The updates below are from members of a group visiting our link dioceses of Mara, Tarime and Rorya in Tanzania in February 2015. Several of the group are teachers from schools across the diocese visiting link projects and schools in Tanzania to gain first hand experience to bring back into their classrooms and enrich the lives of our children here.
Final update: 25 February 2015 - What an experience… now what about the future?
This final update is from Gill Johnson, Education Development Officer in the Diocesan Education Team. It records some highlights of the trip as well as explaining plans for the future...
We have returned from a fantastic two weeks of vibrant culture, school education, both fee-paying and the poorest of government schools, and the amazing sights of the Serengeti and Lake Victoria.
Our teachers group experienced snapshots of education in Tanzania and a country rich in generosity and desperate in need. It was good to learn from the projects that diocesan schools have supported.
The goat project at BRAC (see photo left) now advises government projects across the country as well as supporting local communities and individuals. Our diocesan schools are required to consider how Christian values are embedded in daily life in school, and projects like the goat project epitomise those values and teach us much.
As Jonathan wrote in an earlier blog, the key to this area is the need for a clean and sustainable water supply. We visited three projects where schools in the diocese are working 'bega kwa bega' (shoulder to shoulder) with those in need of the basic human right of clean water.
Whilst our schools here in Yorkshire have been able to fundraise for the Water for Life (schools) projects, and continue to do so, our children will now learn first-hand from the cross curricular projects written by the teachers on this trip (with help from our resident water engineer, Jonathan).
Various curriculum projects are being finished by the teachers as I write and will be available very soon on the diocesan website. Maths, science, literacy, IT etc will all be freely available to enhance global citizenship. Pupils will be able to work out just how much piping and guttering is needed for the roof area of the church to create a usable water harvesting system for example (see photo above).
Over the past year we have been developing school to school links, and it was a joy to visit some of those schools. Songs and dances had been created and were performed especially to celebrate the links and our visit (see photo left).
Believe it or not, sack races and egg and spoon races are all part of the fun in Tanzania too, although fresh limes replaced eggs in the races we saw. (See photo right)
Health and safety has not yet reached Tanzanian schools, so the race with glass bottles filled with sand on pupils’ heads was fine.....really...
And then, perhaps we could do some work comparing worship styles - burning flames on the heads of dancers in Musoma Cathedral compared to 8am 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Spot the difference!
So what now?
Following on from the highly successful goat project, I hope that we will be able to launch another harvest appeal this year to support BRAC. This time we will be seeking to support their work as they help young teenagers rescued from the appalling conditions in the gold mines.
BRAC is not only restoring a sense of self-worth and hope, but giving training to enable these young people to return to their villages as competent and officially qualified farmers, able to advise on agriculture and lead local communities in more sustainable land and village management. This raises the individual and the community to a new level of success and self-belief.
We are also increasing our schools links, and thanks must go to Canon Arthur and Melina in Mara for all they are doing to make this possible. They tell me that the links have led to a new way of working with the schools there, and the benefits are significant, as they are for schools here too.
The future is one of hope and joy in both Tanzania and West Yorkshire. Watch this space... the link is flourishing in a new direction as education becomes richer for us all. Bwana Asifiwe!
Update 7: 24 February 2015 - Primary Schools in Tanzania
This update is from Marcus Newby, Head of East Bierley Primary School.
We travelled within Mara, Tarime and Rorya dioceses in Northern Tanzania - to learn from and reinforce our links with a good number of primary schools.
The photo left is typical of a Tanzanian primary school.
The schools were generally arranged in a similar way, most having children in Nursery 1 up to Standard 7. Classrooms, furnished in an unapologetic Victorian style, were arranged in a horseshoe design with a common central area and often some rough playing space, occasionally dotted with trees, hens or goats.
Pupils would gather for assemblies in these central areas, always proudly facing Tanzania’s flag, singing their national anthem with vigour, every word correct.
