Monday, May 25, 2015

Sign My Yearbook?

Here's a story out of Salt Lake City, Utah, that's gained enough traction to be reported in national news outlets from Fox News to The Huffington Post (below).  

It's another unfortunate example of the ways in which students with special needs are marginalized in their schools and in their communities.

Quite frankly, it sounds like some old "separate but equal" B.S. to this reader....  NOT happy....


High School Principal Apologizes After Leaving Special Education Students Out Of Yearbook

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah mother says the high school that angered her by leaving special education students out of its yearbook has decided to print special inserts with their photos.

Leslee Bailey says the principal of Blue Peak High School in Tooele, Utah, called her to apologize Tuesday.

Bailey has said her daughter, Amber Bailey, had been upset by the omission, but the principal told her he never meant to for that to happen.

"It's too late, but they're trying really hard to fix it," Leslee Bailey said.  "They're owning up to the mistake."

Students will be able to pick up the insert page, featuring pictures of 21-year-old Amber Bailey and her 16 classmates, next week.

The students attend a special job skills program that shares the building with the high school.

Leslee Bailey said the yearbooks from Blue Peaks High School typically include pictures of the training program students, and her daughter realized she wasn't in this year's edition only after going through it several times.

"She was disappointed," Leslee Bailey said.  "She was waiting to see herself and her friends."

Tooele County School District Superintendent Scott Rogers wasn't available late Tuesday to discuss the insert.

He said earlier that the decision to leave the special education students out of the yearbook wasn't motivated by malice or bad intentions.  Rogers said it was intended to reflect the separation of the training program and high school.

He said workforce transition program participants and Blue Peak alternative high school students rarely interact, adding that the 18- to 22-year-old special education learners received a commemorative video instead of a yearbook.

"I don't think anyone at Blue Peak felt like they were doing anything exclusionary," Rogers said.  "We don't exclude special education students."

Leslee Bailey, however, said the students interact regularly in the lunchroom, hallways and on the bus.

She said parents and students should have been advised of the change.

"The yearbook is not for the administration," Leslee Bailey said.  "It's for the students.  Nobody asked the students what they wanted."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sunday Funday (Though Technically It's Saturday....)

Let's have some fun with this blog post today, shall we?  It's gray and cold here in Moshi and rain appears impending.  I've cleaned house, washed undergarments, attended to overgrown eyebrows and scary-long fingernails, and just turned on the computer.  

Of course, at this precise moment, the electricity cut out (why did I not have the forethought to reverse these weekend tasks??), so this entry will just be a short hodge-podge of images I've been saving up to share for, well, a time like this!

You might think high fashion is relegated to the developed world, but we've got designer duds here too.  Check out fancy footwear in the village and some blatant branding in my own kitchen.  Coco would be so proud....

This is Haika.  She is a very special little girl!  We were trying to move her from Msaranga Primary School to boarding at Gabriella, but her family wouldn't hear of it, and she is, in fact, now in Morogoro, quite far from Moshi, with her baba and his new wife. 

I suppose you win some, and you lose some.  But I think of her often and I loooove this photo because I had literally just pinched her cheeks and told her, "Nakupenda!" ("I love you!").  Her response?  "Pipi?" ("Candy?").... 

And when I tell people about Haika, I always compare her to a Snork from the '80s cartoon television show about wide-eyed underwater creatures.  See the resemblance for yourself....

Another set of very special children are the infamous Shemganga brothers.  They are not actually infamous, but come on, with a last name like "Shemganga," you gotta make some kind of joke (says the Rosenbloominator....)  I feel like they should be characters in a movie about warring urban gangs or cowboys in the Wild West: Fast and Furious: The Remake starring the Shemganga brothers!
Their first names are Rashidi and Rajabu, but that point is negligible as both boys will answer to either name and, after interviewing their mama last year, I'm not sure even she knows who's who - a bit strange since they are fraternal NOT identical twins.  We have since figured it out.... or at least made our decision which is which!

Back in our old classroom - a dilapidated, half-finished structure with just a dirt floor - we hosted frequent guests.  Here's one that distracted me for quite a while, as I wasn't sure if he was friend or foe....

Just as with haute couture, we've got pop culture covered here in Msaranga.  We all know what Miley is up to now, but remember her Disney days??

On a recent trip to Arusha, I parked in a lot next to this vehicle, the owner of which I VOW to find and make an offer.  Anybody who knows me knows I have a serious "crazy cat lady" element to my persona and, I tell you, this car MUST be mine!!

I think that's just about all I've got time - or battery power - for today, so let's end this piece on a positive note.  
Just next door to our classroom at Msaranga Primary is the Ward Office, the ground-level government headquarters in the area.  I submit schedules and reports and various other documents there regularly, which they supposedly keep on file.  Last time I popped in to drop something off, no one was around, but I peeped this sign on the wall and found it rather apropos. I wonder if it's in ward offices all around the country....?!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Big Results Now

From a recent article in the Tanzania Daily News:


PM Lays Stress on Fair Learning

Dodoma — More strategic approaches are to be employed to improve the learning environment in the country, Premier Mizengo Pinda has said, insisting that providing education to the Tanzanian child is constitutional.

Officiating at the opening of Education Week here, the Prime Minister said there was no excuse for any child to miss out on schooling as the government was working round the clock to ensure its effective provision.

"Our constitution clearly states that every child must get education.  It is not a thing to be debated.  As government, we only have to do one thing - to ensure that every child gets it," he noted.

