The Toa Nafasi Project's observation period is now completed and the final count of students we will be assessing next month comes to 156. Of those, the majority will be weeded out with an initial blanket evaluation and the rest will get the whole nine yards, but I have already identified at least 10-15 kids with some sort of developmental delay, whether it's behavioral, intellectual, or emotional. When Angi comes in a mere three weeks (!!), we will know much more. Already, all the denizens of Msaranga are eagerly awaiting the arrival of mfanyakazi mwenzangu, Anjela (TZ spelling), who I have lauded as "the one who knows what to do." Thank God for that!!
In the meantime, I'm eating a bit of crow over here. I know I was a tad critical of Mama T in my other blog entry, but over the course of this observation period, she has come to really grow on me. Her appearance and mannerisms, at first brusque and even seemingly cruel, have revealed themselves to come from a place of love, tough love to be sure, but love nonetheless. With her wowowo (hips) swishing, spectacles precariously tipped on her brow, and hints of a beard about her chin, she has the air of someone in total command and I absolutely loooove when she cloaks herself in this damask and whisks about the room, slamming her ruler on desks, scaring the bejeezus out of everyone and repeating "Haya, haya, haya...." to quiet the kids down. She is the quintessential Tanzanian mama, capable both of extreme love and compassion as well as outright indignation and anger.
But the absolute best thing about Mama T is the stuff that comes out of her mouth. Vumi and I have each individually had to leave the room from laughing so hard at some of her one-liners. To be sure, it's not just the words, but the delivery. The woman has the power to put you in your place and make sure you damn well stay there! I love it!!
1.) Nitakumaliza na hii rula!! (I will finish you with this ruler!! [said to naughty children])
2.) Unataka kuniua na presha?? (Do you want to kill me with blood pressure?? [said to naughty, naughty children])
3.) Unaenda shamba bila jembe?? (You go to the field without a hoe?? [said to a child who came to class without a pencil])
4.) Hasira, hasira....hasara.... (Anger, anger....loss.... [this is actually a Swahili proverb, but Mama T's delivery....HI-larious; said to extremely naughty children whose bad behavior has raised her blood pressure])
5.) Usinidanganye!! Sidanganywi!! (Don't trick me!! I am not trickable!! [said to the naughtiest of the naughty, naughty children with very bad, blood pressure-raising behavior])
And what I had misinterpreted as a sort of brutality or lack of tenderness is actually just the opposite. Mama T expects more from these kids, and
after 40+ years of teaching them, she has seen just about everything,
so she doesn't hold back at this point. Plus, her growl can turn to a
grin in about 30 seconds flat, and the bark bears no real bite. Even if a child gets a harsh word or feels the sting of the stick, if he or she hasn't recovered in five minutes, Mama T will soften the punishment with a cup of cold water or a pat on the back.
So, I think
Toa Nafasi and Mama T are going to have a long and illustrious future
together, and I can't wait to see what happens next!
Education continues to be a hot topic in government and the news as the first quarter of 2013 draws to a close. A recent article in the Tanzania Daily News reports:
"Expansion of education infrastructure to ensure every Tanzanian child gets access to quality education is a commendable stride."
President Kikwete said this when addressing the academic staff of the
Muslim University of Morogoro early this week. According to him,
entrance to secondary education from 524,325 seven years ago to 1.79
million in 2011 is an indication. The number of students accessing
university education has also increased from 40,719 in 2005 to 166,484
His statement that the government will continue to invest in
expansion of education infrastructure is an indication of a political
commitment to improve the quality of education. We need to take note and
give it deserving attention. It is widely accepted that any serious
nation which is concerned with the welfare of its citizens must invest
in education on the understanding that it is the lifeline of its future.
Thus, when education standards tumble, it is a matter of serious concern. We have seen this, that is why everyone is concerned by the massive
failures that have been reported recently. Yes, education in this
country is undergoing serious challenges. The last Form Four national
examination results are a case in point. The results shocked not only
students and their parents but all Tanzanians including the Head of
For, over 60 percent failure requires heads to roll to find the root
cause with lasting solutions. A lot has been said and more is being said
about the status of education of this country. We are confident that
the probe team picked by Premier Mizengo Pinda to investigate the mass
failures in our schools will be taken seriously. Solutions must be
found. Whatever the situation, everyone has a role to play as students,
parents/guardians, teachers, and the government.
If we may ask ourselves, how much effort a child or student is
willing to put in excelling in school, the results will be shocking. It
seems they have lost interest in school and too much time is spent on
things such as sport, television, and social media. At the same time,
we understand that 50 percent of a child's education competence
depends on the child him/herself.
How much time do parents have for their children, especially when
it comes to school performance and learning? Parents' involvement
accounts for 30 percent while teachers' account for only 20 percent for a child to do well in school. Hardships in life are consuming much of
people's time. The situation is worse for working parents whose
responsibility to care for their children is left to the house-helper.
The situation in public schools' infrastructure is pathetic. Students
walk long distances to and from school sometimes on an empty stomach. There
are not enough text and reference books to cater for the needs of
students. Teachers' houses, salaries, and other remunerations are also
wanting - the list is long. But even with the challenges mentioned, we
should not lose hope. It calls for a collective effort to come together
to find a lasting solution to the education problems.