Tanzania: Schools & Students

Maasai Schoolchildren in their Outdoor "Classroom"

I think that some of the times we’ll most remember is when we visited schools. We spent a short time at a Maasai school near Lake Ayashi and spent a lot of time at the Haydesh Primary School near Karatu.

The Maasai school we visited was just for the youngest children. It was held outdoors, under a shade tree with one teacher. They were in the process of building a classroom so that they could continue lessons when it rains. The children go to school in the mornings and then help around the boma (family community) in the afternoons.

Haydesh Primary School is VERY isolated. It took us almost two hours from Karatu to get there on winding, dirt roads. We could see that during the rainy season the roads would definitely be washed out.

The area has been hit hard by the drought over the past few years. Although the rains late last year and into this year have improved things very much, we could tell that the area was still struggling. Most of the residents of the area are from the Iraqw tribe. Their mother tongue is a Cushtic language (related to Ethiopian), so that means Kiswahili (the “official” language of Tanzania) is the second language for students and English is the third.

Children of the Haydesh Primary School

The parents of the community are responsible for building the school, and once that is done the government provides a corrugated tin roof and teachers. This school had three classrooms complete — for seven grades — and three teachers. Another classroom was almost complete. They combined classes when they can — for example, the third through sixth graders were together — otherwise, the children wait outside until a teacher and classroom is available. The school has no electricity or running water.

The oldest children could speak English as well as Kiswahili and all introduced themselves to us. Their lessons are mostly in Swahili, but they do a lot of work in English as well. The very youngest children, the five-, six- and seven-year-olds were working on learning Kiswahili so they had classes in their mother tongue as well.

The classrooms all had “Little House on the Prairie”-style desks, with two or three students per desks. The students shared textbooks AND they shared notebooks/paper. The school obviously desperately needs supplies. One of my favorite moments was when we’d been there about 10 minutes and Jack whispered to me, “I think I should suggest a CSO (the Germantown Academy student-run Community Service Organization) project to help this school. They need notebook paper and pencils.”

More photos from our school visits are here.

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