Friday, November 14, 2008

School Visits

I visited 3 schools during my stay: Kandete Primary School, Mwatisi Secondary and Kyejo Secondary. Education is highly regarded, but due to poverty, many parents cannot afford to purchase school uniforms and supplies to attend school. In addition to their own children, many families are caretakers for children whose parents have died of HIV/AIDS, creating more of a financial burden. Orphan care was identified as one of the top 3 areas of concern. I am not aware of an orphanage in the Livingstone Mountains, but I am aware of one in the city of Mbeya - a few hours travel away.

I met with teachers at each of the schools. The Kandete Primary School has more than 1000 students in grades 1-8 (some are pictured above). In order for students to go to secondary school they must pass a National Exam. They only get one chance. So the 8th grade can be a very stressful year. Mwatisi and Kyejo Secondary (grades 9-12) had about 400 students and 10-12 teachers. Both of these schools have only been in existence since 2004. This is because the Parliament has recommended that each Ward establish their own secondary school. Even with this recommendation, students still have to walk 5-7 miles to attend school. But the government provides no funding. Area communities have pulled together to build these schools. Neither school had a library nor computers. Kyejo had no electricity. They rely completely on the knowledge of the teachers. There are fees required to attend secondary school. Fees are paid to the government who pay the teachers. There is often teacher housing at the school location. The average pay for teachers is $150/month.

I happen to purchase 3 soccer balls before the trip as gifts while in Tanzania. Pr. Andrea happen to line up 3 school visits. Coincidence? I doubt it. I struggle to explain the excitement over these soccer (football) balls. In the US, perhaps it would be like I had given each graduating senior their own laptop computer.
There was always a question/answer time with the students at each school. The questions they came up with were amazing! What is the US doing about global warming? Why is HIV/AIS not as prevalent in the US as in Africa - what information is passed along and why does it work? Is there poverty in the US, and what do we do to combat it? What are US orphanages like? What is US doing about terrorism? How does the upcoming election between Obama and McCain look? How many cows does it cost for a woman to get married in the US?

Each of the schools were interested in creating dialog with students in the US. I am working on that.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Church Visits in the Konde Diocese of the ELCT (Evangelical Church of Tanzania)

We visited several congregations in the Konde Diocese. Each congregation went out of their way to welcome this guest from America. The district pastor, Pr. Meta, even came off of his sabbatical to lead worship in Kandete. The women of the congregations dressed me in traditional kitengas and often gave gifts of eggs or even a chicken one time. I was most humbled!

It is common for each congregation to have 2 or 3 choirs. Music has so much passion and meaning in their culture. They combine rythmn, dance and sing their hearts to the Lord. Even though I did not understand the words, I felt covered in prayer.

They have an "offering" practice we should try to adopt in America. During the offering, a table with several baskets(representing various ministries)is placed in front of the altar(see picture). As the choir sings the offering song, people walk around the table and drop their offering in the basket for the ministry they want to support. If they do not have money they will often bring fruits, vegetables, eggs and chickens. After service the choir leads the congregation out to the church yard in a circle where the fruits, veggies, eggs and chickens are auctioned off. That money is placed in the treasury. The beauty of sharing their resources is a lesson we can learn from.

Next week I will talk about the school visits.