This year's Education Week started Monday, May 11th and is to run through Friday, May 15th under the theme 'Quality Education; the Child's Right for National Development.'

Mr. Pinda said that celebrating Education Week came at the right time when the country was joining the rest of the world in evaluating the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

One of these MDGs was to ensure universal education for all, a thing which Mr. Pinda explained had been one of the priorities of the fourth phase of government.

The Prime Minister noted that marking Education Week was the government's brainchild to ensure effective implementation of the Big Results Now (BRN) initiative in the education sector.

He noted that the week includes exhibitions aimed at showcasing a number of successes so far recorded in the sector.

"Through these exhibitions, the general public will have enough time to learn the various achievements we have recorded since we started implementing the BRN initiative.

There are also number of challenges that we have faced; these are what we need the public to understand," he asserted.

The Premier added that apart from demonstrating achievements in the sector, Education Week was also a platform to honor students, teachers, councils, and regions which recorded outstanding performance in the Standard Seven and Form Four national examinations.

"We are doing this to motivate teachers and students to increase our efforts.  We are also creating friendly competition amongst our schools and students," he noted.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

All the World's a Stage

And all the wavulana and wasichana merely players / They have their exits and their entrances / And one mvulana in his time plays many parts....

Here's hoping Will Shakespeare will forgive my liberty in re-arranging his poem and making it more Toa Nafasi-friendly....

The stage to which I refer is the above-pictured classroom and the players, the wavulana (boys) and wasichana (girls) are the new group of Toa Nafasians!  All of whom I am sure will shortly be assuming many new roles, like active, participatory, creative, and inspired students at Msaranga Primary School!!

I am pleased to report that the 2015 assessment period is a fait accompli and out of 131 kidlets, 20 are struggling mildly and 31 sufficiently to give us cause to worry.  (Of course, data dilettante Angi Stone-MacDonald will have to give us the hard facts, but that's all in due course....)

Of these 51, there are various factors in their under-performance that we have been trying to uncover since finishing the testing and conducting the parent interviews.  We have just begun the referral period with a marathon day (the first of many!) at KCMC Hospital where we've taken the students for eye exams, hearing tests, pediatric follow-ups, and neuro consults.  

We will continue with said referrals until we have all the information we need to make IEPs (Individualized Education Program) for each pumpkin.  

So far, so good, but it will be rough road ahead especially given that the students who do NOT need medical referrals will start their tuition (remedial work) with the Toa Nafasi staff next week.  

I keep asking Teacher Yacinta, "Uko tayari, mrembo?" (Are you ready, beautiful?), and she keeps smiling, quite beautifully, but Vumi and I both know that it will be kazi kubwa (big work) going forward.  And the teachers-in-training obviously have NO CLUE what they're in for!  

But it will be that much more gratifying for all of us in one year's time when these kids are killing it in class on their own.  Which they will be if the last two years' results are any indication.

Anyhoo, MUCH more news from this side, but I'm cutting it short in order to get some correspondence done.  Back at y'all next week with the latest haps....  Until then, be well everybody.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Helping Hands

From last week's self-indulgent Sarah-centric piece to this week's back-to-business news from the front line, I came across this recent article in the Daily News, and thought I would share it with you all.  Seems to signify good news for hearing-impaired individuals in many of the local communities in Kilimanjaro.  Take a look!

A non-governmental organization (NGO), Childreach Tanzania, has initiated sign language training to Moshi Municipal Council (MMC) staff so that they can give quality services to the deaf.

MMC Executive Director (DED), Mr. Shaaban Ntarambe, inaugurated the training on Wednesday, in which the first phase will cover 25 members.

Childreach Tanzania conducts the training under the Deaf Education and Development Programme (DEDP), an initiative geared towards improving the socio-economic well-being of the deaf.

Through the project, Childreach Tanzania conducted research and the findings revealed that the situation for deaf children and young people is poor even at the family level.

The research showed that there are no official records of the number of deaf at the ward level, that some parents hide deaf  children at home, and that many deaf children and youth do not attend school hence end up without education or employment.

DEDP Officer, Mr. Goodluck Chanyika, said the new program covers 398 deaf children and young people as well as 200 parents and caregivers in the MMC and Moshi Rural District in Kilimanjaro Region.

Speaking at the function, Mr. Ntarambe urged MMC staff to take time to learn sign language, saying it is easy if they have the will and that it is pertinent if the deaf are to be served well.  He thanked Childreach Tanzania for their concerted efforts to help the deaf, saying the government is fully behind the plan and he would personally work hand in hand with them.

The DED also acknowledged the contribution by Kiusa Secondary School that has offered a classroom in which training will be conducted once a week.

He said the training has multiple benefits in life for those who learn.  Mr. Chanyika said the DEDP was initiated in June 2014 and has been conducting sensitization meetings and using media to influence community attitudes towards deafness.  "We aim to break communication barriers through conducting sign language trainings to teachers, students, and parents.

"We work with the government to advocate for deaf rights and increase districts' budget allocation to deaf services in Moshi Municipality and Moshi District Council," said Mr Chanyika.

He said Childreach Tanzania also works with schools for the deaf and deaf units to improve services through the provision of teaching aids and other facilities for the deaf.

Childreach has been conducting sign language training at Njiapanda, Msandaka, and Moshi Secondary schools as well as Ghona Vocational Education Training Center.