Consider some of Kenya’s most pressing contemporary societal challenges, including rapid urbanization, health and access to healthcare, and human rights. This program is appropriate for a wide range of majors.
Examine how rapid urbanization is transforming healthcare, and how tropical environments, social class, and culture shape health outcomes.
Examine the causes and consequences of urban inequalities and their health implications. Issues of human rights have been in the forefront in Kenya following the post-election turmoil of 2007–08 and the subsequent adoption of a new constitution in 2010. Kenya’s government is committed to improving access to healthcare for its people, but, while the constitution provides for economic and social rights, the government’s goals related to healthcare remain largely elusive. Kenya’s economic gains in the past decade have been unevenly distributed, and the country has faced internal and external crises. This program addresses these complex issues through in-depth engagement with scholars, practitioners, activists, artists, and Kenyans from all walks of life.
Live in Kisumu and attend classes on the joint campus of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kenya Medical Research Institute.
Kisumu and the broader Lake Victoria area were the epicenter for HIV/AIDS when it first emerged in the 1980s. Investments were made in medical research to respond to these and other health needs. Today, Kisumu is home to a joint campus of the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). Founded as a collaborative venture in 1979, the partnership has grown to seven facilities around Kenya — the largest of which is in Kisumu. The Urbanization, Health, and Human Rights program includes collaborations with research scientists at the CDC/KEMRI campus in Kisumu, at the Centre for Research and Technology Development, and with urban and regional planning faculty from nearby Maseno University.
Study Kiwsahili, the lingua franca of East Africa.
Kiswahili is spoken throughout East Africa, including in the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and parts of Mozambique. Through the program’s intensive language course, you will gain conversational ability in Kiswahili, which will enable you to better connect with your homestay families and host communities. During field assignments and the ISP or internship, you will apply your emerging skills and advance your vocabulary.
Spend time in Nairobi and visit Nairobi National Park.
Nairobi began as a watering hole (“the place of cool waters”) for local Maasai pastoralists roughly 100 years ago. Today, Nairobi is Kenya’s capital, a cosmopolitan metropolis of an estimated 4 million people, and hosts several international and national research institutes, corporations and United Nations institutions. Nairobi has a concentration of academic, political, economic, and cultural resources, including many relief, development, health, human rights, and political organizations. You will have access to scholars, researchers, practitioners, and experts in all relevant program fields. You may also take advantage of libraries at the universities in Nairobi, the World Bank, the United Nations Environmental Programme, and UN Habitat.
Travel to Rwanda to explore progress in health, HIV and malaria care, and universal healthcare.
Rwanda has made significant progress in public health. Rwanda’s incidence of HIV/AIDS is significantly lower than the regional average, with a prevalence rate of less than 2 percent. The same is true for malaria. Rwanda has also succeeded in implementing universal access to healthcare.
Enjoy excursions that offer you the flexibility to focus on a wide range of academic interests.
This program is appropriate for a number of majors, including, but not limited to, pre-med, pre-nursing, anthropology, development studies, architecture, urban planning, sociology, public health, and international relations. A background in health is not required. Past students have focused on creative writing, art, theater, and literature.
Choose to conduct independent research or complete an internship.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Colonialism, the built environment, and public health
- Property rights, settlement patterns, and public health
- Cultural practices, urban/rural resource gaps, and epidemiology of tropical diseases
- Gender relations, the status of women, and health outcomes
- Universal healthcare, inclusion/exclusion, and health outcomes in Rwanda
- Public health practice and achievements in control of malaria and HIV in Rwanda
The program consists of four academic components: the seminars Health and Human Rights in Kenya and Urbanization and Public Health, Kiswahili language study, Research Methods and Ethics, and an Independent Study Project or internship.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Health and Human Rights in Kenya – syllabus
- (IPBH3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- The Health and Human Rights in Kenya seminar explores theoretical links between access to and reliance on Kenyan healthcare services and the conceptions of human rights of individuals and communities in a Kenyan social context. The course is designed to provide firsthand academic knowledge of Kenyan healthcare challenges and healthcare systems, together with analyses of locally informed debates surrounding human rights. Course content, provided via lectures, discussions, readings, presentations, and educational excursions, details the mutually constitutive challenges of health and human rights in Kenya, while highlighting successful coalition-building efforts, civil society organizations, the private sector, and others pursuing community-based approaches to myriad contemporary issues. Throughout the course, students record and analyze aspects of the host culture and examine contemporary development theories and methodologies and current issues related to health and human rights in Kenya.
- Urbanization and Public Health – syllabus
- (IPBH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- An interdisciplinary seminar conducted in English, with required readings, examining health and the city in a Kenyan context. The course explores historical patterns of urban space in Africa through colonial medical discourses; interrogates healthcare and human rights challenges as they relate to housing and infrastructure in urban areas; and provides hands-on, experiential learning opportunities together with lectures, readings, and discussions to better understand housing policies and practices in Kenya and their implication for health and human rights.
