Catch up with Barbara and Neil in Mikindani.October 23 2013

12 DECEMBER

FAREWELL TO MIKINDANI

Sadly, this is our last blog for Edukaid as we leave Mikindani early next week.

Our visit to the private King David School in nearby Mitengo on 28 November was an eye-opener in terms of class sizes. Their pre-primary class had 30 pupils, with 2 full time teachers, compared with up to 80 pupils, one teacher and one assistant in the schools we’ve been visiting.  Interestingly from our point of view, the young Head Teacher had taken part in an educational visit to a school in Edinburgh when he was a teenager in northern Tanzania, and asked us to remember him to the Deputy Head of Holyrood High School.

On 30 November we had a meeting with the pre-primary class teachers for them to share their experiences of parental engagement. Unlike the UK, it seems that with a few exceptions there is little contact between the class teacher and parents on a one-to-one basis.  We took the opportunity to get the views of the class teachers on possible uses for the community training centre. We also mentioned the possibility of a space for mothers to meet with each other whilst their children at are extra tuition classes, or where they could all meet together with younger children; to our surprise, they said that the Quakers already run such a group occasionally in Msijute and that it’s very popular.

Six young men from Mikindani also came to give us their ideas for using the community centre. Most of the suggestions involved the learning of a skill e.g. carpentry, driving, motor mechanics which would help them in their search for employment.  One interesting idea was for a music studio; something which might not be popular with the neighbours!

Our last school visit was to Lwelu, which is currently being renovated by EdUKaid. Much has been completed and the tradesmen are working hard to get it all finished by the end of the year.

               

Apart from that, we’ve been busy doing more training, writing reports and tidying up loose ends in preparation for our departure from Mikindani . We’ll miss the staff here enormously – Ally S, Jailani and Mohamed in the office, Ally M on site at the schools, Hadija who does our cleaning (often with her lovely son on her back), Mama Sara and Sara downstairs and all the teachers. We’ll also miss the views from the EdUKaid house balcony (including a wedding at the end of the street), the sun, the colours, the greetings and the pace of life. We won’t miss the frequent power cuts, the water shortages and the frustrations of slow internet access, but those are minor.

          

          

          

 Thanks for allowing us to be part of this wonderful community. 

 

25 NOVEMBER 

School visits – Imekuwa and Msijute

We weren’t sure what to expect of our visit to Imekuwa Primary, given the fact that the class teacher had recently left and the assistant is temporarily in charge. We needn’t have worried; both the assistant and a woman employed from the local village to help are doing an excellent job in controlling the class and keeping things going until a new teacher is appointed. As is the case with many women employed in this area, the assistant had her very well behaved baby on her back whilst she worked. The new HeadTeacher was impressive and enthusiastic and was proud of the high number of passes in the recent exams. She said that the school “feels well because of EdUKaid”

Imekuwa's new, very energised Headteacher with Barbara

We arrived whilst porridge was being served. 100% of the parents pay for porridge at Imekuwa, higher than in many schools. There are no kitchen facilities, so porridge is cooked and served outside. They’ve asked if EdUKaid could provide a basic kitchen, necessary in the rainy season and when the wind blows.

It's porridge time!

We arrived at Msijute in torrential rain.  The taxi took us close to the door to the head teacher’s office, leading to a quick clutch at our books and pens and a run through the mud into the office.  Despite our ungainly arrival, bursting into the head’s office, bringing a surprising amount of water into the room with us, the head teacher was very welcoming and happy to answer all our questions about parental engagement and integration of the pre-primary class with the rest of the school.  As ever, the school is very grateful for the support provided by EdUKaid – it has been such a pleasure for us to hear this message so consistently in every school we have visited..

The pre-primary class was friendly and welcoming.  Frida, the class teacher, was supported by Mariam, and took the children through a series of well-rehearsed activities.  It is always fun to watch the whole class congratulate a pupil who has successfully completed an exercise.

Msijute primary school teachers with Ally Simba (far right)

Hunter University, Arkansas

We had a request from an American friend in Mtwara to give a talk to a group of students visiting from Hunter University, Arkansas. Ally Simba gave them a short guided tour of the village, including Mottisfont House, and we then filled them in on the work of EdUKaid

 

Mikindani Youth Group and Mikindani Secondary school

As part of our gathering of ideas for the use of the community training centre we held meetings with both the Mikindani Youth Group and Mikindani Secondary School. We were somewhat disappointed that the there were no youth present at the meeting with the Youth Group leaders, but a meeting is scheduled with the young people before we leave.

 

At Mikindani Secondary we met with the Head Teacher and the link teacher for the students which EdUKaid sponsors. Ideas which haven’t been mentioned by any of the other groups included a space for young people to play table-tennis, information about HIV/AIDS prevention, and training sessions for young people in how to look after the elderly in the community.

 

Excel Training

Neil has been running a training course in Excel for the office staff.. They’ve had 2 sessions so far and are currently working on their homework before next week’s lesson.

Concentration, concentration, concentration.

On a personal note, we’re making the most of our last 3 weeks in Mikindani and are delighted that the mango season has started before we leave. Even happier that they cost less than 1p each!

Mangoes for under a penny!

