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Tanzania Expedition 2016

07 April 2016

Twenty students and three staff spent the recent holiday in Tanzania as part of the Nord Anglia Global Campus expedition programme. Expeditions have been running steadily since November last year with hundreds of students and staff from Nord Anglia schools staying at Shamba Kipara Camp near Arusha in northern Tanzania.

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Students have been able to learn about the lives of people in this area through direct contact and have been involved in development projects working alongside a local NGO: Seaway Tanzania. Seaway are a small scale NGO who have been working in this area for more than ten years and Nord Anglia has worked with them to identify sustainable, manageable projects for our students to take part in. this year the projects were divided into a school project and a community project.

The school project was based at a single primary school close to our base. The school has only limited resources and, at the start of the current school year, no housing for teachers and limited desks for students. As most schools in Tanzania provide housing for staff this is a significant problem for the school in recruiting good teachers. For the teachers who work there, it means a long journey to work: several miles walk each day. This reduces their time for extra lessons and for sports and the other CCA activities that we take from granted here in Pudong.

Since November, students have worked to build three teacher houses. We arrived in time to work on the completion of the final two houses by plastering walls and installing windows.

Van commented that “making the cement was a pretty difficult process as we had to sift 5 barrows of sand to mix with each bag of cement and fetch water from the tank at the top of the hill. It all had to be mixed together which was heavy work in a hot environment. Even then, plastering was a challenge. The fundis (skilled craftsmen) made it look easy but when we tried to throw the cement onto the wall like they showed us, a lot of it just fell onto the ground.”

Our students showed remarkable resilience: trying, failing, trying again and failing better until eventually we got the hang of the plastering process. It was tough work though and sometimes it was only the thought of the impact our work would have that kept us going.

The Community Project involved dividing into smaller groups of about 7-9 and working with an individual family. These families had been selected by the village leaders as the people in each village with the greatest need of support. Often this meant single parents families, families with a mother or a father who were ill or disabled, families which had been bereaved through diseases like HIV/AIDS.

The project involved three things. Firstly was the building of a goat shed. This simple structure allows the family to effectively care for and raise one or more goats and we gave a female goat to each family once the sheds were complete. The goat provides milk, breeding, meat and therefore improved diet and income generation.  Secondly, we built a smokeless stove for the family. The smokeless stoves are very simple. A square stove is build using local mud bricks and cemented together with a mix of cow dung and ash. The small structure retains heat much more effectively than the three stone technique, uses less firewood and, once lit, produces considerably less smoke. So it's good for health and welfare as well as reducing demand for fuel wood in an area where deforestation and soil erosion are significant issues. Lastly was installing and wiring in a solar panel. This provides electricity and we installed lights and a socket. Lights improve quality of life and also life chances: if there is lighting in a house then a child at school will be able to read and do homework after 6pm for example. The socket allows the family to charge mobile phones and other appliances to supplement their income.

Ashley describes this aspect of the trip below:

“The most challenging part of the trip was most probably making the goat shed for a family in need. After initial interaction with our family, we were told that the mother was a widow, having to raise her children as well as maintain a plot of land by herself; having a goat shed will make her life significantly easier. However, the task wasn't easy. The wood sawing and hammering was rather difficult for us inexperienced labourers; we frequently made mistakes and this slowed down the entire process. Eventually, we overcame these difficulties by working as a team, volunteering to take over when someone was tired, and dividing up the responsibilities. Ultimately, we were able to finish within the 4 hours we were given. Every time I think back to the smile of the widow's face, it makes the sweating and bruises and countless near misses of hammering my hand all worthwhile.”

This trip was a huge learning experience for our students and aimed to challenge them as thinkers, global citizens and IB students as much as simply involving them in development projects and a safari experience. Each evening was spent reflecting on the day that had passed and considering the effects of our actions in terms of sustainable development from an environmental as well as a social perspective. We picked apart the Millennium Development Goals and their replacements since this year, the Sustainable Development Goals and examined how our actions contributed to their achievement. We also thought hard about difficult questions about our own roles: how we would be perceived by local Tanzanian people, the rights and wrongs of taking photos of children watching us work, of visiting classrooms, of touring villages.

Anna L. considered the long-term effects of the work the students’ undertook during their time in Tanzania:

“I am an economics student, and being able to see the very beginning of businesses and the start of what will become a future source of income was very powerful. When we built the goat shed, I realized that this didn’t only mean more milk or meat for the family, but also the start of what could develop into a source of employment and disposable income, which is what will possibly bring the whole country forward. I was able to witness how investment in services such as education or healthcare has a massive income on a country that is slowly developing into a more complex economy and a greater level of economic sustainability.”

Ashley reflects:

“People will often associate Tanzania with no more than trees and dirt, perhaps an elephant here or there and tribal people spread sparsely amongst the environment. One thing that I have noticed on this trip is the effect of globalization and how it has reached the most remote corners of the world, even in a small village in Tanzania. I say this because of the numerous coca cola sponsored stores and advertisement boards I have spotted over the seven days. This made me wonder: Is the expansion of multinationals into Africa a positive, in terms of increasing the level of development and rate of economic growth, or will it compromise local businesses selling tradition products, and therefore contribute in erasing the Masai culture that should be preserved instead. Perhaps what Tanzania needs is sustainable development, to find a balance between the two and not have to forfeit one benefit for the other.  

Overall, I found that I have become more aware of the ethics of choices and actions of the volunteers set out to make a change, as well as the ethics of the locals who have to make do with the limited resources they have. This experience has enriched my perspective on how standards of living can vary significantly across the world, and I have also become more aware of the current solutions implemented in attempt to correct this imbalance.”

Of course, there is always more to be done for communities such as the one we visited in Tanzania. Anna P. shares here thoughts:

“One of the most challenging parts of this trip was battling the feeling of not being “enough”. It was often hard to communicate with people who had limited English. I had learnt a few words of KiSwahili  but not enough to have a conversation or even to ask simple questions. Once, when I spent some time with some children during our school project, I tried speaking in English but they just stared at me so I just played with them: that is another sort of communication.

Many times during the six days I felt like I wanted to do more than I could. I wanted to build more on the teachers’ houses. I wanted to help the woman who asked me for money. I wanted to give toys to the kids I met. I wanted to do a lot. Sometimes, even after finishing a really good day, I would feel that there was more to be done – and there was. However this is just unrealistic thinking. There will always be more to do (don’t get me wrong, I was so proud of what we accomplished each day).”

Students also got to see some of the amazing wild Tanzanian countryside, going on safari and sleeping under the stars. They were amazed to spot wildlife in their native habitat from our truck transports.

Speaking as one of the three staff on the trip, I can say with confidence that I have rarely been as proud of the achievements of a group of students. Our team quickly made firm friends with fellow Nord Anglia students from Mexico, Florida, Abu Dhabi, Hanoi and were quickly working together in effective teams. They worked in often challenging physical and emotional conditions: under blistering sun and torrential rain and never let it slow them down or dampen their spirits. Most of all, though, they showed a questioning, sensitive approach to the circumstances of those we met. Our students were humble as well as passionate, caring and determined to do the best they possibly could and the quality of their discussions, questions and comments was outstanding.

Ms Jane Kilpatrick
Service Leader

For a full photo gallery from the Tanzania Expedition, please check our school Facebook page here.