is his way of helping in a micro-social project to impact a few people and change their lives for the better.
After his sabbatical, the author of several publications among them Fundamentals of Anthropology is likely to go back to Spain, but he also acknowledges that life can be quite dynamic.
We wish Prof Aranguren a fantastic stay in Nairobi.