Wanafunzi na Walimu
Thursday (July 5th) I rolled out of bed (Is there a bed size smaller than a single? In Tanzania there is.) and hit the road with the indefatigable Daniel Kambewe once more. This time I set out to find the bus station on my own. I was fairly confident on the location, but I sought out directions for a little self-assurance. So I asked the one of the many friendly AK-47-wielding security guards. Predictably, the guard gave me the classic Arusha directions: “Go that way then ask someone else.” Thanks kaka.
After meeting up with Daniel, we ducked into the nearest Mama restaurant for some quick chapatti and chai, the breakfast of champions. Then I grabbed my favorite dalla dalla snack of cream biscuits and mango juice (Yup… I totally spelled dalla dalla wrong in my last post). We traveled two hours north to the town of Longido, which is about 25 km from the Kenyan border. The town consists of 5 buildings, a substantial Maasai population, and many many donkeys. Not even able to find a lone boda boda to take us to the office, Daniel and I headed to the district education office on foot.
Weaving our way through the Maasai cattle drives and unclaimed, wandering donkeys, Daniel and I made it to the office. We found the door labeled “Corruption Free Zone” and entered. Daniel gave the regular Swahili spiel about Asante Africa, the debate training, and the why there was a mzungu sitting next to him. The man explained that he was only the “acting” district education officer, but he would be happy to help. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to print the list of Longido district schools for him. So we went to the internet café in town and printed the list. When we returned only 20 minutes later, we found a different man sitting in the DEO office. So, Daniel repeated the spiel. This man happily explained that he, too, was the acting DEO. So what’s better than one acting DEO? Well, two acting DEO’s I guess. Maybe they were just trying to one-up Monduli District. Either way, we got our letter of permission, the last piece of the puzzle, and headed back to Arushatown.
(sneakily took a picture of the Maasai behind me in Longido)
On the dalla dalla back to town, I observed the many conversations occurring in the van. But this wasn’t at all out of the ordinary. Either everyone in Tanzania knows each other (doubtful in a country of 46 million), or people are just friendlier here. People actually stop to talk to each other and get offended if you don’t. That’s why every time I meet a Tanzanian they love to play the greeting game. It goes a little something like this:
1: Ay, mambo? (How are things?)
2: Poa, vipi kaka? (Cool, how are things with you brother?)
1: Safi sana, upo poa? (Very nice, you’re good?)
2: Poa kabisa boss. Habari zako? (Absolutely boss. How are you?)
1: Nzuri. Habari za kazi? (Good. How’s work?)
2: Nzuri sana. Je wewe? (Good, and you?)
1: Poa, boss, poa. Karibu sana. (Cool. Most welcome.)
2: Asante sana. (Thank you.)
It’s pretty standard to be going through the greeting motions for about 5 minutes before you talk about anything worthwhile.
As for Friday (July 6th), there’s not too much to report. Friday was a straightforward workday. I wrapped up my analysis of the surveys that the teachers filled out before and directly after the public debate training workshops they attended in October 2011. Then I planned out a course of action for evaluation with Daniel and Albert.
On Saturday (July 7th), I attended the Tanzanian team’s strategic meeting at the Blue Heron Inn in Arusha. While sipping delicious fruit juices, we discussed the state of Asante Africa Foundation TZ. Attending the meeting afforded me the opportunity to see the everyday struggles of a growing NGO, from building and maintaining strong relationships (because community-based NGOs are really only as strong as the relationships they build) to deciding how best to use very scarce resources. For example, with limited funding, is it better to follow a student with funding through university or fund more students but only through high school? Or is it better to spend money on training teachers who reach 50 students or more a day, keeping in mind that even more students can’t afford to attend school? It gets pretty dicey when you try to quantify the impact of education. You can’t exactly whip up a black-and-white cost-benefit analysis—there are just too many variables. There are also the cultural barriers to providing quality education to all, especially girls. Asante Africa scholarship coordinator Albert Jumbe (whom I will talk about in my next post) told me that he recently “lost” a Maasai girl scholarship recipient to marriage. Albert, who truly cares about all of Asante’s scholarship students, took it hard when the girl fell off the face of the earth, sent off to marry a much older Maasai man at the drop of a hat. Alberty explained to me that many Maasai families see daughters as dowry checks just waiting to be cashed. Then there’s the question of infrastructure. Sure, you can train a teacher and pay for a student to attend school, but what if the school is nothing more than four walls and a dirt floor and class sizes averaging 100 students. The problem of education is a can of worms, and there’s no straight solution. (Steph, sounds like a conversation we would have!)
Er… sorry to be a downer. That last paragraph kind of took a turn.
But in happier news, there are dedicated people Erna who start organizations like Asante Africa. Not only that, there are people like Daniel Kambewe and Albert Jumbe who take an interest in their communities. Okay, now this paragraph is turning a little sappy. What I’m trying to say is it’s grim situation. But that’s no reason to cry uncle and give up. I’ve met a lot of wanafunzi (students) and walimu (teachers). They’re bright and driven. They actually want to go to school. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the hardest part of the equation.
Now it’s probably a good time to address the “What about our own country’s problems? Shouldn’t we take care of our own first?” argument. It’s an incredibly valid and valuable criticism of foreign aid work. True, the United States has many ailments; when walking in some parts of Atlanta, the homeless man is ubiquitous. But, working domestically and working abroad are not mutually exclusive endeavors. And, a littler bit goes a longer way here in Tanzania.
That’s all for now! As always, to be continued…