Saturday, 29 July 2017

Tanzania: Learning in New Places!

This morning we were on the road at 7:00 a.m. The ride to Go Go Public Elementary School was an interesting one. The trip took us much longer than it would have for the same distance to be traveled at home because of the many stops. When you stop at a red light in Dar es Salaam, you REALLY stop and by that I mean for up to 15 minutes.   All due to construction and a lack of infrastructure, similar to many Canadian cities.  While we waited for the traffic policeman to allow us to go through, we watched many people walking between the cars selling various goods, shovels, peanuts, potato chips, maps (very large maps) to name a few. Along the way there were rustic stands selling almost anything you could imagine.

Upon our arrival we were greeted with lots of hugs from Mama Wandoa, her son Benjamin, her daughter Wendy and her grandson Jerome as well as many volunteer helpers . The trucks containing the backpacks and the mattresses were already unloaded and we were ready to start our day.

Being a retired teacher, I needed to see the inside of a classroom. So during a lull in activity I found one of the teachers sitting at her desk in an empty classroom. It was about one o'clock I was surprised to find that the 100+ five year old students that she teaches had already finished their day. She invited me in to look around.  There was nothing there but a cement floor -- no desks, books, toys, activities and certainly no computers. Sadly, the children sit on straw mats on the floor. The walls had a few hand made charts yet this wonderful teacher was excited to show me what they were studying. After leaving her classroom I was introduced to the assistant to the principal. He was an enthusiastic young man who clearly loves his job and thought nothing of the fact that he had 250 students in his class. I laughed thinking about what our Ontario teachers would have to say about that! He introduced me to his class and the students gave me an enthusiastic welcome.

From there I headed to meet the principal. He was so warm and welcoming. He asked if I knew of a school in Toronto that might like to partner up with his school so that they could learn more about life in Canada. I said I didn't have connections with Toronto schools but I would be more than happy to hook him up with the students in the school that I retired from in St. Thomas.  He said that the children are learning English; yet they have no books to read. I walked away from him knowing that I would do my best to make that connection for him and his amazing students as well as finding a way to send him some used textbooks. What a gift the textbooks that are too old and outdated in our schools would be to this community.

The day was long but it went by quickly because the children were such a joy to work with. Seeing them meet up with their parents with their bedkits made me forget about that dusty bumpy road that got us there. I will think twice before I complain about some of the trivial matters that I find irksome. I have shoes on my feet which is more than some of these children.

For the record we distributed 765 bedkits to deserving students.  The chaos was well controlled by the volunteers and the incredible logistical challenges were somehow overcome by these same volunteers.  For us it was relatively simple and straightforward but we all knew that the efforts of others were making us look like heroes!  And we are grateful to them for all they do! They must love the children as much as we do!

Kay for Team Tanzania 2017
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