Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mama Joyce

I feel like only die-hard Bravo fanatics (like myself) will get the pun of this post's title, but nonetheless, I shall forge ahead.

The "Mama Joyce" in question here is not the sassy (s)mother of No Scrubs songwriter Kandi Burress, but rather Tanzanian Education Minister, Joyce Ndalichako.  Appointed as such by President John Magufuli when he took office in early 2016, Mama Joyce was quoted in The Citizen yesterday regarding special education funding.

You'll recall I have written about this formidable woman a couple times before (,, mostly because she is a bona fide beast on the floor of Parliament!

While I don't always agree with her pretty radical ideas, I am always amazed by them.  And by Mama Joyce herself.  A woman of this caliber of mind and action is a rare thing in the patriarchal society of Tanzania.  So, go, Mama Joyce, go!  Get that SPED $$$$!!

Ndalichako Clears the Air On Challenges Facing Special Education Teachers

The provision of education to children with special needs faces a lot of challenges including poor and unfriendly infrastructures, which is a situation that thwarts the teachers' goals.

This was said today by a representative of teachers of children with mental disability and autism, Ms. Mariam Halfani, during a training seminar for the teachers.

The seminar was on the guidelines about how to teach lessons on communication, health, math skills, upbringing, physical training, and craftsmanship.

Ms. Halfani explained that teaching children with special needs requires friendly infrastructures including proper teaching aids and a conducive environment to teachers.

She requested the government to improve the environment by providing teaching and learning aids and constructing teaching centers for such children.

Responding, the Minister for Education, Science, and Technology, Prof. Joyce Ndalichako, said the government has already started to better teaching environments for effective provision of education to such children.

She also said the government had already carried out a feasibility study at schools for children with special needs, with the aim of improving teaching environments and infrastructures.

Besides, she said the government had already bought teaching aids worth 3.6 million Tanzanian shillings for such children, adding that the facilities have already been distributed to 213 primary and 22 secondary schools across the country.

The minister further said that the government had purchased and distributed mental assessment equipment with the aim of identifying such children as early as possible and providing medical care for those with treatable disabilities.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Education My Foot, Use Your Brain!

Please, please, please, PLEASE read this amazing column by Anthony Tambwe from the Daily News.

Love, love, love, LOVE that this newsman is using his media platform not only to disseminate the news, but also to mobilize the troops.

Since I will be leaving NYC at the end of this week - putting an end to my habit of watching countless hours of CNN per day - it warms my heart to think that, back in my other home, media folk are starting to utilize their positions to spread their own ideologies and attempt to engage the masses in lively debate.

Fake News Media comes to Tanzania!  (Just kidding....)


Shikamooni wakubwa?  Wadogo zangu, hamjambo?

I know the greetings have found you wherever you are, and I also know there are those who have answered, and then there are those who have decided to ignore.  Haina taabu, I did not come here to make friends anyway.

You see, they say that Tanzanians are a very lovable lot, people who get along well with anyone, a nation that is said to be full of love (ha ha ha!), full of understanding and care....  Mi, sitaki kuongeza, ila maoni yangu ni tofauti.

If you have noticed, these same people are the ones who like to complain about everything.  From the weather to the kind of food they eat, Tanzanians can complain, na hii kazi wanaiweza kweli kweli, sio utani.

When Mjomba Mkapa was the president, these fellows could be heard in corridors and on street corners complaining about the kind of lives they are living, and of course they blamed Mjomba for their calamities, kama kawaida yao.

Entered JK, or Baba Ridhiwani, and the noise intensified, with the wailing and gnashing of teeth as Tanzanians blamed the ever-smiling husband of Mama Salma, calling him names and claiming that he is taking the country to the dogs, kelele kibao....  And most of them said it was better when Mjomba occupied the top seat, wabongo hao hao!

The good thing with Baba Ridhiwani is that he told the mourning Tanzanians that if they believed that he was too soft, then they should not hold their breaths for long, because there was a bulldozer coming to take over from him.  And he introduced Baba Jesca, or JPM to all and sundry, and the Tanzanians danced, vifijo na nderemo, from all corners.

I believe I don't have to tell you the amount of noise the Tanzanians are making right now, because it can be heard in near empty bars and rarely occupied guest houses, tunakukumbuka Baba JK!  That is what they are now saying, wabongo hawa hawa!

You see, with all this noise being made by the wabongo, I came to the conclusion that these are people who will always look for a scapegoat to throw the blame at in case they fail in life.  The easiest target in this scenario is none other than.... you guessed right, the government!  Kuna kamsemo ka wabongo kananikera sana, and it is unfortunate but it has become a very famous statement with the unsatisfied Tanzanians, especially the lazy ones, kupewa elimu.

