Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,
Greetings and apologies for a long overdue update on our scholarship program. It's amazing how life as a college professor can sweep me up at times! But, at long last - I have put in the hours to edit and compile video footage (interviews) with some of our students from this summer. So, keep reading!
Congratulations to Hindu and Khadija!
First, however, Lucas and I are happy to share some wonderful news! Our amazing students, Hindu and Khadija are graduating from their programs at the Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA). They began studying together two years ago and both pursued careers as administrative assistants.
Before they entered VETA, neither of them knew how to type or use computers. During this program, they have learned about shorthand, typing, using MicroSoft Office, communicating via email, and browsing the web for information. Each of them participated in two field placements (internships) in the Kigoma Region.
During their first internship, they worked in offices in Kasulu, about 3 hours from Kigoma town. In the second internship, Hindu traveled to Morogoro while Khadija worked in Kigoma town. In addition to computer skills, they learned important administrative duties - such as taking phone calls, making appointments, announcing visitors to their supervisors, and much more! They became members of an office community and developed skills that will serve them in various types of office settings around the country. In addition, both of them have continued to develop their English language skills and overall confidence.
Without doubt, both of these young women would be married and living in the village today, likely with children, if you hadn't helped us continue their support beyond secondary school. While we were committed originally only to support students through secondary school, we quickly realized that continued support was needed to really impact change. Following in the footsteps of Hindu and Khadija are Diana and Ismael, who have also continued their studies in VETA. Diana is studying clerical work and Ismael is becoming a car mechanic. Updates on them are coming soon!
Please, join me in congratulating Hindu and Khadija on their graduation (The ceremony is in December!) and let's wish them great success in finding a job that taps into their many new skills!
Insights from Our Students
Our next update is from Kagongo Secondary School. In August, Lucas and I went and visited with our new Girls Education International Form 1 students, and we also met with 6 of our current Project Wezesha students. These 6, Marieta, Olivia, Sango, Simoni, Mahamudu, and Ahmadi wanted to share with us some of the challenges that students are facing in the village schools. In this video, they share their honest views on the situation. I admire their willingness to speak candidly and their ability to think critically about the roots of their problems.
Before you watch, I have to also be an advocate for the teachers, who come under harsh judgement by the students at times. In many cases, it's true - the teachers are not performing at their best. The reasons for that vary from insufficient governement support (large class sizes, no textbooks), to disenchantment with living in the village (they don't get to choose where they work). Of course, other factors such as personality, motivation, and organization are likely contributors.
Two of our students mentioned that teachers come and go. The reality is that student teachers do come for their teaching practicum and internship on a short term basis. This seems to cause confusion for our students - understandably so. But, all student teachers do teaching internships. The key is to organize them well so that they compliment student learning and support existing curricula, not lead to disruption. But - this is work for another phase of our longterm vision!
For now, please take a moment to hear what our students have to share. And remember, at the end of the day - they still choose education over no education, even if the reality of their situation is less than ideal.
With sincere gratitude,
Rai Farrelly & Lucas LameckCo-founders, Project Wezesha
(Today is a big day - please read all the way to see why....)
It's June, which means that our students are only reaching the halfway mark in their school year (they start in January). The older students are gearing up for the often stressful mock exams, during which they simulate the state exams that determine whether or not they will pass secondary school with marks high enough to go to high school. In October, our Form 4 students will take the real state exams and then wait patiently for the results.
When we started our scholarship program, we faced disappointment alongside many of our students when they regularly failed to make the marks required to attend high school. We weren't disappointed in them, of course. We were disappointed in the system. We decided at that time to support them with funds to pay the fees at a local vocational school so they could continue their education beyond secondary school.
Two of our young ladies, Khadija and Hindu have been thriving at VETA (Vocational Education and Training Authority). They have been boarding at VETA in Kigoma town and studying computers and clerical skills. (*Note - both of them would have been married by now were it not for being in school - and neither was ready for that.)
Last fall, they traveled together to neighboring Kasulu town to complete a field internship. Again, this spring they have a similar opportunity. With this project report, we are seeking specific funding to support these girls as they near the completion of their program and earn their certificates. The funding needed by each isn't much - $200. This covers transport to and from Kasulu, work materials, and room and board while they work for the month.
Of course, in addition to supporting Hindu and Khadija, the funds we raise through this project continue to support the other students in our program - who range in their level of study from Form 2 to Form 4. It's an ongoing effort that we must sustain for as long as we have students in the program - which we hope will be for quite some time! As students graduate, more will be admitted. And as such, we continue to see education rates rise in rural Western Tanzania.
