Earls High School visits Tanzania. February 2019.

A day of mixed emotions …

We set off for school earlier this morning but we’re still able to maintain a sensible breakfast time … slowly but surely the students are thinking more about the quantities of food they take and leaving less waste … but still some way to go with some!

Today was our day to visit Kaloleni Primary School, the school that shares a site with Umonga … the primary school was built in 1958 by the British just before liberation and to be honest it looks as though it hasn’t been touched since … in 2007 Umonga was built at the opposite end of the site. Since 2012 I have been trying to get a british primary school to partner Kaloleni but despite two putting themselves forward we have not built a relationship that has really made an impact on them … if there is a parent out there who works in a primary school and you would like to take up the challenge I would be really happy to talk to you on our return.

The new headteacher, Edna, who was a teacher there on my last visit and has been head for a year, talked to us about the school and the challenges they face … number one being the lack of a fence around the school, secondly resources (they have many more desks than on my last visit mostly because the new president, Magafuli, in 2015 put a lot of money into equipping schools with enough desks, but in one class they still only had enough for half the students, and in all classes they were three or four to a double desk) and teachers … sickness and a lack of trained teachers. They have 25 teachers on the books for 650 students, most classes were 70 plus students with some well over 80. The classrooms are in a shocking state, the roof is water tight, just … but the suspended ceiling is rotting, the doors are hanging off their hinges, the walls are poorly maintained because of lack of money … I could go on. The students were lovely and their books were immaculate … our students commented on the presentation and care they took … far better than their own they decided … we discussed the teachers use of the stick to maintain discipline which also focuses the students attention to detail!

Then it was straight back across the “playground” to Umonga for us to teach our next classes. Two groups went straight in and got on with it but when my group gathered outside our classroom we found the teacher administering discipline to students in her class and we were asked to wait ten minutes. Some of my group witnessed discipline before I realised what what was going on … the teacher told the young man to hold out his hand and then hit his palm with a thin stick. How many were disciplined is anyone’s guess … and my group were a little shocked … we had a quiet talk about it, talked briefly about going in there and giving our best despite what we had seen so that those students weren’t disadvantaged … and they did … I have used a lot of superlatives in this blog but I really was blown away … I took far more of a back seat, they stood up with confidence and taught brilliantly … the best so far. In our de-brief with the other groups everyone talked about how they felt today’s teaching compared to yesterday and everyone talked about their increased confidence, improved lesson flow because of the reflections we had done in our groups and increased pace meaning we could get more into our hour and twenty minutes.

We discussed the ‘discipline’ as a whole group and I explained that we cannot sit in judgment over it … the cane and the slipper were in regular use when I was in school and that is only 40 years ago and the Tanzanian use of it just means that their education system has not evolved as far as ours has … so we cannot condemn it, just understand where they are and hope that our influence means that it evolves faster.

I am really pleased with the way our students get involved in our de-briefs… they reflect well and I particularly liked they way they don’t mind praising each other … George got a special mention today from his group because they had asked Miss Hackett to back right out and just watch today and they actually struggled a bit but George’s confidence and assertiveness really helped them. They other thing was that they had picked up on my comments yesterday and reported being far more assertive with those who were slow to get started or who were looking disengaged … I am very proud of each and every one of them.

We had a chance to see a Form III class in action in the afternoon, we split into either Chemistry or Geography … some thought that the level was much higher than out GCSE, which I agree with, and talked about the lecture style and the teachers comment of ‘are we together’ every few minutes which is their attempt to ask the class if they have understood, but no one would dare to let on that they didn’t so is fairly redundant …

I’ve titled this a day of mixed emotions … and that is because I got a little emotional after we had visited the Form III classes because we came back to hear a Christian group practicing before their service later this evening in the assembly hall … Rose tells me that the letting of the hall to this church paid for four extra part time teachers last year and it is the whole reason the business men built the hall in the first place, to support the school by giving them a venue they could rent out … the first time I had witnessed its use for this purpose, and I felt a small lump, that a journey started ten years ago is having impact … those business men did something special when they raised the money and built the hall.

Then it was sports time … we had the photo with the students in the Halles Hawks kit and then a game … and even Fred got involved, as a goalkeeper and did us proud … some went off to play rounders and a couple of the girls sat with a group of primary children, quite spontaneously and played some games with them (see the photos) it was wonderful to see them take a lead and have the confidence to engage with the youngsters.

So then it was back to the hotel, some time in the pool, freeing Archie who was the latest to be locked in this room and then getting ready for dinner. I have asked for dinner to be as Tanzanian as possible and they have been doing us proud … and it was commented that tonight was the best yet …

I met with a couple of Tanzanian friends whilst Miss Hackett and Miss Barnes practiced a song with the students as we prepare for the farewell celebration on Friday … great to meet a couple of teachers who I have known since the start of this work, who I brought to the uk and see how we do things … to discuss their latest projects … Rama is now in a new school and really enjoying his teaching whilst developing a farming business; Hotty is concentrating on his political career and is running for office in the general election of 2020, whilst running his fish business … both have children under school age … teachers in Tanzania are not paid enough to only have one career, they need another business alongside it if they are wanting to have a family … I don’t know how they do it … well actually I do … the teaching suffers because it is only part of what they do in any one day … so the students lose out which is one of the reasons why the government schools results are not as good as the private schools where they pay a better wage.

Well time to sign off for another day … another successful day … now all I need is good WiFi so I can post some pictures … we’ve got so many good ones from today …

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