Juzi, the government offered Tanzanians an opportunity to visit national parks, for free, for about three or four days, and the feedback from the parks is that the call was ignored, almost nobody bothered to take the offer, walikaa kimya.

A few days later , several Tanzanians were interviewed in one radio station and they were asked about the poor response, and the usual "kupewa elimu" issue surfaced, kama kawaida.  One of the fellows went ahead and blamed the government, for what, he did not have an idea himself.  "I believe that Tanzanians would have jumped at the opportunity kama wangeelimishwa...." said one of the not-so-bright fellows, hivi jamani, kuelimishwa kivipi kwa mfano?

Visiting the national parks, to say the least, is for one's own benefit, hivi mtu unataka kuelimishwa ili iweje?  Do you honestly need the government to come to your doorstep to tell you that you should make a plan to visit the park?  Kwa kweli mnashangaza sana, na inatia huruma.

You find a fellow after eating enough ugali and dagaa, he makes it his life target to fill his neighborhood with his offspring, and when things become tough for him, he is quick to jump on the government bandwagon....

"Naomba serikali iangalie mateso ninayopitia...." kwani ulitumwa!?  Watu na ndevu zao na vitambi vyao, they go ahead and dump their waste on the gutters and trenches meant for drainage, and when the rains come and the drainage system is blocked, guess what, tunaiomba serikali ituangalie, wengine eti ooh, wananchi wanahitaji kuelimishwa kuhusu madhara ya kutupa taka hovyo, hivi mna akili kweli?

When you go ahead and make someone's daughter pregnant and she produces triplets for you, the first thing is to tell the government to bail you out.  Na wengine, they might even say that people need to be educated on the dangers of unplanned children, hivi mbona hamuombi kuelimishwa wakati wa kutongoza?

It has to reach a point when Tanzanians stop looking for silly excuses for their pathetic ignorance.  People always say that ignorance is not a defense, but to Tanzanians, that is the easiest way to escape your responsibilities, kuelimishwa na nani, acheni ubabaishaji!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Taxman Cometh

What can I say?  Like father, like daughter....  As I was flipping through my news alerts this week, this one from The Citizen caught my eye and caused me a chuckle.

The title reads "Call for Tax Education to Be Incorporated in Education Curricula," and suggests that one reason people might not like paying their taxes is because they don't know what taxpayer dollars (or shillings, in this case) are spent on.

This, then, means that if they knew their hard-earned pennies (again, shillings) would go to roads, schools, and other infrastructure in their communities, they would be all the more willing to pay.

Which would mean tax education could actually lead Tanzania back to its socialist roots.  Crazy stuff, kids.

Some residents in the Kilwa district of Lindi region want the government to incorporate tax education in school curricula.

The move, according to them, will enable students to become good citizens who know the obligation of paying taxes.

The students were speaking during a seminar on capacity-building for leaders of civil societies and representatives of Teachers Trade Unions (TTU).

The training, which purposely aims at protecting the rights of the girl child, is run by Tanzania Education Network (TENMET) in cooperation with Action Aid and Kilwa Non-Governmental Organization Network (KINGONET).

Speaking at the training, residents Pili Kuliwa and Tumaini Said were of the opinion that tax education should be mainstreamed into school curricula to make students become good taxpayers in future.

Kuliwa explained that lack of education makes society view tax-paying as punishment, suggesting that there was a need for the issue of education to be continuously provided to residents so as to get rid of the misconception and instead create a new culture that would enable the society to pay tax voluntarily.

Due to the challenges, she said it was proper for the government to organize short- and long-term programs including setting up a curriculum about tax issues in primary and secondary schools with the aim of grooming students to become good taxpayers in future.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Pitch Tents, Not Fits

Hi guys.  I bet you never thought this day would never come.  I certainly didn't.

The tent at Mnazi Primary School is pitched!  A year and a half after we first came up with this idea to tackle (temporarily) the scarcity of classrooms at Mnazi, it has finally come to fruition.

To provide some background in brief: we first noticed the need of another classroom at Mnazi in February of last year after a Magufuli initiative closed down a bunch of private schools and accelerated nursery-age kids into Grade One.  Trump-like, Magufuli made this rash decision before determining that the existing government schools had the infrastructure to absorb these extra pupils.  Predictably, chaos ensued.

