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