We first try and get permission from the head teacher for Andrew and I to attend Wildlife Club. Wildlife Club is an educational program that is designed to train and empower a new generation of conservation leaders . The students are currently learning about the importance of cleaning up the village (ie. Picking up trash) and APW works also with them to figure out how to train the villagers to do. They’re meeting plenty of challenges – people aren’t using the trash bins they’ve provided. When the children ask adults to throw away their garbage, the adults say, “you’re just a child, what do you know.”
Change is slow.
The other benefit of Wildlife Club is that based on regular exams and club attendance, the top 20 students from all the schools (truly the cream of the crop, given that each school has 50-60 children in the clubs and there are 2 schools), are invited to attend summer camp at Noloholo. The top students are also given scholarships to attend secondary school; significant, given that otherwise most students would not go at all.
The children themselves are incredibly cute. They pay close attention for the entire session (almost 2 hours), nobody is spacing out or falling asleep. A few of them are having to watch over their toddler-age younger sibling during class. The girls, especially the Maasai girls, are very shy. As with a number of other non-US school systems, the Tanzanian system does not emphasize creativity. Textbooks are too expensive, so the teacher writes everything on the board and the students have to copy it. Sometimes the teachers will leave without even explaining what he or she has written. There are barely enough desks (long benches with attached writing surfaces that sit 5-6 children, if they squish!), no electricity and little access to water. We’re definitely spoiled in the States, but our classrooms can’t match these for consistent enthusiasm and attentiveness.
We go to two different Wildlife Clubs and then head back into the village center for lunch. Kelly introduces us to ugali, a traditional Tanzanian food that is made out of corn meal and flour, mixed and (I think) boiled. You get a whole pile of it, like mashed potatoes, and then use one hand to pull pieces off, make it into a patty and scoop up the more substantive part of the meal – Tanzanian beef and potatoes, spiced spinach, and baked beans. It was really good.
We had a couple hours to kill before our next meeting with a women’s microfinance group (they provide savings and loan services to the community members) and so Andrew and I followed Kelly up and down the main street while she caught up on gossip with all the local ladies. We acquired someone’s 4-year old, as well as the town’s mentally disabled adult on the way, and had a regular little parade.
Finally we started our last meeting. The women’s group spent over an hour settling their books, and then we talked to them about what Andrew and I were doing, and also decided what they should do about a gift of 15 chickens that a nonprofit in Arusha provided to them. Unfortunately, the women brought the chickens to Loibor Siret before they knew anything about chickens – chicken feed, watering, coops, etc etc. It means that we’re all headed back on Sunday afternoon to teach them.. a race against the clock so they can learn before all the chickens die (3 of them already died in transit from Arusha to Loibor). I’m impressed, though; there are 17 women present at the meeting – half Maasai and half Swahili – and they are running their books quite efficiently. They use a system of fines to get people to follow the rules, like showing up on time for meetings and paying back loans on schedule. They are organized and led by Mama Penda, who is whip smart and imposing.
By the time the meeting is over, we are all bushwhacked. We drive back to Noloholo and work until dinner, and then bring our food up to the campfire that the guards have lit for us. We have toasted marshmallows and s’mores, talk about constellations (Kelly was a planetarium educator for 2 years) and gaze out at the Milky Way. The constellations are different as in the southern hemisphere and I delight in seeing the southern cross, hydra and many other new ones. We have the Maasai guards try s’mores.. they see intrigued if not completely enthusiastic by "America's Favorite" treat. Finally the fire burns low, and we head to bed.