Earls High School visits Tanzania. February 2019.

Kilicho na mwanzo sharity kiwi na mwisho …

… in Swahili means ‘everything that has a beginning has an end’ … it was the closest I could get to ‘all good things must come to an end’

It was an earlier start, breakfast at 7.30 so we could be on the bus for 8.30 with our last donations, all the clothes and shoes that parents had kindly given. The earlier start was to accommodate visiting Form IV classes and so it was that we visited Simon (the second master – like an assistant headteacher in our school) to watch a Geography class with the other group watching an English class. Both of the classes were much more engaging than the two we saw earlier, but then both teachers were much more experienced and had been at Umonga over a significant part of the time I have been working with the school. Three quarters of the way through the lesson Simon turned to me unexpectedly and wanted me to take over … fortunately it was about mortality rates and the different factors that effect it which allowed my love of biology to sneak in and give the lesson a particular slant. I used our students to add their knowledge to the lesson and one of the Umonga students raise some very good questions with me and kept pursuing it until all her questions were answered which was encouraging. Simon was pleased with our input which added to the knowledge of the class … phew!.

Then there was some downtime as they prepared the area for the celebration, doing their final rehearsals and getting students and chairs under the shade of the trees so that we could meet outside rather than in the assembly hall that gets a little too warm. We took the opportunity to run through our songs again … and then we gathered and the celebration began. It started with their head boy and girl thanking us for our visit and for sharing both our donations and our time with them … then Zach made his reply in Swahili … he had been practicing since last night and did a really good job, with a really heartfelt message that echoed all of our thoughts (I have a video that we will somehow make available after our return).

The Form I students had prepared some dancing and singing for us … tribal welcome, friendship and thank you dances from local to Dodoma but also other tribes from all over Tanzania … again we have video for another day. Four students played the drums with sticks or brambles and provided a range of rhythms for the dancers. Typical african music … great rhythm which you just had to tap your toe to.

What followed was slightly bizarre … ‘the beauties of Umonga’ did a cat walk … half dressed in western clothes, half in the sort of clothes you might see a smart Tanzanian wear … to the great delight of the crowd … lots of blowing kisses and kicked back heads and poses struck … to be honest, Fred took a video on my iPad but it wasn’t really the sort of thing I shall remember the trip for so I have deleted it! A couple of Form I girls then did a duet of a gospel song in English and then it was our turn … I made a speech in Swahili to remind the students that they had a headteacher who really cared for them, teachers who wanted to help them be their best and a school to be proud of … finishing with God bless Umonga, and God bless Tanzania … which always raises a cheer!

Over to The Earls students to serenade the school with two songs, ‘we are grateful, we are hopeful’ and ‘join the song’ which were well received and the celebrations were drawn to a close by a short speech from the headmistress.

Lunch was a grand affair as we had all of the teachers and three members of the school governing body join us, allowing us to expose the teachers to native spoken English which always helps their pronunciation and understanding which in the long term helps the students. It was a full blown affair with chicken, pilau, chipsi (of course), lovely potato casserole and bean stew, various salads and water or soda.

Then came the leaving … half an hour of last chats, and hugs, exchanges of information and bracelets … a few tears on both sides and we were on the bus heading to the mini market to stock up for our long journey tomorrow … on the bus, amidst some of the tears, some were saying (along the lines of) ‘I have so much and I just don’t deserve it, they have so little and live such a hard life but are so happy’ … my reply was, that one of the main aims of the trip, alongside helping the students and teachers of Umonga Secondary School to ensure improving results, is for the students of The Earls to reflect on their own lives and the hope is this will be a life changing experience for them … I know it has been for many in previous groups, although some always shed a tear now and have forgotten the emotion of the experience soon after … I hope that number remains in the vast minority.

And so back to the Four Points hotel … and time in the pool … I am tempted to post the blog and photos now and then add an update later as we seem to have WiFi now so best to strike whilst the iron is hot!

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