Engorora

Reads: 31  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

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

The first Primary School we visited was in poor state of repair.

Engorora

The very first school we worked with was Engorora, but the name has changed to Kisongo, probably at the whim of someone in the education department. There used to be a Wednesday market at Kisongo, not where the school was located but across the main road and a little towards Arusha. There was animal trading; cattle, goats and sheep, as well as produce; maize, rice, beans, also plastic homeware, second hand clothing, tools and knives, ropes, toothbrushes, toiletries. The village people belonged to the Maasai and Arusha tribes and both tribes like to decorate themselves with jewellery, so the beads, wire, and small bits of metal were there too. The market was busy, vibrant and exciting for a newcomer, and the day after the market, the ground was bare, except for the rubbish left behind.

Hifadhi was already working in the village when I joined them and on our first visit I didn’t really have a role, I was just watching and listening. I had yet to learn much Swahili, but I understood the gist because it was stuff I was familiar with. I had Joshia there who I couldn’t rely on to translate all the time, but we discussed it all afterwards. Hifadhi had organised a women’s group to grow a community vegetable garden, which was doing very well. And I soon found that carrying out projects targeting women’s groups was the shortest route to acquiring funds.

The vegetable garden was established within the grounds of the school, and two things became obvious as we drove into the school grounds. Although it was the dry season, the hallmarks of water erosion were very clear, wherever water could run, it had scoured out deep and sometimes wide channels. Therefore, when it did rain, it surely rained. Secondly, the scarcity of water was revealed by the rows of yellow 50 litre plastic containers standing around a forlorn standpipe and tap and later, women, some with donkeys, came to collect water when it began to flow. There was a pipeline that ran from Mount Meru to the Army base at Monduli and all the villages had tapped into it illegally. Of course this compromised the water supply at the base so wasn’t sustainable. Maybe a year later, the army decided they weren’t getting enough water, so shut down the line, causing water shortages but as planned but never spelled out, the army established a new line which became legally utilised by the villages.

Hifadhi were targeting adults, and for the day we were there, they were conducting a seminar on the preparation of soil and the planting of seedlings into filled pots, pricking out, and in the back of my mind I was concerned about the seedlings being vulnerable to drying out in the open air heat and lack of water. But it was their show so I just watched. Meanwhile I noticed that the school kids couldn’t settle down with us in their yard and it turned out that they were interested me because of my obvious difference. The school was in three parts. Nearest to us were the senior kids, who were in a weatherboard classroom that had long since lost any semblance of the paint that had been applied. Therefore the timber was a weathered grey and termite damaged. The windows had frames but there was no sign of the glass. This would have been a mission school in colonial times, and when Nyerere became the Father of the Nation, he tried the socialist path, which saw the rather quick disintegration of the infrastructure that the nation had inherited. On a rise a little way from the senior building were three plastered block classrooms that were perhaps ten years old and in need of refurbishing. On the same level as the three classrooms but a little apart were two more classrooms for the younger pupils. These were clad with mabunzi, the very cheapest building material. When a log is sawn, the first flitch, the round piece of timber that squares the log, is firewood or waste in Kiwi sawmills, but in Tanzania they made cheap cladding. The wind and rain could get through, but not so badly. In these classrooms, there were rocks for the kids to sit on. There were some boards used as forms to sit on, held above the earth floor by broken concrete blocks. There was no comfort. All of the school’s desks were in poor repair.

Because of the interest in me, the school was assembled and I felt as though I was being paraded. Joshia introduced me and told them where I was from and what I was doing in Tanzania. I wasn’t quite sure what he said, and at the time, even I wasn’t too sure what I was going to be doing there. And of course they wanted to hear my voice. They were seated on the ground outside and when I greeted them with, Wanafunzi hamjambo, which means, Students, how are you all? As one they stood up, some of the older students saluted and all shouted, Shikamoo Mwalimu, we are fine. I had been told that the reply to shikamoo is always, marahaba. Joshia translated the rest, out of nowhere, I asked them if they wanted an environmental project and to plant some trees. Even the teachers replied in the affirmative. The kids were supposed to be in uniform, blue dresses for the girls and blue shorts with white shirts for the boys, and although many weren’t in uniform, the assembly looked blue to me. Three boys stood out. They were at least sixteen and at the time there was a catch-up programme for young people who hadn’t managed to go to school as normal, the three were part of that group.

We found modest ways of assisting the school with education tools and the kids with desks, and they rewarded us by supporting the environmental programme, especially during the dry months when the kids organised themselves to irrigate the newly planted trees, which ensured their survival. Happily the country is no longer the world’s third poorest nation, it has climbed to eighth and since our time there, the school has been renewed. There are a least two privately run primary schools in the area now, one of them on the site of the old Kisongo market. This represents growth and progress.

Those kids will be adults now, which begs many-a question, none of them likely to be answered…  

 

 


Submitted: February 17, 2021

© Copyright 2021 moa rider. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:


Facebook Comments

More Memoir Short Stories

Other Content by moa rider

Short Story / Memoir

Short Story / Memoir

Short Story / Memoir