Girls Education International

The mission of Girls Education International is to expand and support educational opportunities for underserved females in remote and developing regions of the world. We work with existing non-governmental and nonprofit organizations in the regions we serve. These local organizations already have relationships and infrastructures in the rural communities where we work that allow us to build upon and maximize existing resources.
Sep 3, 2013

Amahoro Secondary School_August 2013 Update

Classroom with Windows
Classroom with Windows

Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,

Wow! What a ride it's been! Thank you for being part of the adventure to this point and we hope you will continue to support our work and share with your friends and family as we round the bend. (We are so close!!)

This summer, I traveled to Kigoma again to continue forging relationships and keep the momentum going on the school building endeavor. As with every year before, we faced challenges and experienced triumphs! Highlights from this year include the following:

  • The Tanzania government allocated 25 million shillings (~ $16,000) to the village effort to complete this school. It was decided that this money would go to the local village leaders to spend on necessary materials for finishing the classrooms - wood, iron, cement, lyme, etc. to complete walls, floors and doors. After 4 years with all the funds coming through Project Wezesha, we were nervous about the management of this money. But, we didn't need to be! When I reached the school grounds for the first time this July, I saw a classroom filled with all the supplies to complete 8 classrooms.
  • In addition to supplies, a skilled carpenter was well into his work on the window and door frames. He worked meticulously with hand-powered tools to prepare the many windows for the classrooms. I was quite impressed with his attention to detail and the quality of the frames he made.
  • In addition, a large donation arrived at the end of this summer for the final roofing material - the aluminum - to roof the last set of four classrooms. Thank you Shelmina and Minaz!
  • And, the men are hard at work finishing the plaster and paint on all of the classroom interior walls. The exterior plaster and paint has been purchased and they will tackle that job next. The final piece to the puzzle is the concrete floors in the classroom. It will be the last job they do before we can cut any ribbons.

Working with the village to complete this school has never been without its challenges. This year, we had one set back when the villagers failed to contribute the necessary water to the worksite so the builders could make the concrete and plaster for the classroom walls. This has been the number one challenge we faced over the years. There are a few reasons they cite. Among them: villagers in areas close to the school feel they do more than others; some leaders don't work alongside their citizens; villagers think they should be paid for this work.

These are all great reasons, but not easily remedied. It's true that villagers who live far away don't come often to carry sand, stones and water - yet their children will benefit from this school one day. It's also true that some leaders 'beat the bushes' to get folks to help and then don't turn up themselves. And yes, the work does merit pay. The decision not to do so was based on our initial agreement that stated: if Project Wezesha generates funds to build this school, we will pay for skilled labor and all materials. In exchange, villagers will contribute sand, stone, water, and the labor to get those materials to the worksite. Typically, in Tanzania, a secondary school is built by the villagers only - with no external (NGO or government) support.

One day, I arranged to stay in the village with our friend Jane. The reason being that I wanted to wake early and carry water with Jane, Lucas and Maiko in the morning so that the workers had some water to make plaster. The evening before, Lucas and I walked around and spoke with 50 or so men. I practiced my speech in kiswahili so I could be the one to ask a favor, rather than Lucas. I told them that work had come to a halt due to lack of water. I told them that we would be carrying water in the morning and that with more men, we could fill the tank in less than an hour. I said, please - just one hour. Will you join us? Each of them smiled, shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, 'Of course, no problem, tomorrow, see you then.' The next morning - Jane, Lucas, Maiko and I, along with two women I hadn't talked with and one man who already worked for us carried 800 liters of water. Not one single man from the village showed up.

After working for 2.5 hours, we returned to the village, tired, hot, hungry - and yes, angry. I went to the village leaders' office and spoke with the executive officer. She saw how upset I was and was very disappointed in these men. Alas, what's to be done. In the weeks following, the village diwani (chief) and other leaders used money from the village budget and found 8 individuals to carry water for pay. They filled the tank. They were all women.

