Monday, July 16, 2012

Lotima Primary School

We woke up suitably shattered this morning but it made little difference as today we were heading off to visit one of the schools we as a group had raised £40,000 for. At the hotel we were met by Charles and Helena from Childreach International, Helena was based in the UK whereas Charles was a representative in Tanzania. Charles told us in detail a number of the many projects Childreach were involved in such as a project to teach farming in schools with small vegetable patches, another giving pupils and teachers basic medical and hygiene training and a great scheme linking children in british schools and Tanzanian schools (I think that was more an important lesson to British kids than Tanzanian kids).

 In the school we were heading to, Lotima Primary School, they had built 14 squat toilets with separate buildings for the boys and the girls, 4 classrooms and a kitchen with a functioning wood stove. These small changes had had an effect on the schools attendance rate as one third of pupils were passing their secondary entrance exam, rather than 6%.

The drive from the hotel to the school took just over an hour and took us through some parts of real Tanzania, and although you were winding along dirt tracks between slums it was hard not to notice how much life and colour is here compared to back home.

The School Kitchen Before...
Emerging through trees we were greeted by all 400 pupils from the school chanting songs in Swahilli and they chased after the bus giving us a really bizarre feeling like we were royalty or something. Although the welcome was amazing it was so unusual for us and we couldn’t help feeling it was too much, but we were privileged to have such a welcome and even though we just felt like low life students you forget we have made quite a difference to these kids day-to-day life.

The School Kitchen Afterwards
After our generous welcome we were given a kind-of assembly with traditional dancing and song as they kids showed off their bundles of natural rhythm. Although we were dying to just be let loose in the playground we first went on a tour of the facilities Childreach had built. The toilets, which were still something british kids would turn their nose up at, were a vast improvement on the shared-unisex hole in the floor the kids had before; now there were separate rooms for males and females and a more hygienic squat toilet system. Next we went to visit the kitchen, which I was most excited about, before they just had an open shelter with practically a woodfire to cook their food. Now they had not only a separate room for the kitchen, they also had a massive stove that was just like a Aga in principle only a bit more rustic, you could say. The stove ran on firewood the kids brought in once a week, this was a vast improvement on everyday, which was the case before the new stove. The school’s chef was actually off sick that day and so wasn’t at the school which meant I don’t think the kids were going to get any food that day, which I felt terrible about! I wanted nothing more than to cook them something, even if it was just porridge but I was assured they would get something anyway. Following that was the classrooms that were built from concrete and painted with colourful diagrams and murals by Childreach's “futurebuilder” volunteers which is another scheme Childreach run. I particularly enjoyed the anatomical diagrams of the heart with Swahilli labels and the Swahilli map symbols. It was even interesting looking at textbooks and the kids work or the work on the board as it was still all so different to that back home.
After our tour of the school it was the time we had all been waiting for; when we were allowed to go and join in with the fun and games. In response to their impressive traditional songs and dancing we thought we’d give them something back, but out rendition of the hoakey-coaky wasn’t one of our best musical  numbers of the trip. The school kids out-shone us again as they showed us a game where you go into a large circle and shout “Joha popa?!” and get the reply “Popo!” which is your que to so some kind of dance move while singing “You can do this!”, however when I tried my moonwalk the overall reaction was they couldn’t do that. Afterwards we just split off and were surrounded by children who seemed more fascinated by our cameras than why there were strange white people in yellow T-shirts in the playground trying to play drums and sing. I spoke to several kids and I saw this as a great opportunity to test out some of my survival Swahilli and after my first, yet brief, exchange of,
One of Lotima's Classrooms
I felt like a pro. The younger kids were much more open to my attempts than the cooler older kids who laughed at most of my tries but at least they corrected me! I ended up speaking to so many of the kids and they were all the most all-round gorgeous and adorable children I have met, I have never been around young children much but these ones made all kids back home looked like spoilt brats in comparison. Notably was a girl called Zora who was 6 (all of which I found out by asking in Swahilli by the way…)who loved being in front of the camera and absolutely belonged there; there was also a girl called Lisa who was 10 who followed me around after I spoke to her in Swahilli and kept asking me the same questions which was sweet and there was also a blind boy who was called Rose, or at least something that sounded similar and that was an instant bond.

 A lot of the older kids tested out their English on us and you could tell they get taught the same bizarre topics as we do in our language classes in school as they asked us the name of each of our family members and what we studied at school, even still their English was miles better than our Swahilli. One of the teachers then took out a volley ball and there was a bit of a riot and we tried a 20v20 game of volleyball which had little avail so when the teacher took out a netball a group of us headed over to the netball court. Playing netball in a school in Tanzania has a few more added factors than back in the UK, principally the shrubs throughout the court and the thorns jabbed into the netball waiting to prey on your own palms. Even still we did have some kind of netball match going on before we were told we had to leave the school and get back to our hotel, but everyone was so apprehensive to go that it took at least another 15 minutes before we all got near the bus. It sounds so “gap yah” but the kids were just so charming and it was inspiring how much joy they saw in everything even considering how little they had, something children back in the UK could learn a lot from.

Although most of us could have stayed there forever we were forced back on the bus but we could at least see that the money we had raised was going towards something really worthwhile and having seen it first-hand made it even better.

Some of the kids
TripAdvisor described this place as a "Seedy dive",
 looking at no.13 yo understand why.
When we headed back to Moshi we went to change some dollars and get some food and I was excited to try some local cusine but the place we ended up in only seemed to sell burgers and chips and everyone eating in there came from the UK. All I wanted to do was run off and try some dodgy local food but someone did point out that it lowers the possiblilty of food poisoning the day before we head up the mountain and we have the whole of the independent travel section to try local specialities.

After lunch we were absolutely attacked by “flycatchers” trying to sell us T-shirts, bracelets and anything else they had on them and considering we were all in our yellow Childreach T-shirts we weren’t doing ourselves any favours to blend in. For some reason the touts never actually approached me, it might be because I didn’t really react when they came over but they didn’t really annoy me that much anyway and I almost admired their persistence on the rest of the group.

Product Placement

When we got back to the hotel we all had a nice relaxing time on our balcony nursing some Kilimanjaro beers (we couldn’t not?) before we had the daunting challenge of packing out bags for our climb. 

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