Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Approvals and School Situation

In a meeting on Monday, the site for the teachers Boma was approved by the school chairperson. On Tuesday, the village committee, the school committee, and myself had a 2-hour meeting in which the plans, time line, and budget were approved. The budget was approved contingent on the villagers and parents buy in to physically help with the labor to keep costs down. The Committees indicated that everyone will carry water to the construction site and will help with the bricks, foundation and other items, myself included. Tomorrow, Dominic (the principal of the Primary school) and I travel to Babati to meet District officials and the engineer for their approval and other business. Afterwards, we will stop in nearby Magugu and talk with the stores who will supply the construction materials for the project. Finally, on Thursday, there will be a big meeting at the food distribution site during the distribution(it had gotten postponed) with the school parents to explain the Boma. This step is crucial because the parents want to know why we are spending money on a teachers house when there are no school supplies or there is hunger in the village. We also need their help physically. All "approvals" are mainly formalities.
In 2011, there are 839 students and 11 teachers, 2 are volunteers. Standard 1 has 135 students and Std 7 has 88. The district has offered to send more teachers but Kisangaji doesn't have the housing for them. During classes which are currently in session, whole classrooms sit full of students and no teacher for periods of time. The available teachers float from class to class for 20 minutes at a time.... It will be this message that we try to explain to the parents. The reality is that if a child can go to secondary school, they stand half a chance of getting a job. To get into secondary school, one must have decent grades in primary school and pass the exams to get into secondary. You then can get a job at a safari lodge or at a business in Dar or Arusha; you need decent English and education for this--the young adults then help support their parents and families back in the rural villages.
Everyone is clear that with leftover money, supplies will be bought. Having built-in incentives throughtout the project is important. This especially gives Dominic an incentive to keep costs down.
Parts for the water pump are coming by tomorrow. This was also discussed at the meeting this morning and with the repaired water pump (contrasted with river water), construction will move along faster. The difference between "American time" and "African time" was discussed and everyone is committed to completing the work in 30 "American" days understanding we will work from sun-up to sun-down. The materials will begin to arrive in the village starting Friday.
The village is in drought. Everything is dusty and dry. There are no crops and little food. It is difficult to see and know there is hunger and to also know that food prices here are doing nothing but going up. Everything is circular and it is hard to know where to begin in situations like this. When someone gives you an egg as a gift, it is difficult to take it. That one egg may be their only food for the day, but to decline is an insult. I take it but in a day or two have some beans or other food delivered to their Boma.
Next update will be at groundbreaking.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Plans and Status

After arriving in the village, a few notable items came to light quickly: water access problems, drought, and hunger. The only working water well in the village is not working so we are getting our water for daily use from the river that is running dry. This means bathing and washing clothes and dishes in river water. They have not had the money for the technician to fix it. The Project offered to pay (total cost: $12USD) so the technician will begin repairs tomorrow, and who knows when it will be complete(hopefully in 3 days, African time). The drought in the region means no crop harvesting; people do not have enough to eat and the government does weekly distributions of maize. The next distribution is Monday. Despite this, they are resilient and making the best of it.
The teachers home will take 30 days to physically build. Prior to that, we must make a budget, secure the materials, and obtain District approval. The process begins in earnest Monday and I hope that it will be completed in less than 2 months time. I have begun to explain that if we do a good job at securing the materials for good prices, there may be money left over to purchase school supplies. So it is in their interests to be frugal.
The District has not given the school their annual allotment of funds for nearly 1 year. They are out of chalk and other basic supplies for this reason. So, managing a limited budget will be their challenge.
The UN has declared famine in southern Somalia. The problem is making its way south into Kenya and Tanzania. Southern Sudans independence was a big deal a couple of weeks ago with 24/7 tv coverage. The TZ parliament is in session now and there is a major electricity shortage in the country. The President is about the fire the Energy minister and is considering legal charges. I have experienced the outages for upwards of 9 hours at a time almost daily prior to arriving in the village. Businesses are hurting because of this. The country watches parliament on TV like we watch the Superbowl and there is a lot of upset about the energy issue. Of course, there is no infrastructure in the village for electricity so it doesn't affect the village like the commercial towns. Advantage: the stars and solar system are beyond stunning at night.
I am scheduled to meet with District education officials in Babati soon. Next update when we have some movement on the planning and budget of the teacher's home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I have been in-country for just over a week. I anticipate arriving in Kisangaji early next week. We will have a planning meeting immediately upon my arrival. I have spoken with Dominic, the Primary School Principal, on several occasions already and the level of anticipation is high, on both ends. The Omega IV grinder made the trip in-tact and this will be a huge surprise for the village. Once the Planning meeting is held, there will be an update here.