Africa's Children in Education

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Greetings from Tanzania – What a Welcome!

After the cold of the UK, a very welcome wave of heat hit us as we got off the plane at Kilimanjaro Airport on Wednesday evening. However, it was far outshone by the warmth of the welcome we received from the children and staff at Arise School the following morning. The hesitancy the children had on seeing us in the early days of visiting the school has now completely disappeared. We were overwhelmed as they rushed to greet us!

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So much has happened at the school since we last visited at the end of September. We have spent two very long and full days catching up with progress there. We wrongly reported in last week’s blog that there were 102 children. In fact, there are now 106 on the register! Another parent called whilst we were there to pick up a registration form for his 3 year old child. It certainly seems the reputation of the school is growing in the community.

Although, according to UNICEF, the average number of children per classroom in Government primary schools in Tanzania had mushroomed to 66 children in 2011 (with some classes of up to 200 pupils!), we agreed with the school yesterday that the maximum number that can be comfortably accommodated and taught in one classroom at Arise is 35 children. This means that the school will now need to start a waiting list for the nursery!

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We were pleased to see that all but one of the four teachers are still working at the school. Jacob, the new nursery teacher, is into his fourth week. We were immediately impressed by his warmth and care for the children. This is something that characterises all of the teachers at Arise. It distinguishes the school from many others in Tanzania where corporal punishment is permitted by law. From the outset, we agreed with the school’s Management Committee that there should be no physical punishment. The staff have created an atmosphere of “learning without fear”. Not only do the children enjoy coming to school and so much want to learn, feedback from their parents is that they feel their children are being taught in a “good environment” and that they are in “safe hands”.

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Yesterday, we had an early start. We wanted to join the children for breakfast. When we arrived at 6.45 am, there were already about 20 children waiting! By 7 o’clock, hands had been washed and a long line was forming. Breakfast for each child was two slices of bread and a mug of milky tea. Hardly a word was spoken as they ate it! The success of the Christmas “Buy a Breakfast” appeal is already making such a tremendous difference to so many of the children who were coming into school hungry. Please help us to continue this.

And, finally, although there is still some work to be completed on it, we saw the new school kitchen in use for the first time yesterday. The wood surround to the old open fire where Atu, the school Cook, has been cooking the children’s porridge, was quickly demolished. No doubt, it will be used to fire the new stove. As the smoke rose from the chimney, channelled directly outside, Atu kept shaking our hand. She was just so thrilled by her new smoke-free, cooking environment.

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It is certainly good to be back and to see the difference you are all helping us make to the lives of these children. Asante sana.