Earls High School visits Tanzania. February 2019.

Rubbing shoulders with Tanzanians in their everyday lives …

Apologies, the WiFi went down after the students went to bed, which is my time to post the blog … after some work we got the WiFi up in the morning but it wasn’t strong enough to upload the photos … so just words today sorry … if it’s better later I will upload the photos and republish …

Our last day of teaching dawned bright and warm with everyone feeling a little jaded to be honest … the heat takes it out of you and the interaction with people who we struggle to understand and who struggle to understand us takes it out of you, let alone standing in front of a class and delivering good teaching.

We decided on a later start at the school so that we could do a few bits before we set off including practising a couple of songs for the celebration tomorrow and some time in the pool, just in case we didn’t have time later … and so we set off at 10.45. We gathered in the headmistresses office for a few minutes and I’ve included a photo because it shows students and the office.

We had a bit of a surprise when we got to our classrooms … the plan was to teach our last class today, so that every Form I student had received three lessons from us … however, the senior master at Umonga had decided to be helpful … he had noticed that all of the classes were a bit full, over 60 students in each, so he decided to remove some students from one class and redistribute the rest to give smaller classes … as you will realise that doesn’t work because now we had students in all classes we were teaching today who had either already been taught the lesson or hadn’t been taught it and some students who had only had two lessons who were not being taught today. In our de-brief later I discussed the difficulties of teaching and that whilst this was an extreme example, teachers face this sort of thing all the time, where some students get what you are teaching really quickly, whilst others don’t get it at all, so you have to be flexible, think on your feet, and adapt … and we all did.

After teaching we had to wait for a seminar to finish in the assembly hall and then went in to have our lunch. I spotted that ndazi were part of the lunch for the seminar guests and we were fortunate that they had plenty, so we managed to get them added to our lunch. Ndazi are like a doughnut but less sweet and are often eaten as a snack or for breakfast … they had the seal of approval from our students and we even asked for the recipe so that we can share it with you all … cook will write it out for us tomorrow in Swahili and English.

After lunch we were supposed to be observing the Form II classes but something didn’t work out with that, so after Miss Barnes met with the senior maths master to discuss maths teaching and had a look at a Form IV (GCSE equivalent) maths paper from last year, we headed off for our walk to town. The whole point of the afternoon was for us to rub shoulders with Tanzanian people going about their every day lives, to see where they shop and get a feel for what life is like in Dodoma.

We took a short cut that took us through the side streets and headed for the centre of town. The market I wanted to take the students to is a covered food market in which you can purchase anything from root ginger, potatoes and onions, to chilli peppers, plantain by the lorry load, fresh meat, rice and cassava.

There was some moaning and groaning about the smell, and the spider webs, but I really wanted the students to wander the narrow walk ways and see the difference between our markets and super markets … it is a place I really love because to me it is raw Tanzania … I wish we had somewhere like it at home.

From there we walked further through the streets of Dodoma heading towards a section where last time we found some great souvenirs and to give the students a chance to barter, for many, for the very first time. Unfortunately the shops were not open in that area so we walked further to find a number of stalls that had some great produce. We spent some time helping the students understand how to barter, letting them have a go and advising along the way, from a distance, and they seem to have done pretty well on the whole … Zach possibly with the Arthur Daley award as I think he managed some of the best deals! (Sorry that was a reference for some of our older readers!). A couple of students said that they felt bad, because they knew that even the original price was a good one and these were poor people … so we talked about the traders seeing mzungu (white people) coming and doubling/tripling the price and expecting to be knocked down … and they would have bought the items at a good price so even paying less than half meant they still made a good profit. I was looking for a bracelet to replace the one I bought in 2015 which was looking slightly worse for wear … I couldn’t find one similar, so the stall holder made me one from scratch in less than fifteen minutes … I have to admit to doing a negative barter, paying twice as much as he asked, because I was so impressed with him.

The last stop … after a quick visit to Mama Kings mini market … a tradition that is now three visits long, we went to complete another tradition … a group photo in liberation (or Julius Nyerere) square.

Life can be quite quirky can’t it? We are in a city of 650,000 people (probably more now) … as we were just about to get onto the minibus to return to the hotel, a man approached me with a broad grin on his face … I thought he looked familiar but had no real idea … he greeted me with “Hello Mr Phil, it is good to see you” … he was Vincent, the minister from the church we visited for a service last time, and had remembered me two years later in a chance encounter … lovely to catch up, even briefly, and share a smile.

Then back to the hotel for sometime in the pool … where I had another bit of typical Tanzanian … I asked the hotel staff for tea by the pool whilst I write the blog and kept watch, so the students can swim … well I got the water, a cup, some sugar and a sachet of coffee … no tea in sight … I guess I could have gone to ask for the tea bag once Miss Hackett and Miss Barnes arrived, but somehow it would have spoilt the experience!

Dinner was, as usual, really nice … although we had chipsi again! Another typically Tanzanian situation is that on one night only so far have there been enough forks for everyone … the students are all fine, but the teachers tend to end up with a spoon and a knife … I said something after Monday and on Tuesday there were more than enough forks … last night we were one short again and then tonight we were back to spoons for all teachers … it’s not really a bind … but I have just had a word with the manager again … and he as promised we will have enough tomorrow … we shall wait and see … I’ve informed him we have three extras tomorrow as it is our celebration meal, with Rose and two teachers from Umonga … I’ll keep you updated on forkgate!

Another singing practice was held after dinner so that we are prepared for tomorrow … I’ve just got to translate my farewell speech (and Zach’s as he has decided that as head boy he should say a few words in Swahili to the school) with the help of Fred and then we can settle down to some card games … it has been a real pleasure to spend our evenings with the students playing Trivial Pursuits and Monopoly (interesting as card games, and lots of fun) and other card games …

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