- Intensive Language Study: Beginning Kiswahili – syllabus
- (SWAH1000-1500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Intensive Language Study: Intermediate Kiswahili – syllabus
- (SWAH2000-2500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Intensive Language Study: Advanced Kiswahili – syllabus
- (SWAH3000-3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on an in-country evaluation that includes oral proficiency testing, students are placed in intensive classes at the appropriate level, with additional language practice taking place through homestays, lectures, and field visits. Daily classes during the first two weeks of the urban homestay are followed by continuing lessons in a variety of field settings, which provide an opportunity for additional Kiswahili language practice.
- Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. Introduction to the Independent Study Project. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; field study methods; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; maintaining a field journal; and participatory evaluation and appraisal techniques.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted in Nairobi, Kisumu, or another approved location appropriate to the project within Kenya. Sample topics areas: malaria prevention policy and practice; Nairobi's informal settlements; housing as a human right; primary healthcare options in Kisumu; rural women's cooperatives; prenatal healthcare; land tenure in Kibera; family planning in rural Kenya; urban agriculture; HIV/AIDS peer education; girls' education; nutrition and health programming in Kisumu.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Excursions on this program range from multi-week to single-day study trips.
The program takes an educational excursion to Rwanda, on the western side of the Lake Victoria region, via the vast landscape of the Great Rift Valley. This excursion provides you with an opportunity to examine other local cultures and learn about the human rights struggles and health and urbanization issues these Rwandan communities experience. You will study the country’s exceptional achievements in healthcare, including its extremely low rates of HIV and malaria and its universal health insurance. Through this excursion, you will gain a frame of reference from which to compare Kenya’s healthcare system.
Seminar excursions focus on particular themes developed in readings, lectures, and class discussions. The location and theme of the seminar excursions may vary. In past semesters, students have visited the United Nations Environment Program in Nairobi, the Mathare Youth Sports Association (one of the most celebrated success stories of urban African development), the Nyumbani AIDS Hospice for HIV-positive orphans, and the CDC-KEMRI campus in Kisumu.
Excursions may also include Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth-largest urban center and Rift Valley provincial capital; Naivasha, famed for its flamingo-filled alkaline lake and its role in the cut-flower industry of Kenya; Konza Techno City, Kenya’s Silicon Savannah, an emerging master-planned site near Nairobi; and Maasai Mara in Kenya or Jinja in Uganda in the final weeks of the program.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Athman Lali Omar, MA, Academic Director
Athman completed his undergraduate work at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He received his MA in anthropology and African studies from Yale University and is currently completing his PhD in archaeology at the University of Florida. He has served as a Kiswahili instructor at both Yale University and the University of Florida. He has worked with SIT in Kenya since 1990. Athman has also worked as a research scientist at the Fort Jesus Museum in Mombasa and as the curator of the Lamu Museum on the island of Lamu. Until 2005, he served as the head of coastal archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya. He serves on the Coast Provincial Educational Board, and he is a member of the organizing committee of Pwani University.
Leah Onyango, PhD, Coordinator, SIT/Maseno University
Leah completed her BA and MA at the University of Nairobi and her PhD in planning at Maseno University. Since 2003, she has lectured at Maseno University and became the chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in 2011. In addition to her work as a professor and researcher, she serves on the board of Sana International, an NGO that deals with water and sanitation, and the St. Stephen’s Menara Secondary School. She is a researcher and consultant on urban, regional, and agricultural development projects throughout East Africa and has published articles on climate change and agricultural security, gender perspectives on property rights in rural Kenya, and poverty. She has conducted research projects for the World Bank, World Wildlife Fund, and the European Commission.
Steve Wandiga, PhD, Coordinator SIT/CDC
Steve holds a PhD in epidemiology and is a senior research officer at KEMRI Center for Global Health Research (CGHR) in Kisumu. He leads the TB research branch at KEMRI CGHR and coordinates the weekly science seminar series for visiting scientists and students. Steve serves on the steering committee of the East African Consortium for Clinical Research, where he is a member of the TB node. He is co-chair of the stakeholder and community engagement working group and member of the clinical trials infrastructure working group within the Critical Path to TB Drug Regimen. He is also the East African coordinator of the healthy pregnancy, birth, growth, and development knowledge initiative that is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Miltone Omondi, Program Coordinator
Miltone is a certified public accountant and holds a graduate diploma in business administration. He is currently taking an undergraduate course in development studies. He has been working for SIT Study Abroad in Kenya for the past 10 years. Before joining the program, he worked as a research assistant for Family Care International, as part of an extensive research project on safe motherhood, and for SOS Kinderdof. Miltone assists the academic director in the day-to-day running of the program in areas of student support, excursions and lectures, compliance, procurement, program partnerships, and logistics.
Lecturers for this program typically include:
Patrick Alila, PhD
Patrick is a research professor at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi. He holds a PhD and an MA from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a BA from the University of East Africa. He has been a lecturer with the SIT Kenya program since 1985. Patrick is an expert in rural development, political science, and public administration. He has conducted extensive research in local development systems, cooperatives development, micro and small enterprises, child labor, and Kenya’s electoral process.
