Earls High School visits Tanzania. February 2019.

God bless the rains down in Africa …

And man has it rained … but Toto had it right, the rains are welcomed here, but more of that later.

We decided that a slightly later start was in order today because of our late arrival yesterday … and it was definitely the right move … we had breakfast at 8, then spent some time sorting through all of the wonderful donations we had brought with us, deciding what we could take today and what we could leave for another day, or leave for our visit to the primary school. Then we spent some time perfecting our lessons ready for tomorrow.

After loading all of the people plus half of the bags of donations into a minibus … a bit of a squeeze to say the least … we headed off to Umonga. We arrived when all was quiet as students were in lessons, went into the staff room where all of the teachers introduced themselves, their name and subject, whilst I went and greeted Rose (Msafiri, headteacher) to get the day started.

Very soon, there was a buzz of anticipation as the Umonga students realised we were in the school … I’d spent some time working with our students on what to expect, on how to react, not to draw Tanzanian students into interactions when that could get them the birch (they still have corporal punishment over here … a whack with a stick onto the palm of the hand) … so they were calm and measured and reacted in a very mature manner and really impressed me … no drama, no histrionics even when flies tried to share their lunch, which was quite some self discipline from one or two of our students!

We had lunch in the assembly hall (built in 2009 by the business men of Claverley, a small village just outside Bridgnorth and the founders of the relationship with Umonga) and then it was time for the welcome ceremony. it is worth noting the Tanzanian custom of washing your hands just before you eat, often, in a private house having the host administer the hot water from a jug …

Firstly we were introduced to the head prefect, the head boy, the head girl and the first secretary, all students in form III or IV (there are four year groups or forms in the school) and then it was my turn … in my best Swahili, which really isn’t great but Fred helped and my pronounciation and spelling has improved markedly … the students only chuckled a little at what I said … The Earls students introduced themselves in Swahili, as did our teachers and then we sang them a song (call and response in English and Swahili that Miss Hackett had put together and the students learned quickly) before we were serenaded by the Form I students in English and Swahili.

Then we had a Q&A with Rose where she told us the history of the school and explained that a school day starts at 7.30 am with the students cleaning the school, including the toilets, picking up litter, sweeping the classrooms and the site with some mopping on Friday, with teaching running through until 5pm apart from Fridays when they finish early so that the Muslim children can go to prayers. She explained that secondary school is now free to parents up to form IV but although they had, since the start of February, cooked food for students, still only 50% purchased the food, the rest went without all day (including the orphans – more on that later as I think it through as it only costs 12,000 tsh to feed a student for a month which is about £10) … but what was nice to see was how the school has developed since I started the educational partnership with them in 2012, and how they have spent some of the money that we have donated over that time … including developing staff accommodation with our partnership enshrined in the wall.

After a journey back to the Four Points Hotel via a supermarket someone found about that the WiFi was fixed … but only two or three could be on at any one point … so joy, and consternation but I managed to finally, over an hour and a half get the blog from yesterday to upload with pictures … worth the effort I hope?

Unfortunately the pool wasn’t fit to be used today, which was disappointing for all, something about the chlorine levels … but yet again the students rose to the occasion with no questions or concerns and just enjoyed the time on the swings and roundabout … Miss Barnes and Fred popped off to the police station … an experience all of its very own … and we settled down to a nice dinner of marinaded beef cubes and vegetables, with the obligatory chipsies!

Suddenly the skies opened and a rain storm of biblical proportions, with huge lightning bolts and incredibly loud thunder that made the earth shake fell upon us … and as I write four hours later, it is still raining but more subdued in the last 30 minutes … meaning that parts of the hotel let in water where you thought they should remain dry … lots more insects invaded the hotel to get away from the rain, corridors flooded and a couple of rooms had small puddles in them … there was some consternation at the thunder, but we calmed them with games of cards and quiet words and got through it. Some however, you would have been forgiven for thinking they had never seen rain before … they were a touch hyper, but I think part of that was from the emotion of the day needing a release …

Well, I’m off to bed, if this and the photos will upload quickly … looking forward to a fresh bright day tomorrow … for now I will sleep with the sound of the toads in my ears as the heavy rain has awoken them from their slumber … good night all … Mr L

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