07 NOVEMBER 2013

Since the last blog we’ve been out visiting two more schools, Mwenge and Singino, had meetings with Mikindani Community Council and a group of community elders to discuss possible uses for the community centre when it’s ready next year, and been to talk to our contact at Halliburton about their CSR policy.  We also visited Mnaida School on Monday to do a video for Maggie Darling, who is hosting a “Coffee for Mikindani” fundraiser in Edinburgh next week.  We were pleased to see that EdUKaid has already employed a pre-primary teacher at Mnaida, ahead of the renovation of the school in 2014.  If you want to see the video, it’s on youtube: Click Here

Mnaida Pre-primary class with teacher Hajra, a past EdUKaid Vocational student who is now volunteering at the school.

Schools

We’ve come to realise that, no matter how good the teachers are, it’s impossible for them to adhere strictly to the Montessori methods given the large class sizes (up to 76) and the fact that most of them only have one set of materials. They do a splendid job given the circumstances. All of the schools encourage parental involvement and an important part of this is asking parents to pay for breakfast porridge – more successful in some schools than in others. Classrooms are clean and well looked-after.  Pupils sweep their own classrooms at the beginning of each day.    

 

Mwenge was renovated 6 months ago and, as you would expect, is in very good condition. The pre-primary classroom and teachers’ room were newly built by the EdUKaid team and are clean, bright and welcoming. Costika is a very good and enthusiastic teacher (she is, after all, Mr. Fidelis’s sister!) and her pupils were attentive and confident.

Mwenge Pre-primary class, Ally, Mussa, Kostica and Maisha

Singino

Neil walked up the hill from Mikindani to see Mr Fidelis (head teacher) and Maisha (in charge of the pre-primary) at Singino School.  Even at 8 o’clock in the morning, he was extremely glad he had taken a full bottle of water with him, to help him rehydrate after the uphill walk in the sun.

Mr Fidelis was his usual helpful and insightful self, helping Neil understand not only why Singino was achieving such good results, but also explaining aspects of the primary environment in Tanzania.  Maisha’s class was, as expected, a joy to watch.  The children are cheerful and engaged, the classroom is well organised, with the Montessori resources neatly stored on shelves around the room, and Maisha and her assistant Beatha clearly in control.

Mikindani Community Council meeting

We were delighted that 20 people turned up for the meeting with the Mikindani Community Council, 13 men and 7 women. Ideas for use of the space in the community centre included computer training, literacy and numeracy classes, a library for schoolchildren, small business set-ups and a space in which to make crafts.

 

Mikindani's Community council

Village Elders’ meeting

We also invited the elders from the local communities in Mikindani to tell us what they want to see the space at the community centre used for.  They were clearly very concerned about the children and young people at risk of failing in their education – and proposed extra classes in English as well as vocational training for those who do not continue beyond form IV at secondary school.  One of the participants offered to provide training in tree management, with the community centre being used for the theory bits of the course.

Free time

We’ve also had time for some relaxation at Msimbati beach and at the local cultural festival, Makuya and Barbara’s had her hair done by the friendly young woman opposite EdUKaid house. We continue to enjoy walking round the village, often stopping to chat or to buy fruit or vegetables from small stalls outside people’s huts. We love sitting on the EdUKaid balcony watching the world go by and looking at the wonderfully coloured birds on the tree opposite.

     

                                                   

23rd October 2013:

We’ve been volunteering for EdUKaid for just over 3 weeks, and our expectations that it is a well-run, impressive organisation have been fully met. The staff are a delight to work with and have given us every help in settling in to EdUKaid house. Ally Muhsini’s workmen have done a splendid job in replacing mosquito netting and, more importantly, creating a basic kitchen for us; we’ve borrowed a 2 ring gas hob and are thoroughly enjoying being able to cook for ourselves.

Our first port of call was to the Montessori teachers’ training college to get an overview of the method of teaching and the materials used. We were given a warm welcome by Sister Josefa and the Principal of the College, Mr. Liwange. Sister Josefa gave us a checklist of things we should look for in a Montessori teacher; very helpful for our observations at the schools.

Visits to Mgao and Namgogoli schools were very interesting, in their own ways. The class teacher at Mgao was off sick and Maisha took the class; we hope to have time to revisit the school when the class teacher is back. The school itself was renovated 3 years ago and the pre-primary classroom already needs some remedial work, holes in the floor need to be filled in and the paintwork needs to be refreshed. The Deputy Head (who is also the EdUKaid link teacher) was articulate and informative.

Namgogoli gave the impression of being an altogether more affluent (in relative terms) school. The buildings were renovated earlier this year so one would expect them to be in better condition that Mgao, the difference was startling. The Head Teacher and the EdUKaid link teacher were very helpful and we watched the pre-primary class teacher use some of the Montessori methods we had discussed at the training college.

In both of the schools the teachers asked for more materials, and with class sizes of 48 and 49 respectively, duplicate sets would seem to be a priority. Teachers also stressed the enormous advantages the schools have gained from being partnered with EdUKaid.

On the subject of the use of Motisfont House as a community centre, Barbara has had a meeting with a Women’s Group who gave some useful suggestions including training in setting up small businesses, and spaces to share cookery and sewing skills.

Neil has been working hard creating contacts with the CSR departments of (mainly oil and gas related) companies which operate in Mtwara. This information will be passed on to EdUKaid HQ to take forward.

And finally, we’re relieved to report that we are no longer illegal, having obtained visas which last until mid-December. 

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