I don't want this to seem like a sad story becuase it's not. For me, it reinforces what we are doing. In this particular village, the adults have limited formal education experience. They have uneducated views about medicine, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, how to conserve the local environment, and how to generate an economy for their small community. The men spend a lot of time playing a popular game, Bao, drinking chai or coffee, and chatting. The women do the work of the village - from having and raising children to cleaning, cooking and collecting water and firewood, to delivering babies and caring for the elderly.

So why is this reinforcing what we're doing? Because with education, so much will change! I can already see the shifting of perspectives about life and education among the children we support with secondary school scholarships. I know that this will have an impact. I doubt sometimes - like all good believers, I doubt. But I find strength in the support we get from all of you and the progress I see each year when I visit. It has taken longer than I anticipated to complete this school, but - Rome wasn't built in a day either. :) Most secondary schools are built over many years, one classroom at a time with students attending unfinsihed schools and enduring continued construction as the villages can muster funds. Our 4-year plan was ambitious, and we're almost there! If the floors are finished this fall, we will be bringing in the first group for the beginning of their school year in January 2014. And if they don't, we will still finish and this school will be populated with eager, uniformed, bright young students soon enough!

Sincere thanks for all of your support! It has been extremely appreciated and very well managed, I assure you! Project Wezesha has virtually no overhead, so the great majority of donations we receive goes straight to the project. In addition to materials and skilled labor, your funds contribute to Lucas' salary for his tireless work on the ground - working to ensure the funds are spent appropriately, materials arrive safely, the village leaders remain honest, and that you get updates and photos like those you see here. Please take a moment to enjoy the pictures - the fruits of your support!

Asante Sana!

Rai Farrelly

Classroom Walls and Windows
Classroom Walls and Windows
Supplies
Supplies
Lucas roleplaying
Lucas roleplaying 'Carpenter'
Vantage of Whole School
Vantage of Whole School
Lucas happy to see plaster going up!
Lucas happy to see plaster going up!
Aug 12, 2013

Girls Ed in Tanzania_August 2013 Report

Dear Girls Ed Supporters,

Thank you so much for your enthusiasm about the launch of our new program in Tanzania! We are very excited to have an official roster of girls that we will be supporting in the upcoming 2014 school year. The girls are all Standard 7 Primary School students who will be moving into secondary school in January. This report will let you know about the selection process and give you some information about the girls we have selected.

In the Spring of 2013, the Girls Ed board met and discussed the possibility of expanding our support of girls into Tanzania. The move seemed logical since we already partner with Project Wezesha who works in the Kigoma region. We have support on the ground through Lucas Lameck, co-founder of Project Wezesha. Lucas will work with Girls Ed to make sure that the girls’ school fees are paid and that their grades are reported to Girls Ed throughout the 4-year scholarship program. 

In July 2013, Lucas and I (Rai Farrelly) considered the number of primary schools in each of the 5 villages within the Kagongo Ward, from which we would select the girls. The Kagongo Ward includes the same villages that Project Wezesha works with - Mgaraganza, Kagongo, Kigaliye, Mtanga and Kalalangabo. The lakeside villages of Mtanga, Kalalangabo and Kigaliye each have one primary school, Kagongo has two and Mgaraganza has four - so we chose more girls from Mgaraganza and Kagongo villages than the lakeside villages.

Success in secondary school depends on the foundations established in primary school, but even with decent scores in main subject areas in primary school, a key factor in secondary school success is English language. Tanzania still teaches all subjects in Swahili through primary school, then switches abruptly to English in secondary school. As a result, many secondary students struggle to understand the teachings of their mainstream courses - such as physics, math, geography - all of which are taught in English. With this in mind, we decided to provide scholarships to the top 3 girls in each standard 7 class that we targeted.

We delivered applications and met with head teachers at each primary school. We explained our program and how we were selecting the girls. The head teachers had a few days to calculate scores of the girls in standard 7 classes and have them complete their applications. The applications asked for personal information as well as short responses to two questions that targeted their personal interests and why they valued education, including what they wanted to do after school.