Toa activities were halted at Mnazi for the remainder of 2016 as we tried to work with the local government authorities from the education sector to find a reasonable solution.  They desperately wanted Toa to build a classroom, but I had to draw the line.  Toa is not about construction nor any kind of material goods.  Toa is about people, strengthening the existing human resources, and lassoing Tanzania's abundant social wealth.  However, we all realized the dire need for a classroom, so with permission from the Toa Boards of Directors (both US and TZ), we allotted a sum of money as a one-off contribution toward the construction of bedrock; bartered a deal with a kindly local safari tent company; and voila, going on two years later, we have, at least provisionally, a classroom space.

Here is where I must remain brief.  The time which passed between our idea of the tent as a compromise for building and its actual erection were shida-ridden, to say the least.  We at Toa so value our public-private partnership with the regional officials in Kilimanjaro, but dayum!  The negotiations were on par with a Middle East peace treaty!!  I pitched more than a couple fits, for sure.

But, apparently, that is all in the past.  The agreement was made and both sides have stood by it; the tent was delivered, erected, and filled with desks; the Mnazi community is appreciative; and I have one less thing on my "To Do" list.  Win, win, win, win!

Check out the glory of the Toa tent below, and revel in its majesty!!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Let's Get Wet!

As everyone knows, I am currently in New York, attending to various matters stateside; then headed to Perth, Australia in just three weeks for the biennial IASE (International Association of Special Education) conference where I will present my paper on teacher training and publicize the 2019 gathering in Lushoto, Tanzania; and finally back to Moshi on July 1st, just in time to celebrate my TEN-YEAR Tanziversary (on the 4th!) with a repeat trip to Zanzibar with Kaitlin just before she leaves Tanzania and heads back to school.  I feel busier than Trump and Magufuli combined!

In my absence, Lil' K has been holding down the Toa fort on-the-ground like a champ, keeping things moving, and handling any shidas that arise like a BOSS.  Asante, Kaitlin, and well done, young one!

This past week, Kaitlin's mom Sally arrived in Moshi, spent a day or two in town, and then swept her off on a luxury safari.... which is precisely what one does when one's parents come to Africa!  Just before leaving for the Serengeti, however, they conducted the May payday with Gasto and the teachers and also ran another one of Kaitlin's leadership groups.  You'll recall the first one we did back in March:

Since that initial workshop, we have done a bunch of others, all interactive and physical since the teachers seem to respond better to this type of activity than sitting and listening to boring old speeches.  (Hey, teachers, this is how the students feel too!  So try and make learning fun for them the way Kaitlin has for you!!)

Kaitlin and I co-ran a group in April in which everyone was given a secret word and asked to convey the meaning of that word to the others using any manner of denotation, connotation, or even charades, somehow getting the rest of the group to understand without using the actual word itself.  This exercise was meant to show the teachers that they must always be thinking of different ways to explain a lesson because every child's mind works differently, and it's up to us, as "learning support providers," to adjust to them.

We also did a "make believe you're an NGO director" exercise in which we split the teachers up into competing groups to come up with a vision and mission, staff and budget, and fundraising plan for their NGO, and present it all to the other groups.  Needless to say, minds were blown when I asked about how they would fund their projects; turns out, raising money is harder than they thought!  The first group to present their NGO proudly told me that they would "find mzungu donors" to support them and I had to quickly disabuse them of the notion that mzungu dollars are plum for the picking.

Kaitlin and Gasto also ran various other groups without me, but all had the common themes of instilling leadership qualities, understanding the value of teamwork, and figuring out how best to support the students who we are supporting.

Last week's group was titled "Let's Get Wet!" and involved two teams, each with the goal of transferring water from a full bucket to an empty one using a "tool."  One team's tool was a sponge and the other's was a cup.  The teachers ran relay-style to pass off the tools to each other and get the task done.  Whichever team filled up the bucket the fastest was the winning team, who afterwards was then sent over to the other side and help out using their tool.

So, this exercise had all the hallmarks of workshops past: emphasis on teamwork, communication, goal fulfillment, etc.  In addition, the "tools" were meant to represent our students, the cup being fast learners and the sponge the slow learners.  The idea was to put into perspective what it is like to have a slower processing speed, to take longer to learn a subject or accomplish a particular task, as well as to emphasize the value of what our teachers do to assist the students.

I thought it was just great, and was so pleased to see the video below of everyone participating and seemingly having a good time.  And, I give Kaitlin props for dropping just one lonely F-bomb during the whole three-minute segment.  What can I say, my surrogate daughter has a bit of a potty mouth?!  Don't know where she picked that up from!!