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Help Educate Children of Tanga

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USAGARA SECONDARY SCHOOL VISIT REPORT

TESA - TANGA (TANZANIA) EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT ASSOCIATION - Registered Canadian NGO

Website http//www.usagara.org

INTRODUCTION

A visit was made, by appointment, to Usagara School by 2 directors of TESA, Naseem Jivanjee(Canada), and Farhat Lane(Tanzania), on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008, to determine and assess the priority of needs as indicated by key persons in the school. Interviews took place on the 1st day of the new term with the new principal, Mr Sadani, the V.P., Mama Soka, 2 head teachers and 3 students.

There was a tour of the school and Park hostel, and the school had hired a videographer and photographer for the occasion.

The directors were greeted enthusiastically. The staff was gracious, well informed, open and honest about their priorities. The directors were impressed by the general level of English of both staff and students, the resourcefulness in the face of meager facilities, and the tremendous gratitude expressed. There was no begging, just matter of fact openness.

One must look at things in context, and there was seen to be a definite improvement in the school atmosphere, given that in the past decade there has been a major change in the national political philosophy and a shift from Swahili medium to English at the school.

SCHOOL STATISTICS

The school has a total of 1550 students. There are 7 Form 1 classes, 8 form 2 classes, 8 form 3 classes etc There are 440 A level students in 6 classes with approximately 35 or more in each class. Form 1 to 4 have about 40 in each class.

O and A level students take the local NECTA exams. Last year, 284 did O levels and only 13 students failed. 166 sat for A levels and 22 failed.

Of the 440 boarders, all A level boys, 120 live in a dorm at the school, while 320 are at Park hostel and its adjoining house.

The Ministry of Education sends the teachers for the school and there is a shortage, especially of Math and science teachers. Teachers earn between 200,000 to 300, 000 Tanzanian Shillings per month. ? Cdn $200 to $300

MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

As a director from Canada, I was struck by a number of facts which had been assumed by us the alumni when talking about the allocation of donations to the school.

1 The Tanzanian Government is in fact heavily subsidizing, in terms of running costs, Usagara, and it is amazing that the fees are so nominal.

For the 440 A level boarders, the nominal fee of approx $70 per annum includes tuition, boarding and lodging as well as food.

A form 2, 3 and 4 student would pay about $ 20 per annum for tuition and books. Form 1 students pay $50 per annum, as it includes uniform, books, self reliance fund etc.

2 There are in fact well over 20 government secondary schools in the Tanga region, and Tanzania is investing heavily in secondary schools. Unfortunately, older established schools like Usagara are neglected in terms of major renovations and investment.

3 It is a misconception that helping Usagara with extra building and renovations is solely a government responsibility. Ideally this would be so, but in reality, such major investment will take a very long time. Government however can be asked to contribute towards private efforts.

4 We should not compare the results of government and private schools when we prioritize the allocation of funds.

It is interesting that parents are now actually sending children to government schools as a first choice, and that of all the government schools in the region, Usagara has the best reputation. In fact it is the government which assigns specific secondary schools to students depending on their marks, and students are eager to get into Usagara.

5 The school has no control on the number of students allocated by government, hence the problem of over crowding. This was seen as a major setback in terms of school functioning.

6 I was struck by the number of boarders and the lack of facilities for them. Most of these A level students come from outside Tanga.It was surprising that 120 students actually live on campus at Usagara. Inspite of 320 students at Park hostel living together, it was amazing how clean and tidy the rooms were and there were no discipline problems noted. Neighbours commented that they saw boys studying in poor light well past midnight, and they were up by 5 AM to beat the latrine rush! There being nowhere to eat, students could be seen in rain or sun, sitting in the mud outside on the main road, eating in full view of passers by.

7 It was noted that the money previously spent on the school and Park hostel by alumni was well spent and has obviously benefitted the school. The latrines and 2 labs are in use. The lights installed at the hostel were working, but obviously not enough. At some point in the near future, the shaky staircase at the Park hostel will need to be replaced.

8 It was a shock to learn that 6 A level students were sharing 1 text book, so they do not get to take books home for homework.

9 Science and Math were seen by the school as needing much more emphasis and asked for general science books for extra reading for the students. There is, as stated, a serious shortage of Math and Science teachers and Usagara pays extra and gets these teachers part time from private schools for certain periods of time.

10 The school has very few computers but surprisingly, they were not seen as a priority. Perhaps the other basic needs are so pressing that this takes a back seat.

11 Students both at Usagara and at Park Hostel have no place to study or eat, or even a canteen, let alone any benches to sit outside. Vendors come to sell snacks at recess, just as they used to in our days. There are wood burning open grills where food is cooked, mostly beans and Ugali, but students eat in the open on the ground. This is seen as a major area of need by both the school staff and students, as well as the directors.

PRIORITIES AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Contrary to our thinking, help with school fees was not seen as a priority by the VP, because the fees are nominal and there is a self reliance fund which takes care of needy students.

IMMEDIATE SHORT TERM GOALS

1 TEXT BOOKS FOR A LEVEL SUBJECTS
(Especially math and Science text books)

If there is an agency in Dar es salaam dealing with educational materials, its help should be sought
The school needs to give an inventory and cost of books needed, but Rotary Club of Tanga should be asked to oversee and ensure proper usage of books.
Approximate TESA donation would be $ 10,000
The books could be given to the school at the time of the Tanga reunion, and is 'doable' in terms of funds available.