Mohamud Jama, PhD
Mohamud is associate research professor and director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi. He has a PhD and an MA in agricultural economics from Washington State University and a BComm from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He has lectured SIT students on development, environment, wildlife conservation, and tourism development. He serves as academic coordinator for the program’s community development module and has been a lecturer with the SIT program in Kenya since 1987. Mohamud has 25 years of experience teaching agricultural economics, environmental and natural resource management, and development. He has published extensively on natural resource and development issues.
Mohamed Karama, PhD
Mohamed is principal research officer with the Kenya Medical Research Institute and is a part-time lecturer at Kenyatta University in Kenya. He holds a PhD in public health and epidemiology from Kenyatta University and has pursued training courses in Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Japan. He conducts lectures for this program and serves as academic coordinator for the program’s health module. Mohamed teaches and supervises students at the master’s and PhD levels at Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and Nagasaki University in Japan. He was appointed associate professor by the Graduate School of International Health and Development at Nagasaki University. Previously, he worked with the Kenya Ministry of Health in the areas of disease control and epidemics. He is a member of a faith-based health committee in Kenya.
One of my favorite things about SIT is its commitment to experiential learning.
One of my favorite things about SIT is its commitment to experiential learning. Rather than sit in a classroom all day, we visited organizations, spoke to Kenyans about current issues, lived with host families, engaged in fieldwork, and more.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
The program includes two homestays: an urban homestay in Kisumu and a rural homestay in a village just outside Kisii in western Kenya. These homestays provide comparative perspectives on everyday life in Kenya’s urban and rural spheres.
Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, is located on the shores of Lake Victoria. A major port and trading hub and the center of the Luo community, Kisumu has played a significant role in the country’s modern history. Its fisheries and agriculture are important contributors to the national and regional economy.
Kisumu is the program’s main homestay. Here, you will live with a local family for a combined total of five weeks. Kisumu is a trading city at the crossroads of East and Central Africa, a relaxed city in a beautiful setting on the sloping shores of Lake Victoria. Kisumu homestays are generally within walking distance to SIT’s program office.
You will also stay in a village outside Kisii, a center for a unique type of soapstone carving in Kenya. During the village stay, you will complete a research assignment exploring issues of health and human rights from a local perspective. Many students regard the rural excursion as both the most challenging and the most rewarding component of the program. Students sometimes struggle to adjust to the slow pace and basic living conditions of rural Kenya, only to find that they have formed surprisingly strong bonds with their host family during this brief period.
Other accommodations on the program may include hostels, guest houses, tented camps, small hotels, and private homes.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
You can opt to spend the final four weeks of the semester working on an Independent Study Project (ISP) in which you will conduct primary research on a topic of interest to you. The ISP can be conducted in Nairobi, Kisumu, or another approved location in Kenya appropriate to the project. An experienced local academic advisor will support you in tailoring your project and methodology. Many students extend their ISPs into senior theses, while others use their ISP as the basis for Fulbright and other fellowship opportunities following graduation.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- Gendered dynamics of health and human rights
- Urbanization, environmental degradation, and public health
- Neglected tropical diseases in western Kenya
- Informal settlements and their health challenges
- Healthcare as a human right in Kenya
- Grassroots development programs
- Nutrition and health programming in Kisumu
- Access to ARVs in urban and rural areas
- Health financing in Kenya
- Housing and human rights
- Primary healthcare options
- Maternal and child health
- Family planning
- HIV/AIDS peer education
- Use of technology in the prevention of gender violence in Nairobi
- Prevalence of depression among TB and HIV/AIDS patients in Kisumu
Students on this program represent an array of colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to pursue academic and professional work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Founder and director of Hatua Likoni, a youth education and career development center, Mombasa, Kenya
- Visiting assistant professor in the Department of Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
- Special assistant at the Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs, USAID, Washington, DC
- Research intern researching global health organizations at Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide seminar instruction and educational excursion leadership to students in:
- Urbanization and development
- Health and human rights
- Politics, development, and economics in Kenya
- Research Methods and Ethics training in preparation for the Independent Study Project
- Intensive language instruction in Kiswahili
- All educational excursions, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project or internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $2,820
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes orientation, time in the program base (Kisumu), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (including Kisumu and the rural homestay)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend to the student, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $ 100
Books & Supplies: $ 100
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.
The optional internship on this program will introduce you to the planning, delivery, and management of public health in the tropics, using western Kenya as the case study. Throughout the semester, you will be introduced to a number of different organizations in Kisumu and Nairobi during regular coursework, lectures, excursions, site visits, and collaborative projects. The internship will give you an opportunity to build on one of these connections under the guidance of a researcher, medical professional, or development worker who acts as your project advisor.
- Assisting health-related projects with the Red Cross and USAID
- Conducting policy research at African Population and Health Research Center
- Assisting research on HIV, TB, and malaria at Kenya Medical Research Institute and the CDC
- Working on hygiene, sanitation, and environmental projects with Network for Water and Sanitation
- Supporting Amref Health Africa’s projects in Kenya
- Providing healthcare and emotional support at Kenya’s Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS
In addition, you will submit a paper in which you describe, assess, and analyze what you learned during your internship. The paper will outline the tasks you completed throughout the internship, professional relationships you developed, and challenges you encountered and how you overcame them.