And so we still need you with us!
There is one great way that you can help us today. June 25th is a YouthSpark Bonus Day, which means that Microsoft is matching at 100% all donations between $10-$1000 per donor, per project (until the $200,000 runs out). Our project is part of this great campaign! In addition to 100% matching of donations up to $1,000, projects with the most unique donors will earn an additional $2,500 - so tell your friends! Every $10 donation will count! And, an additional $2500 will go to the project that raises the most money.
The window of opportunity for this Bonus Day is narrow: 12pm (EST) on June 25th (Wed) to noon on June 26th (EST). And - only as long as funds last, so dive in right at 12p (EST) to make sure your donation counts! (That's 11am in Texas, 10am in Colorado and Utah, 9am in Washington!)
Please post a link to our project on your social networking sites (see sharing buttons below), share this project report with friends, and ask as many people as you can to chip in just a little to help us generate the funds we need to continue supporting these students!
Thank you so much!!
Rai Farrelly & Lucas LameckCo-Founders, Project Wezesha
Greetings Project Wezesha Supporters!
We hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the start of a new season! I know in Tanzania, everyone is very excited about the coming end to a long rainy season ... ah, but of course - the water and vibrant green of the landscape during this season is so refreshing!
In Tanzania, our students actually start their school year in January (not August or September as in many parts of the world). So, they are in the early stages of a new school year. Nonetheless, the year is off to a race for some of them - namely Saidi, Dibeit and Tumsifu who are currently in Form 4. This means that these three very bright young men are rounding the bend in their secondary school experience.
They will take two mock exams this year and then in October, they will take the high stakes final exams to see if they qualify for entrance into high school (and we know they will!). At that point, we'll have some big decisions to make and we hope you'll join us in making them.
Thus far, our scholarship program has paid for secondary school fees for over 30 students. Some have completed secondary school and returned to their communities to plan 'next steps'. A few of them have moved on to the Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA) to specialize in particular occupations - namely, computer science (updates on them coming soon). Tumsifu, Dibeit, and Saidi will be our first students to qualify for high school (and again, we're sure they will!). Once they do, Project Wezesha will seek your support to see if we can manage the much higher tuition fees of high school (Form 5 and 6) education, which is required before a student can go to University.
Here's a quick refresher on Tumsifu, Saidi and Dibeit:
Tumsifu is a Form 4 student. He started at Kagongo Secondary School, then we moved him to a better government school with boarding facilities - so he could truly focus and dive into his studies. His grades have remained stellar and he is at the top of his class. His dream - to become either a doctor or engineer.
Saidi was one of our very first friends. I met him in 2008 and we began supporting him when he entered secondary school in 2011. Finally, he is coming to the end of his secondary school experience. Two years ago, he moved in with Lucas so that he could attend a better school in Kigoma town. That change, initiated by his father, has been instrumental in turning Saidi's life around. His grades have remained high, his English continues to improve and his dreams are in sight! Saidi hopes to be a teacher and he will be a great one!
We also met Dibeit in 2008. Dibeit and Saidi were the best of friends - always together, always eager to join us under the gazebo for English conversation time. Dibeit finished primary school with top honors and the government chose him to attend a private secondary school in Dodoma, Tanzania. He has grown so much in the past four years, even having the chance to visit the capital numerous times to visit family. His grades remain high, his smile big, and his spirit pure.
Please join us in wishing these boys luck as they prepare for these very important exams! When I visit this summer, I'll take all your well wishes and deliver them in person! In return, get ready for some great 'mug shots' and reports from all of our lovely students!
Rai Farrelly & Lucas Lameckco-founders, Project Wezesha
Happy Holidays to everyone from all of us at Project Wezesha!! And by everyone, I mean Lucas, Rai and the 30 children you help keep in school.
Twice a year, Lucas makes his rounds to the various schools where our scholarship students attend. He checks in with the headmasters and teachers, he gets updates on our students, and he collects report cards. Like a proud but nervous baba and mama, Lucas and I wait in anticipation as the grades roll in. Well, Lucas has more of a wait as he has to sit there as the headmaster or secondmaster meticulously copies from the grade books into a report for Lucas. Subject by Subject, score by score, letter grade by letter grade, and then finally the average. (I just have to open the email and see all of Lucas' scans.)
