Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Saving Grace

Meet Grace.

She is a nine-year-old Tanzanian girl who was brought to The Toa Nafasi Project by an American volunteer named Gavin.

Grace lives with her mama in the Moshi neighborhood of Majengo, but does not attend the local government school in that ward.  The teachers refused to accept her because she has a developmental delay and some mild physical disabilities.

So, instead of Mama paying the approximately $25usd it regularly costs to send a child to school for a year, Mama had to search far and wide for an alternate school that would accept Grace with her impairment.

Mama found said alternate school in the ritzy nabe of TPC (Moshi's sugar plantation) where she enrolled Grace in an English medium school, paying upwards of $60usd PER MONTH in order to obtain for her child what she felt was a decent education.

However, with Grace's learning difficulty, the investment wasn't really paying off: Grace's intellectual "needs" don't particularly require English language skills (she will unlikely ever be an academic superstar and really just needs to master the fundamental literacy and numeracy in order to be self-sufficient).  In addition - guess what? - the teachers at the TPC school were ignoring Grace and her special needs, so she was basically receiving the same treatment she would have gotten back in Majengo.  For a hefty price.

Enter Gavin.  A recent college grad from the Midwest U.S.A., he found Toa Nafasi through a common friend who runs a hostel in town and thought that Grace could benefit from an organization supporting children with learning difficulties.  He was right.

We brought Grace to Msaranga in April and assessed her.  We interviewed Mama and got Grace's history from birth and the story of Mama's pregnancy.  Vumi did not think that Grace needed to be enrolled at a special school such as Gabriella which we had initially thought, but did think that she could benefit by participating in Toa Nafasi tuition.  Well, that proved easier said than done.

I felt that Toa Nafasi needed to be contained (at least for the moment) in the village of Msaranga with students from the local primary school.  I mean, it's tough enough tracking all those kids and their comings and goings without then adding into the mix kids from outside the village.

So, Vumi suggested that Mama send Grace to us after her regular school hours to study with Vumi.  Well, okay, but then Mama is still paying the sixty bucks a month for an education that's not serving her child plus now she's gotta pay Vumi for private lessons on the side?  Not really ideal.

Finally, we hit upon the ultimate solution: take Grace out of the private English school at TPC where she's not able to take advantage of the education offered, enroll her at Msaranga Primary School where she'll fit right in with all the other village rugrats and be able to work with Vumi as part of The Toa Nafasi Project, and save Mama a bundle of shillings in the meantime!  Win-win-win!!

The photo above was taken on Grace's first day of school in Msaranga where she is now thriving.  She has made friends in the general Standard One classroom as well as in the Toa Nafasi tuition program.  She works with Vumi daily and has a keen understanding of the basic literacy and numeracy skills being taught.  She laughs, she plays, and no one tells her she's not good enough because of her impairment.


"It always seems impossible until it's done." -- Nelson Mandela

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