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By Allison Whittier
Pretoria, South Africa--As Simmons Professor Dan Connell described the long history of unrest in the northeast African country of Eritrea to students from across Africa here to study human rights at the University of Pretoria Law School's Centre for Human Rights, many seemed distracted.
Some texted on their cellphones. Some peeled oranges and examined their yield. Many took trips to the bathroom. Others flipped through articles and clamored on their laptops.
As I sat there observing my African peers, I felt like I was thousands of miles away in a ty
When the question and answer portion of the talk came around, I was shocked by the engagement of the students. Those who had been working on assignments or texting on their phones were actively and intelligently participating in the conversation.
After the lecture and discussion, I questioned Ugandan student Sylvie Namwase about the level of activity during class. She chuckled as she said they all had an assignment due the following Monday and had been frantically working on it since the previous week.
Even African students procrastinate - another unsuspected commonality.
Perhaps I assumed that African students would be held to a higher standard by their professors or would have a greater respect for class time and material. Maybe I, like many others, fall privy to overly criticizing American youth.
Despite my assumptions and criticisms, however small and perhaps superficial these shared traits may be, it is endearing to know that American students and African students are not so different.