2 15 WOODEN BUNKS
Park hostel was short of 15 sturdy wooden bunks, which they order from Arusha. Each bed costs $ 100. Students bring their own mosquito net and mattress.

The VP, Mama Soka said they had just bought 15 beds and 15 other students were doubling up because they were short of beds, She was reluctant to ask for help, saying she was sure they would manage somehow. However, this is 'doable' on our part, I feel, if still needed Farhat Lane could touch base with the school. The cost would be $ 1500

3 THE TWINNING OF USAGARA WITH A CANADIAN HIGH SCHOOL
This idea was met with a great deal of excitement and it could have countless possibilities for students as well as the school in general, including student exchanges, Calgary would be ideal and Mary Tidlund could be approached, as she would have useful contacts.

INTERMEDIATE GOALS

4 REFURBISH 2 LABS
There is an urgent need to re equip the 2 remaining science labs, physics and biology, with apparatus for experiments. The physics teacher, a wonderful, competent lady, was quite frustrated that simple experiments like electricity could not be done. The lab water and gas supply needs to be looked at, even though water is freely available in the rest of the school. At present, students use small gas burners. There was an absence of visual material, posters etc on the walls and the biology lab was empty, with wood for the kitchen stored at the back. Obviously, there is no safe storage facility in the school.

An alumni with a science background, in conjunction with the teachers, could assess the exact items and work needed ; and again, Rotary International could oversee the project, just as they did the last time. Dr Yusuf Mnyusiwalla,or Dr Fatima Patel, if available in Tanga, would be suitable persons to work on the inventory. Lab supplies should not be given in bulk, but as needed on account, to be overseen by Rotary.
The approximate cost of this would be about $20,000

5 MULTI PURPOSE DINING, STUDY HALL, KITCHEN, STORAGE

The head master, Mr Sadani, pointed out a long, wide empty plot of land just outside the back gates and wall of the school, which would nicely accommodate a much needed facility for A Level students.

It is strongly felt that TESA's major project, where most of the money should be spent, could be a simple, very long open sided multi purpose structure of corrugated iron roof supported by wooden poles, with a concrete floor. There would be 2 kitchen hearths, of 4 grills each, at either end with one work top each end, and the structure would have many concrete benches and concrete slab tables. There would be 2 small lockable stores at either end beside the open kitchens. Local materials could be used and there is already a cement factory operating in Tanga.

This structure would cater to the needs of all the 440 boarding A level students, providing a place to eat, study, have tutorials, as well as be a canteen for recess and provide recreational space. There would be water for cooking and drinking fountains, as well as electricity for lights for night study.

If such a building comes about, all 440 A level students could eat and study there, eliminating the need to spend any more money on facilities at Park hostel.

This project would benefit the majority of students and it is felt improve the functioning, and therefore the academic performance of senior students, who would give countless blessings to their benefactors.

This dream cannot come true without the help of large corporations, as alumni alone will not be able to undertake such a project which would cost approx $ 100,000.

Bill Gates Foundation is already helping Tanga Hospital in a major way and it is felt we should approach the Foundation to work with us, in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Tanga, on this particular project of building a multi purpose structure. If this comes about, it will indeed be a dream come true. To qualify for applying for a grant from the Bill Gates foundation, our charity needs to be registered in the U.S.A as a not for profit organization with a charitable status to be able to issue tax deductible receipts

A letter will be drafted to the Bill Gates Foundation.

LONG TERM GOALS

6 ASSEMBLY HALL ROOF AND CEILING

This has been pending for years and the hall has been in disuse and in need of repairs. The school conducts assemblies outside, thus they have been able to manage, but restoring the assembly hall to its former glory should be looked at down the road.

It is felt the Tanzanian government, perhaps through foreign aid, should undertake this costly task, as it is seen to be too major for alumni to cover.

7 PRIVACY WALL OUTSIDE PARK HOSTEL

A small wall would give privacy from the main road to students using the washrooms or eating at Park hostel, and we are talking about 320 students.
In addition, there is a need for benches and seats, nailed to the floor or walls, for study purposes at Park hostel.
However, there seems to be a feeling on the part of the school that Park hostel is too far from the school and that another facility should be looked at. Therefore this should be put on the back burner until plans are known.

Comments have been made by alumni about our efforts being "a bottomless pit" and "Where do we start?"
My visit changed my mind completely. Let us not compare or judge the ( Karimjee) Usagara school we used to know with today's Usagara.Let us look at the realities.

Tanga is an economically impoverished place, not the boom town we knew. Many ministers, professionals who are leaders of Tanzania today are alumni of Usagara. It still has the best facilities and reputation in Tanga and inspite of everything, I witnessed bright students striving for a place in the world.

For us, giving back by providing a little money in our comfortable situations, and trusting some of our alumni to make sure it is well spent, is the least we can do.

And remember, many hands make light work! Let us do it together.

Toronto has a Tanga Nite fundraiser coming up on November 8th, 2008. Please support our efforts by planning to attend and donate.

Report written by
Naseem Jivanjee

Date August 28th, 2008

1282 Saddler Circle
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