The school day kicked off at 7.30am and would continue until 4.30pm with those who lived within a reasonable distance returning home for lunch. Those having to walk up to 5km to school would remain, with no lunch provided.
Resources are sparse. Guiltily I thought of the many unused resources back in my school in England. Chalk and the occasional ‘Tanzania edition’ textbook provide the backdrop for ‘chalk and talk’ – with one teacher instructing up to 205 students in one class. The sheer number of students is mind blowing. How can the teacher ensure progression, the highest attainment, support for the least able and challenge for the most able? The truth unfortunately is that they cannot. Their teaching hits a small number with success while those less able, although tutored in smaller groups after school, are not fortunate enough to see success, having no tailor made, specific and appropriate interventions.
Students would appear to have the greatest of discipline, both in terms of behaviour in and around school and in application to their learning. In some cases groups of 80 plus would sit patiently awaiting their teacher. In others, the excitement of seeing English visitors would require a prefect to wield his stick.
Of course any well-meaning visitor will provide lists of improvements that ‘could’ be made but it is undoubtedly an inordinately complex system in an enormous country, thus we can only praise those dedicated professionals who work effortlessly to improve the economic, cultural and future life of Tanzania through education.
Update 6: 23 February 2015 - Following in the footsteps… a visit to Issenye Secondary School
This update is from Eelin Megson, Head of Linthwaite Ardron Church Primary School and Link Officer for Issenye Secondary School.
On first visiting Issenye Secondary School in a remote area of North-West Tanzania two years ago, I was in awe of its history and reputation. I arrived at a very successful school founded 23 years before and established with vision, passion and energy, supported by its hardworking and enthusiastic local community as well as the link newly forged between the Dioceses of Mara and Wakefield. Bill Jones, the first headmaster of the school, had helped me to prepare and taught me some Kiswahili to help me along and Stephen Spencer, Mara Link Officer, and Peta Moffat, previous Issenye Link Officer, helped me to achieve my lifetime ambition to teach in an African School.
Now, in its 25th anniversary year, I find myself returning to Issenye, this time taking over from Peta as Issenye Link Officer.
The journey undertaken by the school in the last two years is remarkable. It appears that the leadership team led by Headteacher, Joseph Nyamgoncho, has not faltered in its determination to achieve continuous improvement. The school continues to rank highly in national league tables. Water provision has improved immensely with new systems and water resources so little learning time is now taken up with water collection. A successful bio-gas project sponsored by the Grumeti Hotel in a bid to conserve trees has decreased the demand for firewood.
I milked one of the school cows and inspected newly constructed bee hives which will eventually provide a small income for the school. It is exciting to hear Joseph’s team speak of their vision and the priorities for their budget. Innovation and forward thinking can be found in every direction. The students are proud of their school and work hard to achieve their goals. Indeed, a spot inspection which took place during my visit found almost everything to be of an excellent standard and the inspectors were certainly very happy as they ate lunch with us.
I came away with lists and notes produced through many meetings with Joseph and his senior team and have been fully inducted. I am committed to sharing the school's vision and am determined to support the school’s ventures and ideas as we move forward together – a new Diocese, a new partnership, renewed vision and a deep and lasting friendship promised for the years to come.
Now, when can I go again?
The picture above shows Eelin enjoying bubbles with the nursery children at Issenye.
Update 5: 18 February 2015 - A Reflection on the Tanzanian-West Yorkshire Link
This update comes from Revd Dr Stephen Spencer, Tutor of theYorkshire Ministry Course and Tanzanian Link Officer for West Yorkshire and the Dales Diocese. He is also a Canon of Musoma Cathedral, Tanzania.
Visiting the Safe House in the Serengeti was a big moment for many of us. We were horrified at what the girls have to go through because of FGM but really inspired by what the safe house is providing.