We returned to collect applications, meet the girls, congratulate them on being selected and take their pictures. As you can imagine, beneath several shy smiles and averted glances, all the girls were very excited. As the girls came in to the office, they kept straight faces and dropped to a squat position - a sign of respect or deference. I quickly asked each to stand up and walked over to shake their hands and exchange greetings in English (always making them smile at this point). Hi, how are you? What is your name? My name is Rai. My first question in Swahili was Do you want to go to secondary school? (Smiles grow with enthusiastic affirmative responses.) Then, Lucas and I explained the program and fielded any questions they had (which was always none). When we took pictures, they always gave me a good ‘poker face’ first, then I coaxed them until they showed me their beautiful smiles - the more natural look for all of them! 

Now, we are happy to have 25 girls in our program! Among the girls, we have some who want to be teachers, nurses, and doctors. Their responses to ‘why is education important to you’ include: it will help me live a better life; it will help me teach people how to conserve the environment; it will help me to continue into higher education; it will help me to contribute to society.

The following 25 girls will be joining our program in January! (*Caveat: unfortunately, there is a national examination that the girls must pass to go to secondary school. We acknowledge that while we’ve chosen the top girls from each class, there is still the chance - especially from the more remote village schools where scores were lower on average - that some of our girls will not pass into secondary school. If this happens, we will either select girls who are currently in secondary school, in good standing, who cannot pay their school fees and face being sent home. Hopefully, this won’t come to pass - but we’ll keep you posted when the scores are back in December!).

Name, Age and Village (you can see pics of all the girls here)

  1. Melania Jonas Zakalia, 14 Mgaraganza Village
  2. Hawa Iddi Kakombi, 13, Mgaraganza Village
  3. Hajira Abasi Yonia, 14, Mgaraganza Village
  4. Ashura Yasini Mahamudu, 14, Mgaraganza Village
  5. Kurwa Sarumi Mirambi, 17, Mgaraganza Village
  6. Subira Samsoni Steni, 12, Mgaraganza Village
  7. Sada Moshi, 14, Mgaraganza Village
  8. Vashithi Salvatory, 13, Mgaraganza Village
  9. Edasta Befa, 14, Mgaraganza Village
  10. Sesilia Hereriko, 16, Tegeje, Mgaraganza Village
  11. Dola MAchumu Yona, 16, Kagongo Village - Ranked 1st in class - boys and girls!!
  12. Adija Hemei Husseni, 14, Kagongo Village
  13. Skorastika Leonard, 14, Kagongo Village
  14. Eva Raphaeli, 13, Kagongo Village - Ranked 1st in class - boys and girls!!
  15. Asia Abedi, 13, Kagongo Village
  16. Rebeka Barnaba, 15, Kagongo Village
  17. Rabia Msekwa Julias, 15, Mtanga Village
  18. Shida Hemedi Mfutaha, 12, MtangaVillage
  19. Mwayaona Ramadhani Umtulano, 14, Mtanga Village
  20. Radhia Moshi, 16, Kigaliye Village
  21. Tausi Kibaya, 13, Kigaliye Village
  22. Salima Ismaili, 14, Kigaliye Village
  23. Lois Evarist Balihula, 13, Kalalangabo Village
  24. Asha Ramadhani Saidi, 14, Kalalangabo Village
  25. Hawa Mustapha Omari, 14, Kalalangabo Village

Thank you for your continued support. Please consider sharing the work we're doing with friends and family who you think might be interested in chipping in so we can continue to provide scholarships to girls in LIberia, Pakistan and Tanzania.

