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Back to School - 04 February 2016
In all of the excitement recently in climbing Kilimanjaro and working to get kids back in school, I realized that I have not done such a good job on letting everybody know what is happening with individual kids. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that people from far away are not in the loop of daily chatter about such things that is part of our lives. We managed to pay all of the fees for kids at the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre for both St. Louis and Majengo Secondary with only four exceptions. Those four are sponsored by people outside of our program so their status remains unclear to us since we cannot yet verify that their fees have been paid. We have extended the offer to help with these fees if there is any problem with their sponsors, but so far we have not heard if this is needed. Ema has joined the six kids in high school at Majengo Secondary. He looks so crisp and sharp in his new school uniform and sweater! He now joins Ever, Novati, Reggie, Glory, Happy and Viola each day on the bus ride to and from school. They ride in with the kids from St. Louis because their schools are pretty close together. Joining the kids at St. Louis are Regina, Mary, Mwana and Joachim who are all in Nursery Class. Fatuma who had surgery in India several years ago is also going to St. Louis this year and is in First Grade.
The older kids who are waiting on their Form Four national exam results include Frank, Hamisi, Shedrack, Husen, Zainabu and Agness. The boys have been staying busy by attending driving school in town each day. They have final exams coming up this week. Since they are just now learning to use the reverse gear, I have a little anxiety about them. But then I guess most driving situations do not really require going in that direction. I can recall driving a car with no reverse in the past and you just have to be very careful where you put it!! Between classes the boys have also been constructing some more tables and school desks for me. They like this work, but using their new power tools is often hampered by the poor electricity situation here. Yesterday we rented a generator to deal with this problem. Agness and Zainabu helped do teaching days out at the Mabogini orphanage last month and also have been helping with some sick patients we are assisting at a local hospital. Zainabu wants to be a doctor so we like to have her accompany us on visits to sick patients. She is very caring and compassionate and her energy is always welcome. And Agness has become the neighborhood ombudsman taking up the cause of a number of people that she has found with medical or social problems. This is the traditional role of the Street Chairperson, but Agness does such things naturally because that is the way she is. In the evenings now these kids are all helping with study nights at the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre. The ''big brother and sister'' energy is something we always felt would help the younger kids. Next week we plan to take some of these kids on a short vacation to South Africa as a reward for their hard work. We found very cheap fares to there and free lodging near Kruger National Park. We will be able to link with Marcel in Dar es Salaam who is in a Master's Program there.
We got to visit last weekend with Mwanaidi who is in a law study program at a college in Lushoto. She came to help make the decision on where her little sister, Mwantum, would go to school. Mwantum has wanted to attend boarding school since last year, but we were not able to really work on this until this year. Once we got her national Form Two results from this year we were able to seek placement. She had a choice between a school in Tanzania and one on the border in Kenya in Loitokitok. She chose the latter so we traveled there last week to place her and get her started. By good luck the school she chose was the one that Daniel's fiancé, Joyce, attended. Joyce did very well at this school scoring in Division Two on her national high school exit exam (The top 10% in the country) and subsequently obtained a college degree. Our other girl who joined a boarding school was Upendo. She has settled into the routine of school life in Dar es Salaam and is studying and playing soccer which is her real love. We will visit her on our way through Dar es Salaam next week to travel south. Eliza, our girl with deafness whose school fees we also cover, is also back in her boarding school on the border of Kenya. She is happier here than in her previous school which she had outgrown. This school is more progressive and she has an opportunity there to progress grade wise that was not available at her last school.
We have been challenged to get all of the kids in Mabogini back into school. The problems are several. The government has demanded that all public school education should be free this year. That would be fine and noble except that the money needed to manage the student increases has not been provided by the government. There has been no unified response to deal with this problem. Some schools are simply charging fees and will await the fall out from this decision later this year. Others are trying to comply which means making many compromises. We visited a local grade school yesterday that has resorted to sending all of their students home for lunch since they can see no way to provide this without money to work with. We had helped at this school the past few years to keep all of the kids fed, but this year that assistance is not needed since they are not doing lunches anymore. We explored with the head master what we might do instead and we have come up with a plan to start his older kids on learning computers twice a week. We have a number of Microsoft computers which we will use in this program. The head master is very progressive and has been a real joy to work with him as he explores ways to improve the lives of his students given the financial restraints he must face. Further compounding our problem in placing the kids in Mabogini in school is the fact that the 40 kids there attend seven or eight different schools in total. Each school must be contacted to find out their unique answer to the current situation regarding fees. On the positive side, the kids in Mabogini have not been getting sent home for lack of fee payment.
School is a major focus of much of time year round, but takes on much more significance when are at the beginning point as we have been the past month. Now all are back in school and the next step for each of them will be their commitment to study and improve. Mama Zara has empowered a person at the orphanage to help the kids study better there and to use their time more effectively. This is a welcome development since grade performance suffered there the second half of 2015. We want all of them to work hard and to become the ''super stars'' we know they can be.