I'm not going to sugar coat it. Getting good grades in remote village schools is a challenge. (You can view a chat on the topic with our students Hindu and Saidi here.) Here's a quick refresher on the realities:
Does it seem like I'm preparing you for the worst? Well, in part - I am, but not completely.
Some of our students are not getting very good grades in their subjects. When they are selected to the scholarship program, we have them sign an agreement that states that they will maintain a certain grade average and if they fall below that average, they will receive tutoring for 4 months. If their grades don't come up, they will unfortunately lose support.
Can Lucas and I cut anyone from our program? No. Does that make us bad 'business people'? Maybe. But, I know that even when our students get an F or a D in their courses, it's not because they don't want an education. It's not because they hate to study or go to school. Most of them wake at 6am and walk for up to (and sometimes over) an hour each way without breakfast or lunch. (I love that last part because it sounds like a 'fly-in-the-eye' campaign - i.e., an exaggeration to tug at heart strings. It's just reality. I do the walk with them when I visit, and their capacity to storytell and sing the whole way there and back blows me away! I'm usually the one complaining about the heat, dust, distance.) They are failing and flailing due to no fault of their own. The system - it's all about the system, no matter where in the world you look. So, until the system changes (and beyond) - we'll stand by them.
But, the good news is - we have some shining SUPERSTARS in the group who show us the potential of a bright young child when given the right balance of support (i.e., financial, emotional, physical and familial) and determination.
So here are the highlights!! (i.e., the Good News)(Note on Curving the Grade Scale: American A = TZ village B; American B = village C; students are praised for receiving Cs and Ds)
Amina, one of our first year Form 1 students really blew me away! She scored a B in Civics, Geography, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology!! There's no stopping her if she can keep this up! Bravo, Amina!
Rahma, another new Form 1 student, earned an A in English, B in French, and a C in History, Geography, Chemistry and Physics. She has quite the range of strengths!
Khadija was one of our first ever scholarship students. She graduated from secondary school and now studies at the Vocational Training and Education Authority. She is doing exceptionally well and has secured a B average and a rank of 3rd in her class. Her favorite subjects appear to be French and Computer Applications.
Tumsifu is one of our Form 4 students. His overall, cumulative grade average is B!! That is amazing, folks. His top subjects are Civics, History, Biology and Geography.
Simoni, a new Form 1 student, was sure to be a rockstar. Our intern Katy knew that about him the first time she taught as a guest in his class. Sure enough, quiet little Simoni secured an A in Civics, Chemistry, Biology and Swahili with a B in History and English. He has an overall B average!
Samiru, one of our new Form 1 students, had a very successful first year. He earned a B in Geography and a C in Physics, Chemistry and Math!!
George had an amazing first year with an A in Biology and English and a B in History, Geography, Swahili, Math, French and Chemistry! Way to go!!
Mussa, another new Form 1 student, rounded out his first year with a B in the following: Physics, Biology, and Chemistry!! Wow! Go, Mussa!!
Mahamudu also joins his Form 1 peers with a strong start, earning a B in Physics and Chemistry. (I'll have to praise these STEM field teachers when I see them this summer!)
Ezekial, another Form 1 student, earned a B in History, English and Biology.
Albert held strong during his Form 1 year with a B in Civics and a C in Geography, Swahili, Biology and Physics!
And last but never ever the least, my best buddy since 2008 - Saidi!! Saidi moved from the village school in Kiganza last year to live with Lucas and attend a private school in town. His father wanted our support in that decision because the village school wasn't keeping up with Saidi.
Saidi, as a Form 3 student, has earned an A in Math, Physics, Commerce, Swahili, and Beekeeping! He has a B in Civics, English, History, Geography, Chemistry, and Biology!! He is ranked 2nd in his class - in a big private town school! Remarkable!!
Wow - what an update! I wish I had more high grades to report, but you know - we're really just proud of all of our students for continuing to get up every day and go to class. In fact, after recieving the reports, I emailed Lucas to find out why some of them were not doing so well. He went to their schools, met their teachers and conducted interviews. The findings: they wanted to be there, their attendance was good, their family support was in place, and they were having no problems at home. I can't point a finger at the exact problem, but many factors are at play - student motivation and desire are NOT two of them. So, keep it up, kids!
Thank you so much to all of you for helping us keep them in school, in pursuit of their dreams. We're in this for the long haul. You'll know how they're doing now and and down the road.
For now, there are three things you can do to help us:
With love and gratitude,Rai Farrelly and Lucas Lameck
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!
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Co-Founder, Project Wezesha; Treasurer, Girls Education International