We have been very busy these past 8 weeks with the care of one of the orphans in the village. 19-year-old Amadeus suffered a car accident at the end of September this year. He had been living with Bibi Lema in the village. He struggled to give himself an education because the scarcity of both teachers and books at his government secondary school left him wanting good instruction by the end of form 4 – year 11 UK equivalent. I don’t blame the government for this although they, as in any modern country, could do more. I believe the problem lies with the demographics in Tanzania. Fully 45% of the population is 14 years and under. With a low tax-base, that leaves the older 65% struggling to support those who wish to be in school. In any country with poor infrastructure and few resources this would be a difficult challenge. To overcome the problem many people here try as best they can to send their children to private schools. By western standards this is not very expensive as there is a lot of competition. We supported Amadeus last year in such a scheme. He attended a small private school where we were assured that the teachers would do their level best for him. His accident changed all of that. In the end his injuries overwhelmed him and he passed away November 25th, 2013.
During this time and starting in August this year I conducted art classes in Lyamungo Sinde Primary School in response to the art work I brought with me to Tanzania from Roxwell Primary School in Essex, UK. I wanted the children to learn not just about art, which is not on the curriculum here but also about their own wildlife, much of which they will never see. Safaris are for the visitors. Local people rarely take the opportunity to venture out so they only know about the wildlife from others’ accounts. I chose to illustrate ‘The Big Five” for the children – lion, leopard, giraffe, hippo, rhino and to get them into painting.
We were fortunate to have a visit from a group of students from Francis Holland School here in London who had come on another mission but who, by special request generously brought with them the art materials we needed for this project.
As well as my art classes I have been meeting with the headteachers of the 2 other primary schools in Lyamungo Sinde. The Mwowe School, situated nearer to the Mosque and built on a plot provided by the mosque has more Muslim pupils but as with Lyamungo Sinde Primary, it does not discriminate. Both Muslims and Christians are encouraged to attend.
The 3rd school, Lyamungo Ari (standing for Agricultural Research Institute) is located on a government plot near to the coffee growers research station, TACRI (Tanzania Coffee Research Institute). As coffee is one of the agricultural mainstays of the community, TACRI is also one of the main employers.
Whereas Mwowe Primary is nearly the equivalent in size to Lyamungo Sinde, the Ari school only has 100 pupils. Altogether then, there are approximately 530 pupils at primary level in the village. My enquiries of the headteachers determined that of those 530 there are about 70 who are in the categories of real need. Collectively we determined that the children in most need fell into 3 categories:
- Missing both mother and father
- missing their mothers and therefore potentially vulnerable
- missing either one or the other parent and vulnerable but living with grandparent.
We felt it was important to establish these criteria as the level of general need in the village might well overwhelm the resources of a small charity such as ours.
From these deliberations I will create a list of pupils that we can help, up to the 70 identified. We have agreed that the list will be verified by the village committee so that we remain completely transparent. This was one of the conditions I insisted on at the start. The good thing about Lyamungo Sinde is that the village committee is very strong and very committed to helping the community as much as possible.
Meanwhile, back in the UK now for Christmas, I’m hoping to consolidate the twinning between L.S. Primary and Roxwell and to see about a possible dialogue between the 2 sets of pupils. More soon.