Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paralegals Participate in True Distance-Learning

GW Paralegal students meet with the Tanzanian Ambassador to the U.S.
 Distance-leraning component added to curriculum. The George Washington University College of Professional Studies (CPS) has announced it is adding a true distance-learning component to its curriculum.

Three students in the school’s paralegal studies master’s degree program, Jamila Hussein Nandule-Cook, Yadi Sanchez and Audreona Duffin, will spend four weeks in Tanzanian villages providing paralegal assistance, studying Tanzanian law and legal processes, conducting research and sharing best practices with local paralegals and students.

The students depart for the East African country March 17 and return to the US on April 15th..

Following two weeks of intensive orientation at the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the three students will work in mobile legal clinics in various districts, providing assistance on issues ranging from inheritance and personal property to theft and domestic violence.

One lawyer for every 35,400 people? According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book, there are currently more than 41,000,000 people in the country of Tanzania, and fewer than 1,000 lawyers based on statistics by the Tanhanyika Law Society. Additionally, since 1931, there have been 1,135 lawyers in Tanzania. If all those lawyers were still alive and practicing, there would be one lawyer for roughly every 35,400 people.

Tanzanian native wants to give back. “I’m looking forward to making a difference in the lives of the women and children of my home country. Apart from poverty, I had no idea what the real legal issues were for the underserved in Tanzania,” said Ms. Nandule-Cook, 28, a Tanzanian native and second-year paralegal studies student.

“I hope to learn how human rights law plays in place in an African country, the difference between the law systems in the U.S. and Tanzania and how we can apply some of the laws.”

Studying Kiswahili. Over the course of the fall semester, the three students studied the Kiswahili language, culture and legal system. In February, they met with the Honorable Mwanaidi Sinare Maajar, Tanzanian Ambassador to the United States, to discuss their upcoming trip.

Designing the program. Development for this program began in 2008 when Helen Kijo-Bisimba, former executive director of LHRC, came to the United States as a guest of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. While in the U.S., Mrs. Kijo-Bisimba met with Ms. Marsh to discuss ways that GW could partner with the LHRC to increase access to justice and promote the rule of law in Tanzania through the training and support of paralegals.

According to Ms. Marsh, Tanzanians who are unrepresented, uninformed and marginalized can be victims of the system and often, when they do pursue legal redress, end up in worse positions than before they began their legal actions. She also said that they decline to pursue legal remedies that are or should be available to them.

Preparing Paralegals for global work. “The practice of law is global and our students should be prepared for work that is global in context,” said Kathleen Burke, dean of the College of Professional Studies. “An understanding of international law, related issues and a study abroad component can provide dynamic experience for our paralegal studies students.”

Learn More about the George Washington University program. The George Washington University’s College of Professional Studies programs are designed to fit the needs and lifestyles of adult learners and working professionals, combining the expertise of University faculty with that of outside partners including government agencies, professional associations, consulting organizations, foundations, and business and industry leaders.

To learn more about The George Washington University’s Paralegal Studies Program, visit http://nearyou.gwu.edu/plx. For additional information on the College of Professional Studies, visit www.cps.gwu.edu.

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