Samaria

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs


The school needed a couple of new classrooms and we were there to check on progress.

Submitted: April 15, 2018

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Submitted: April 15, 2018

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Samaria is a typical dryland African village where a daily meal depends on climate factors and resourcefulness. The village is more distant than some of the other villages we worked with; after following the Moshi – Arusha highway to the market town of Kikatiti, we dropped off to the right and headed across the flat area where squatters are starting to build permanent dwellings. It was a matter of picking our way through there until the unformed road becomes better and more well-used. There’s a disused railway line to bound over, by no means a level crossing, it’s the same one we crossed for all the southerly villages including Maroroni. We then followed the cleared area beneath a high tension power line, and along a track that crossed some dry, stoney country where driving was slow enough not to kick up clouds of dust. Loti knew the way because his wife came from there and her parents still farm there. Anyway after a lot of ducking and diving, dodging large boulders, we emerged onto a tar road, with more potholes than tar! The road is access between Kilimanjaro airport and their electronic guidance system that is close to Maroroni village. At that time the guidance system looked somewhat decrepit with some of the poles on a dangerous lean! The Samaria church and primary school are beside the road towards the airport.

The main reason we went there was to check on the building work that was to be done at the school. Our government had provided funds for two new classrooms and some other minor repairs, and the outfit I worked for, DME, had contracted Tom Mpilipili to carry out work at Samaria and some other schools. However, we had found this Tom Mpilipili chappie to be less than auspicious because we had already seen that work had been left undone and the schools were complaining to me. At Kwatulele we caught the bugger using old, secondhand materials!  I was therefore on the warpath to make sure hard-won government money was spent more appropriately.

Well it happened again over the making and purchasing of the burnt bricks for Samaria. It’s not always possible to stick to your values, sometimes you have to compromise. Burnt clay bricks are not the best environmental option. To make them, the soil has to be dug out of the ground leaving a crater of no use at all. To burn, or bake the bricks uses firewood – trees, and our role was to halt environmental degradation by conserving trees! On the other hand, burnt bricks are much cheaper and required no cartage costs because they are made on site. Local people often cannot afford the conservation principles that I would like to have imposed. Most often it is all down to cost.

The trouble for Tom Mpilipili was that I was fairly involved with building in various other projects and I could 'smell a rat' a mile off! This guy was pocketing a lot of money, even ripping off the teachers at the schools! I knew that he had inflated the cost of the burnt bricks, and strongly suspected that he was going to use second hand roofing iron from another project. I reckoned some of the fault lay at the Agency's door because under our new Field Rep, money was handed over in one big lump sum without any procedure in place to check accountability. She made it plain that she didn’t like the primary schools’ assistance project nor did she like DME, in fact, she couldn't have cared less how the funds were spent! So I became a self-appointed supervisor.

Because we had become advocates for the school, we decided to go the whole hog and presented our environmental programme there. Our usual seminar went well except for the part where I performed a role play of how the wind blows cultivated soil from a farm. I was always careful to ask a boy to come up to represent the farm, because I used his head as the farm’s soil. This was because the role play involved me pushing him around a little. Unfortunately this time I picked a girl. Maybe I wasn't concentrating as I should, but to be fair all the kids have a short haircut and were seated wearing their white shirts and blouses. When she shyly came up, I noticed her skirt, but didn’t want to disappoint her by sending her back. I decided to go ahead thinking I would be easier on her.

Well, at the part where the wind becomes strong, the Swahili word for strong (relating to wind) is the same word as angry - kali. I was the wind, saying 'Now I’m becoming stronger' and she interpreted it as ‘Now I’m becoming angry!’ Well the poor kid ran off in fright! To make it worse the other kids laughed! The teacher told me later that she had mental issues and was sorry he failed to alert me. I didn’t mean to upset her and even though she’s unlikely read this, I apologize to her anyway.

The soil at Samaria is stoney, tending red and dry, water is a big problem which is why we limited the number of trees we provided to the school, simply because they would be unable to look after them. As usual one pupil cared for one tree, and we awarded a prize, not for the best tree, but for the most effort. For prizes this time, I managed to source T-shirts that the manufacturer had miss-labelled. The kids didn’t give two hoots about the writing, they had new clothing! They were a hit with the kids who won prizes.

To illustrate some of the problems that arise for rural people, Loti left a number of goats to be open grazed by his extended family at Samaria, but when we arrived to load them into my truck for a return trip to his farm, there were only three left! Loti was told the rest had died. Well that wasn’t a lie at all, goats have to die before they can be cooked and eaten!

Footnote: In this piece, I named the contractor Tom Mpilipili because Mpilipili is Swahili for Pepper tree. Tom Pepper was a habitual liar as was this man.


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