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Jasmina's Blog - Reflections on Tanzania

11 April 2014

Our trip to Tanzania was a life-changing experience. I really appreciate the fact that we were introduced so many aspects of the country while interacting with the locals, investigating the surroundings and discovering the rich culture. I’m pleased to have positively impacted the inhabitants of the region by means of prior fundraising or volunteering at Maua Primary School and hope to continue projects in support of Tanzanian communities. The trip has definitely encouraged me to continue travelling and explore new parts of the world.

Day 1:
After a morning of camp exploration, all 105 participants were familiarised with the
Tanzanian culture through a series of activities ranging from beading and dance to Swahili lessons. These would provide us with a basis for communication - ‘jambo’ and ‘asante sana’ quickly became everyone’s standard phrases over the next week or so. I was glad to be able to meet some locals, particularly since many were invited to our camp from the surrounding villages to demonstrate their daily trades. A group of students from the Maua Primary School living at Huruma orphanage also participated in our activity day. It was great to interact with the children on a one-to-one basis in anticipation of our later jobs teaching much bigger year groups and get an understanding of their English skills as well as activities they might enjoy during our tutoring sessions.

Days 2, 3 and 4:
I left most of the Warsaw group and set off on a safari expedition with other Nord Anglia
students from around the globe. The trip allowed me to meet a variety interesting people
and discover how fast one can make friends when sat in a jeep for hours on end every
day! We travelled to the Tarangire National Park and visited the famous Ngorongoro crater. Both proved to be amazing experiences, whether due to the immensity of the impressive landscapes or the vast array of wild animals which seemed completely unfazed by the arrival of curious camera-brandishing tourists.

The highlight of the expedition must have been our third day during which we visited a
hilltop village just outside Arusha. We were able to get a first-hand glimpse of a traditional Tanzanian family’s daily life in ‘boma’ huts made of mud and dung which house cattle as well as people. A local guide explained how a man often had several wives, each with her own boma and children. Sons typically left their parents at the age of 14 to establish their own families in neighbouring bomas. The guide emphasised Tanzania’s incredible rate of development by explaining that many of the old traditions were abandoned in favour of more progressive habits, including monogamy and the use of mobile phones to facilitate farming. We were also briefed on the community’s employment of sustainable agricultural strategies such as terrace farming and biomass. After a hike, we were taken to the local school and allowed to help out during a maths lesson. I enjoyed how the students greeted us with a song - the classic Tanzanian welcome.

Day 5:
This was our first day spent at Maua Primary School, during which we continued the
previous group’s renovation work. I learnt how physically demanding a day of wall painting can be, especially in temperatures of over 30 °C. At the same time, the work was highly rewarding because we noticed a clear transformation in the school houses from drab grey to a far more appealing white and blue combination. I was particularly interested the fact that the school had scientific diagrams painted onto the walls as a way of compensating for shortages of paper. Although our work didn’t directly contribute to academic aspects of the school, I get the impression that the students feel more motivated to travel long distances to a visually attractive school. Their attendance was amazing considering the number of kilometres some covered on foot every day. Groups of siblings or friends no older than 7 or 8 holding hands by the side of the road between villages were a common sight every morning. It was really refeshing to see their eagerness to learn in comparison to the relative lack of motivation of many of us who take education for granted.

Day 6:
The teaching day, which was what I was most looking forward beforehand, quickly became my favourite part of the whole trip. Our lessons at were strenous but incredibly fulfilling. We joined up with our fellow teachers from other Nord Anglia schools and pooled all the resources which we had prepared beforehand. I volunteered as the leader of an English lesson which focused on comparisons. The time I spent explaining key concepts and organising activities in front of a class of about 40 children allowed me to understand the need for flexibility and creativity while teaching. It was inspiring to meet such a group of talented, appreciative students who quickly accepted the theory and eagerly participated in exercises. I was delighted share my own knowledge, helping out both during class time and individual reading time where I was able to recommend some of my own favourite stories. By the end of the day, I fully understood that the quality of education is not determined by the quality of classrooms or facilities but by the drive and attitude of the teacher and the students. Our experience at Maua Primary School taught me a great deal about appreciating the importance of worldwide education which I definitely consider a hugely significant factor in human development.

Day 7 & 8:
During the last few days in Tanzania, we had time to interact with our new friends from the school on a more leisurely basis. This meant lots of ‘duck duck goose’, football matches and Tanzanian song and dance. After a farewell ceremony, we returned to our camp for a fascinating meeting with local entrepreneurs. Their jobs ranged from international school ownership to carpentry and law, allowing us to gauge a general understanding of the ins and outs of Tanzanian business. We also got the opportunity to tour the camp and discover the positive impact of the farm and fruit plantations on the local community. I took part in a brief cooking lesson led by locals who prepared our meals every night, although I have yet to try out their recipes at home.
It was difficult to leave the camp after having made so many friends from around the world. I hope to return to Tanzania in the future and would definitely urge other students from the British School to participate in the same project.