The whole of the Tanzania/West Yorkshire link is a bit like building a safe house:
The foundations are built on prayers, the prayers of Tanzanians and ours, some big and some small, all needed for a strong base. We saw the foundations of a new hall at the safe house. We also witnessed the fervent and faithful prayer of the people of Mara region.
The walls of the Link's safe house are built by our friendship, through emails, prayer requests, visits and face to face contact. There is always joy and a warm Mara 'karibuni' (welcome) when we are together.
Like the walls of houses in Mara, these walls of friendship are built brick by brick and that takes time.
Finally comes the roof. This has to be put on the house all at once and is usually beyond the means of parishes in Mara. Link parishes in Yorkshire are good at standing bega qua bega (shoulder to shoulder) and sending money for roofs. St John's Clifton is the latest church to do this. We saw a shiny new roof on the new vicarage in their link parish of Rwamkoma. Such practical support is built on prayer and friendship and is a physical expression of what holds us together. The picture above shows the shiny new roof and children's choir in Rwamkoma.
This Tanzania/West Yorkshire Link 'safe house' is not visible but is real for parishioners in Mara. In the words of Bishop Hilkiah it shows that 'we are not on our own'. It means they, and us, can feel safe and secure in the face of the traumas of life. It allows parishes to have the confidence to reach out to their communities and to grow at a fantastic rate. Bwana asifiwe (Praise the Lord).
Stephen Spencer, Tanzania Link Officer
Update 4: 16 February 2015 - The importance of Water
This update comes from Jonathan Cain, Water Engineer, Yorkshire Ministry Course Ordinand and part of the group visiting Tanzania.
"You have brought water to this village because you are Christians. Tell us more about this Jesus Christ that you follow."
This is what the people of Iseresere said to the development officers of the Mara Diocese, Tanzania when they commissioned a well and hand pump in their village. Money for the project was raised via the Water 4 Life committee of the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.
The pump at Iseresere in operation (above)
Waiting for water at Iseresere (top right)
A Christian community now meets for worship under a tree in the village and their ambition is to construct a church building. Iseresere is a great example of development projects leading mission and it was a great privilege to pray with them to ask for God's blessing on their community and on their plans.
The church at Iseresere (right)
I have now been in Tanzania just 6 days and it is impossible not to notice that everyone is carrying water. Families make the twice or three times daily pilgrimage to find this life essential in lakes and water holes of dubious quality. The furthest distance I've seen people travel so far is 7km each way from the Mara village of Masinono to the nearest water source, a lake - worse still it's uphill on the way back. Such a pilgrimage seriously eats into time for school or anything else for that matter.
The vicar's children return from collecting water at Masinono (left)
There are many challenges. Tanzanian Government priorities appear to be road construction, school building and electricity supply. Tanzania needs this base of infrastructure from which to move forward and water supply in rural areas is left largely to the ingenuity of individuals who have found and carried water for generations. But where the Diocese of Mara, with support from link parishes in WYAD and the Water 4 Life project, is able to help the effects can be profound.
Jonathan receiving Tanzanian generosity - but how will they fit in the suitcase? (right)
The sack is full of sweet potatoes - which the group re-gifted.
Jonathan Cain, water engineer, training for ordination.
Update 3: 14 February 2015 - Bunda Girls Secondary School and the Anglican Campus
This update comes from Revd Jimmy Hinton, Priest in Charge of West Bowling and Bankfoot, Bradford and part of the group visiting Tanzania.
In the middle of scrubland, dry and hot - something is taking form. In a place where goats and cattle have traditionally foraged for any sign of greenery to eat - new life is growing. Not because of any irrigation project or water development plan but because of vision.
With three years to go until a well-earned retirement most people would be looking to wind down. Bishop Hilkiah is not most people. He had the energy and vision to build a new school: a school for girls where their education can be optimised to give them the best chance of a secure and hopeful future. And so Bunda Girls Secondary School was begun.
