We have examined 152 kids and ascertained that 19 of them need some sort of help outside of simple tuition after school. The potential problems we're seeing range the gamut from eyesight and hearing issues to turbulent home situations to intellectual impairment.
In order to confirm our hypotheses about these kids, we have undertaken the process of hojaji, a questionnaire for each of the 19 children we have concerns about, to be filled out by the teachers. That is now also pretty much done. Mama T looooved the whole thing by the way; she was completely in her element, filling the forms out aloud and with authoritative aplomb, licking the tip of her pen and stroking her beard.
Our next step is to interview the parents of these 19 kids with the same hojaji as we gave the teachers so we can compare the answers. We have basically finished this step as well with just a couple stragglers remaining for both sets of hojaji.
My third favorite thing has been how much we have been able to learn about these children from talking to the parents! We found that one child has had hearing issues since birth, something we would never have known without talking to her baba. We discovered that another child had yellow fever as an infant and may have some possible lingering maladies due to it. And in addition to the wealth of information we've been able to glean about the children's backgrounds is the fact that the parents have been utterly open and honest with us - it's amazing how quickly they responded to our calls to come to school, their willingness to be interviewed about their kids (a pretty personal subject, I should think) and even to have their talks recorded. Really, really gratifying work. Supa-fave.
Now, we are on holiday (also a favorite, btw) from school until the second week of July, so Angi and I are taking meetings with possible partners for the next phase: referral. Last week, it was Ruth Mlay at Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation Tanzania (CCBRT) and Sally Mohamedali and the team in the Special Education Needs Unit at The Jaffery Academy in Arusha. This week, it's Dr. Derrick Matthews, an American pediatrician at Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre (ALMC) and Robin Peterson at Arusha Mental Health Trust. We are hoping to be able to form some partnerships with other organizations in Kilimanjaro and Arusha in order to gain access to services for those children with medical/psychosocial problems outside of what Toa Nafasi can provide for.
In non-work-related-but-still-my-favorite-things news, we went to the house of my former student, Ema, a couple weeks ago to sit with his bibi and enjoy some of her delicious home cooking. Ever the gracious host, Ema had prepared the menu a good month and a half in advance based on, what else? My favorite things! So, we had rice, beans, avocado, and spinach. Bibi Ema, his younger sister Jesca (who I also taught), and several other rugrats showed up for the fiesta as well.
And in not-so-favorite-things news, here is one instance of when it is not-so-fun to be a mzungu in Africa as you have no clue as to what's going on, acts of "patriotism" seem mildly sinister, and fire is involved. The "mwenge torch" came to Msaranga the last week of May and shut down school for the morning as well as casting an uneasy cloud over me and Angi until we figured out WTH was going on. Apparently, it is an annual ritual that this blaze of fire gets carried around the country as a reminder of the original freedom torch lit up in the early years of Independence, a blaze that would, in Nyerere's words, "shine out beyond our borders, giving hope where there was once despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where, before, there was only humiliation." Unfortunately, all it really did this year, far as I can tell, is scare the bejeezus out of us two wazungu gals at Msaranga Primary School.
Finally, a small passing interchange that took place at school has stuck with me for the last couple weeks. It went a little something like this:
Sarah (somewhat pitiably): Everyone brings something to the table except me. Angi is the special education and early childhood development expert. Vumi is Tanzanian, a native Swahili speaker, and a teacher by profession. I can only do a little of both.
Angi (picking up the pieces): But without you, neither of us would be here doing this work.
Mama T (oblivious but spirited): IT IS REAL! GOD IS GOOD!!