I am pleased to let you know that we are continuing to make a difference at eleven schools in Tanzania where we supply textbooks including our nine Kisa Project partner secondary schools and two primary schools, Upendo in Usa River and Losononi, a rural Maasai school.
As AfricAid’s interim executive director I spent two weeks in Tanzania in September and was able to see firsthand how important the textbooks are for students in Tanzania. When I first visited the country in 2011, I was shocked by the lack of materials and textbooks. It is a relief to know that students at these schools have appropriate textbooks that they can take home to study and work with during group lessons at school.
I spent several days working at Upendo School and I can tell you that the students and teachers were thrilled with the delivery of new textbooks. The children highly anticipated the chance to use them, as they love to learn and enjoy reading so much. Thank you for your support in improving the quality of education for so many students. We appreciate your generosity!
Even ten years after my first visit to Losinoni, a trip to this small Maasai community never ceases to feel exciting, inspiring and like a true adventure. My visit to Losinoni this past week was no different. We arrived at the school on the dusty road, lined with acacia trees and dotted with young boys herding goats across the grassy plains. A chorus of blue-uniformed students was there to greet us, in addition to local education officials and school committee members. We were greeted warmly with a welcome song prepared by the students, each verse describing the past AfricAid contributions they were most grateful for.
The dynamic Head of School, Mr. Ezekiel, gave our small group a tour around the school campus, showing each section with pride. He showed us the classrooms AfricAid supporters had previously built, the solar panels installed for a computer and photocopier, and the kitchen where the school lunch is prepared each day. With visible excitement, Mr. Ezekiel shared how significantly the school lunch program has boosted attendance at the school, through the support of many friends, including an AfricAid supporter who has run races to provide over 30,000 lunches at Losinoni. We also spent time with the moms of the students, who make beaded keychains and bracelets for AfricAid to sell to raise money for the lunches -- and who have also come together to pay the salary of the cook as their way of contributing further. All of us were excited to come home with bags full of beautiful beaded jewelry, each hand made with so much love and care.
We had the chance to see the almost-complete renovation of a classroom, made possible by the generosity of two AfricAid supporters who asked for donations to Losinoni in lieu of gifts for their wedding. Afterwards, we all gathered into a classroom, where the school committee members and local leaders had prepared snacks and soda for us, including the most generous gift of all -- a goat to share together. During the celebration, we had the chance to share our gratitude and congratulations for the hard work of the school leaders, and Mr. Ezekiel shared an inspiring report with us. I was particularly heartened and inspired by the section that described the magnitude of the impact AfricAid supporters have had at the school over the past several years:
"The above mentioned achievements have resulted to better standard seven examination results. The number of pupils selected for Secondary School increased from 13 in 2004 to 75 in 2012 which is an increment of 83%. The above progress for standard seven examination have set a new record for this school when compared to our past achievement of only 25% selected for secondary school. This is an obvious outcome of AfricAid support as earlier mentioned."
Even though the school's leadership has achieved unheard-of results for a rural Maasai school, they dream of even larger impact. Most immediately, Mr. Ezekiel hopes to provide a library for the students of Losinoni, creating a shared space for students to read and learn computer skills. With his vision and leadership, I have no doubt that he can make this dream a reality, and I hope that AfricAid can play a role in supporting him.
Although the sense of adventure when visiting Losinoni has remained the same over the past ten years, so much has changed along the way: an entire community has come together to make a new future possible for a generation of young students.
We are excited to report that the computer labs that AfricAid has installed in six secondary schools in the Arusha region of Tanzania are now being used by our Kisa Scholars to communicate with their sponsors in North America! As the Scholars -- girls in their last two years of high school who are enrolled in our leadership training and entrepreneurship program--- have become increasingly familiar with computer technology, they are now beginning to use the computers for far more than just their school work.
After researching the best way for Scholars and sponsors to communicate with each other, AfricAid has set up a private Facebook group that allows sponsors to learn about the general activities of the Kisa Scholars and their curriculum. TheFacebook group also enables private communications between Scholars and sponsors, within the parameters that have been set up by the mentors of the Scholars. This will help the sponsors know that their Scholar is thriving and learning from being a member of the Kisa program. At the same time, the Scholars are uplifted by the communications they receive from a caring person, school group, book club, etc., across the ocean. In the face of the huge obstacles that challenge young women in Tanzania, it is a true morale-booster to know that someone, even thousands of miles away, is rooting for you to keep moving forward!
The Facebook group will also allow the Scholars to take part in a communication/information exchange with their sponsors that uses the AfricAid curriculum that was developed in order to help our Tanzanian students and their sponsors learn more about life in Tanzania and North America, respectively. Each month a particular question is discussed, such as who are the leaders of your community or what type media impacts you the most.
We’re so proud of our Kisa Scholars and the progress that they are making with the help of the computer labs that our supporters are making possible!