With new buildings up, more being built, further ones planned and a shiny new tiled floor… arriving at Bunda feels like arriving at an oasis in a hot, dry land. And this 'oasis' is joined by Bunda Bible College and a boys' Vocational Training Centre. Together they form what is being called the 'Anglican Campus' where people are prepared for ministry, work and exams respectively.
Alongside all this newness, traditional challenges still exist: empowerment of women, providing skills for income generation and overcoming spiritual strongholds to name but three. The diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales is partnering in this work (with others) through friendship, encouragement and support – and not least in prayer. And that friendship, encouragement and prayer is two-way with a rapidly growing Diocese in North West Tanzania praying for our own new life in a spiritual desert.
The prophet Isaiah envisioned new life in the desert – ‘the wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses’. I'm not sure if he had Bunda in mind but his description certainly fits the bill.
Jimmy Hinton, Priest in Charge of West Bowling and Bankfoot, Bradford
Update 2: 12 February 2015 - Mugumu Safe House
This update is from Revd Maggie McLean, Vicar of Christ the King, Battyeford.
“This is the most challenging programme of my twenty years as a bishop”.
These words were spoken by Bishop Hilkiah about a Safe House in Mugumu in the Serengeti district. Populated by the Kuria tribe, who still practise the abominable act of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the Safe House and its associated programmes provide support for girls fleeing their homes to escape the horrors of this brutality.
Opening its doors on 6 December 2014 before the biannual ‘season of cutting’, the house was built to accommodate 40 girls, but as it turned out, 134 girls made their way there.
Some arrived beaten and injured. Many only had the clothes they wore. All were terrified and alone. It is estimated that more than 500 girls were not so fortunate.
FGM is illegal. Mara Diocese is working hard alongside the government to combat this practice through its educational programmes - educating tribal leaders, families and girls. It is also raising awareness of the Safe House. Financial support is received from the Britain Tanzania Development Trust, a hefty donation from the United States, and also contributions from West Yorkshire and the Dales.
“My life has a future”, one young girl at the Safe House remarked, “I am learning new skills: computing, tailoring and cooking”.
The project is committed to vocational training so that the young women are given opportunities and a new life is made possible. Many will remain in Mugumu and receive an education not afforded to them before but many will return home reconciled to their families through the intervention and mediation of the project workers.
Mama Rhobi, herself a victim of FGM and the inspirational founder of this project, recognises the challenges of what they have started and the danger it poses.
”Deeply held traditions are being confronted and cultural changes made” she said, “This is but the beginning”.
Bishop Hilkiah reflected “We are seeing the devil in these evil practises, and we must fight this evil”.
The girls have given their permission for this article and photograph to be published.
Update 1: 9 February 2015 - First thoughts, resources and aspiration
This update is from Revd Maggie McLean, Vicar of Christ the King, Battyeford, part of the group from West Yorkshire and the Dales Diocese visiting Tanzania.
Arriving in new places is always exciting and a little daunting.
Driving the relatively short journey (4 hours approx!) from Mwanza to Musoma, the capital of Mara and the home of the Anglican Diocese in this region, I was once again struck by the economic challenges that the villages and towns we passed through are faced with. It seems that life is lived outside in community.
The centre of each village and town is full of people, goats and cattle. Open fronted homes act as shops and market stalls. Old men sit in the shade of a tree. Women do the washing in the river beds nearby (the river beds are dry even though this is the rainy season) or cook on the open charcoal fires. Children mill around - some tending goats, others playing with sticks and stones - many sporting premier league football shirts. I thought about the life they lead, about the possibilities and potential and about the poverty of opportunity.
My thoughts continued in this vein when we visited ACT Mara Primary school today. Resources in all senses are limited so inspiration can only come through the spoken word with little access to any other resources including text books.
In conversation with two 13 year old girls, Grace and Anna, their expectations were not limited. Grace has hopes of studying Law in South Africa while Anna wants to study medicine.