I’m starting this early, because it is after 12 midnight and instead of limiting my sleep by waking me up early, Africa has decided to limit my sleep by stopping me getting asleep in the first place. All manner of mayhem is going on outside my window it seems. A baby has been crying on and off for about the last hour. The sound carries so well, they may as well in on the same room. Some sort of cat has strayed into our compound and the dogs have gone bananas, chased it, the cat has squealed back at them, they are barking, the cat’s hissing and howling , they are unsettled. Aarghh!!!!???
Eventually the commotion died down and sleep fell upon me, right up til the morning chorus again at 6:30am. Today is another busy day so I’m going to start the day with a good breakfast. I decided on French toast. Our little two ring burner is amazingly powerful. A frying pan is heated super quick and it takes seemingly no time to fry up my French toast. We discovered that extraction might be an issue with my french toast culinary adventure as following this the dining area and the kitchen were noticeably - hazy - lets say. (Others might say smoky!)
Anyway, following breakfast we headed off to Msalato school (myself, Craig and Chloe) to work our stencilling genius on the classroom we didn’t get finished last week, while everyone else headed to Bwawani school to pick up kids for food distribution. The kids are necessary, because so far as I can see, there are no “street” names and no numbers on properties. You therefore can only know where a food parcel goes if you know exactly where a child lives or the child takes you.
The houses these children come from are closer to the kids4school lodge and the main Dodoma road, so nowhere near as rural as the children from Zepisa school. As a consequence the conditions these children live in are not quite as basic as those we had witnessed previously on the Zepisa school food run. We asked what Kids4school’s policy was on child food, uniform and school support and what they said was that originally they had gone to schools and asked which children needed support but found that the names coming forward were typically children of teachers or their friends. They then decided that the fairest way was to go into schools and support a full year group and then the following year continue to support those kids as they went into the year above but then support the new children entering that same year group. Over the course of the years operating that principle, they now have schools in which they support all children from standard 1 up to standard 5. Obviously, this means in another couple of years, they will be supporting the whole school. The consequence of this policy is that while some children are very obviously in need of aid, it is fair to say looking at some of the houses that some are not quite as in need. But I guess if it means you have to provide for a few who don’t need it to make sure that those who do need the aid are getting it, then that’s acceptable.
The food distribution activity is very rewarding for both kids4school and our team members. During the course of this, you will inevitably meet/come across other children who are not at school or on the programme and it is an opportunity to give them a little gift – like bubbles – to show you care. This also highlights to families the work that kids4schol are doing in the area and that education is something they can obtain even if they mightn’t be able to afford a uniform themselves.
Meanwhile back in Msalato, we finished off the classroom and hopefully improved the learning environment for another class of children. At times it seemed everyone was an English scholar –
“Hey Masungo! Gud moahning! How aah yu toe-day!”
“Im very well. How are you!”
“Fine”. “Hee hee!” – and then the rest of their friends laugh on.
As we were finishing up, one class was either using a song as a means of learning a particular lesson in school or it was indeed it was a music class and this was a song they had to learn. But across the school you could hear the singing – and very nice it was! The teacher says something and the song repeats, but louder. He says something again and the volume is once more increased. This was enthusiastic singing. And then from the opposite side of the school another class have started singing. I’m not sure it was the same song, but the volume was almost as loud. More words from a teacher and what we know have is a sing-off between these two classes as to who could sing loudest! Very pleasant sounds in the morning! The thought however had crossed our minds that maybe these kids were just practising for the football competition on Friday. What we were hearing were the “Msalato Massive”, getting their chants ready for Friday and when their team arrived on the pitch at Chihanga, they were going to make sure that the whole area knew who they were! Time will tell.
The whole team were back together then after lunch for more food distribution out of Chikote secondary school. These are older children than we have met so far – and consequently their English is more developed. The school is very similar to the primary schools we had seen and while we didn’t get into any classes, I do get the impression that the classes are not as crowded as in the primary schools. The children are still very friendly, but you don’t get mobbed as in primary school – I guess teenagers everywhere are too cool for that! As the kids4school program follows a child through their full education, I guess this actually helps the child at secondary school fend off any stigma attached from receiving food aid. “We get aid because the whole class at our primary school got aid and I will continue to get this all through school. You should have went to our school!”
During the food distribution we managed to get the attention of the local police who pulled over one of our landrovers for a routine stop. The temptation was there among several of our group to say to the policeman “You’re only pulling us over because we are white! This is harassment!”. However, I hear that Tanzanian jails are not pretty places and chain-gang work in Tanzanian heat can be very tiring, so discretion won the day. The opportunity however was there to wind up Jackie - the kids4school person in charge – when we met up down the road. Stories of 50 000 shilling fines, the result of Constellata drinking in the front seat, no seatbelts on, doors not closing properly on the vehicle we relayed and she fell for it completely. So much so that her hand was in her pocket ready to re-imburse.
We continued to meet kids during the runs, handing out bubbles to anyone we saw, or hairbands or small balls – which frankly there was a frenzy for when they saw we had one (think back to Dan’s experiences on Sunday). There are always smiles, even when they find out there is no more.
After completing the food runs, some of us went for a walk into the nearest village to try to buy a pineapple only to find that because they are out of season, you would have to go into Dodoma town centre (where we got our last ones). We weren’t that keen! While in the village we got the usual situation of people practising their English on us, but we were struck by one girl Christine (again with 3 friends who were loving the fact that she was able to talk to the “foreign persons” – as we were formally called by one of the kids at Chikote school. Masungo translates as foreign person/European). We were able to have a proper conversation with her rather than the type of modern-languages-GCSE-prepared-oral-conversation we could have with most children. As part of all this, she told us she was only 9 years old. Impressive! The people in Tanzania may look poor, but while they may lack opportunity for an advanced education like ours, they are every bit as smart and capable.
Back at the lodge, after dinner we discussed what else we could do as part of the interschool football tournament to involve as many as possible, so a full Olympic programme has been devised. Hopefully you can get enough children into the back of a tipper truck (not a typo!) so that each school can represent. It could be a very good day.
What happens when you drink a glass of water from the tap here when taking your Doxy tablet instead of bottled water? Stayed tuned J…..