On our first visit Ponja and the villagers told us the importance of education to the community. Most of the people are now embracing education feeling that it is essential for them to be able to adapt to the changes going on around them, seek alternative livelihoods and to be able to stand up for their rights to clean water, improved health facilities etc.
WTWT support preschool, primary, secondary, vocational and further education.
Pre-school and Primary
Our staff, the village leaders, the traditional leaders and elders all encourage children to go to school. When WTWT first started working in Irkeepusi only about half the children were attending primary school, although it is the law of the country that all should attend. Now numbers have increased to about 75%. However the primary school is overstretched and under resourced. The class sizes are too big and there are not enough teachers. Many of the children who complete primary school, are still unable to read or write adequately to progress to secondary school and do not pass the National Examination to allow them to do so.
One of the main reasons that children do not learn well is because they do not speak Swahili, the language of their teacher, when they start school. Primary school lessons are taught in Swahili because it is the national language of Tanzania. The solution the community planned was to have a pre-school classroom in every subvillage, where the children are taught Swahili by a local Maasai teacher who also speaks their mother tongue Maa.
To this end WTWT was asked to fund the building costs of preschools, whilst the community fund would pay for the teacher. The first preschool classroom was built in Irkeepusi subvillage in 2012, and the next in Nainokanoka, Irmelili, Loresho and Emburbul sub-villages in 2014- 2017. We plan to fund the building of 8 more, one in each of the other sub villages in the ward if we get enough funding. Our staff and the village leaders organise and supervise the building process.
The first group of 60 children, 30 in the mornings and 30 in the afternoons, did very well, learning Swahili quickly, and were well prepared for school in January 2014. They have continued to make good progress at primary school. The running costs of the preschools are funded by the parents, who all contribute and have formed a management committee. This has made the project sustainable.
Irmelili is a very remote sub-village, 8 hours steep walking to the nearest town and no road. They have no health facilities and until WTWT funded the building of their preschool there were no rainproof school buildings. On my visit I was moved by the parents’ gratitude for our funding. They said they hardly believed their dream of this classroom for their children could come true. I also found that some of the children were too hungry to attend every day. The teacher requested that we fund a maize porridge meal for each child each day. Thanks to a generous donation from Whitegates Children’s Trust we have been able to fund this, and now the children are all well enough to attend every day.
The Loresho preschool classroom is also the first room of a new primary school serving two sub-villages, Loresho Juu and Loresho Chini. They requested WTWT’s assistance with the building of this classroom because the government then agreed to fund the rest of the primary school buildings, maintenance and staff salaries. This now enables Loresho children to attend school. Few attended before because there was not a school near enough for them to walk to. The few who did walk the long distance had to negotiate their way past the dangerous local buffalo.
Secondary school is too expensive for most of the Maasai families living in Nainokanoka Ward to be able to afford. The commmunity requested that WTWT supports them with funding pupils to secondary school. WTWT have been funding 20 pupils from Nainokanoka ward and the Community Pastoralist Council a further 125. Equal numbers of boys and girls are funded. This December 2015 we heard the wonderful news that the new Tanzanian government are going to fund secondary education for all students who pass the exam to be able to attend.
This education is the hope for the future of Maasai communities living with poverty, but we are finding that their studies are hampered by their lack of understanding of English, which secondary lessons are taught in. The community have requested WTWT’s help with this in the form of English courses in the holidays. One solution we are considering together is the possibility of having a volunteer programme, where English teacher volunteers from the UK could come to the villages and teach English during the Tanzanian school holidays. Another idea is to use tablets and phone apps with English/Swahili programmes on them for children to self learn before they get to secondary school.
Vocational training and teacher training
It is hard for people from Nainokanoka to find work even if they manage to complete secondary school. The community decided that a good solution to this would be to fund students for vocational training and who in turn will then have skills which are useful in the community. At the community’s request WTWT are funding 2 students on masonry courses and two on teacher training courses. When they are qualified the teachers will be able to teach at the preschools and primary schools.
Student Association Lectures
At the request of the community WTWT fund transport to Nainokanoka and Alailelai Student Association (NASA) lectures twice a year. These enable the students to have teaching on: HIV/AIDs and other STDs, harmful effects of female ‘circumcision’or Female Genital Cutting (FGC/ FGM), female discrimination and family planning, as well as having support with planning their education. Ponja was Co-founder and Chair, and is now the treasurer, of NASA which encompasses 6 villages in two wards. Embapa is also on the committee.