Sincerely,

The Girls Ed Team

Girls from Mgaraganza and Kagina Primary Schools
Girls from Mgaraganza and Kagina Primary Schools
Girls at Mtanga Primary
Girls at Mtanga Primary

Links:

Aug 12, 2013

Project Wezesha August 2013 Update

Our Students
Our Students

Dear Project Wezesha and Girls Ed Supporters,

I returned from a recent trip to Tanzania, during which I visited with most of our current scholarship students - including those who have recently graduated from secondary school with hopes of continued support for vocational school or college. Here's how our visit went:

On Saturday, July 13th Lucas, Maiko and I made our way into Mgaraganza Village with Saidi and Albert, two of our students who stay in town. Our destination – Amahoro Secondary School. Our purpose – meet with the current students in our program to visit, chat, and take pictures.

Between 11a – 12p, the students showed up alone, in pairs, in small groups. When all were present, we were a group of 21 students plus Lucas and Maiko. A few of our students were not able to join us because they attend schools outside of the region (Iringa, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma and Tabora).

Starting out our visit, there were many greetings and introductions among the students so they could get to know one another. It’s nice to see this scholarship program bringing new friends together from neighboring village around the shared desire to continue their education.

Once everyone was together, we sat around one of the unfinished, shaded and breezy classrooms of the new school. Lucas invited them to ask questions and share views. Of course, the students I’ve known the longest were initially the most chatty. They provided some insights into the situations that most affect students here in Tanzania. One student shared that life for students is hard and that after school, there is no time to study.  Her mother died a long time ago and now her father, who is elderly, is ailing. Hajira, therefore has a lot of work to do around the house to help her father and grandmother after school. This includes everything from tending to the animals, fetching water and firewood, and cooking.

Khadija, one of our long-time students who now attends VETA to study computers (having completed secondary school 2 years ago) noted that yes, life is hard and there is much work to do, but there is also the issue of students being lazy. She said there are plenty of times in the week when students are not working, times when they could be studying but they don’t. Of course, I know both cases to be true. Those who dig deep and find the motivation to study and strive for 'more' will hopefully reach their goals.

Fortunately, several of our students are driven and highly value the opportunity being afforded them. Khadija will be taking a ‘field’ assignment near Kasulu in the fall where she’ll work as a secretary in an office to put her new computer skills to use. Diana has enrolled herself in a college, similar to VETA to also study computer and secretarial skills. Ismael and Kiza are aiming for Nursing School. They both have scores high enough in the subjects necessary for admission to a Nursing program near Kasulu. Lucas and I told them that now their responsibility is to find out all the information Lucas needs for us to proceed – application due dates, cost of tuition, and other details. We talked to them about initiative and encouraged them not to wait for Lucas or me to make suggestions and connections for them.

The usual woes of the education system emerged: shortage of teachers, teachers who don’t come to class, lack of textbooks, cost of school fees (for those out of our program), size of the class, low English language proficiency for subjects taught in English only, lack of breakfast that leaves them starving by noon and unable to focus, etc. If the Government could just make two major changes, education and therefore life in Tanzania would be dramatically improved: 1) make secondary school free and 2) adopt dual language immersion (Kiswahili and English) earlier in primary school or implement it in secondary school. The abrupt transition from education in Swahili to education in English is brutal and causes most failures.

They also paired up and brainstormed some questions to ask me so that we could discuss other issues or so they could just pick my brain a bit. They asked me lots of questions – some requests for additional support, some requests for a field trip to Gombe or the Livingston Memorial, some personal Qs (Do you have children? Why not? Are you married? Why not? How old are you? – most guessed in the 20s, so that was nice).

We took many pictures, coaxing smiles so the true personalities that I have come to know really shine through. After a long afternoon together, everyone was hungry (especially our Muslim students who were fasting for Ramadan). We bid farewell and everyone headed off in different directions toward their home villages. It was so fulfilling to see these students that I've known for years - grown, happy, excited to continue studying and very grateful for the support they've received from you!

For more pictures of this visit and plenty of smile shots, visit our Facebook page and click on the album entitled: Catching up with Our Students 2013. We would love your continued support as we support these students through secondary school and onward into nursing programs, vocational schools or high school. Please consider making a contribution and/or sharing our work with your friends and family.

Thank you so much!

Zainabu and Rai
Zainabu and Rai

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