Shule: (noun) school
Education for Better Living (EBLI) holds programs for secondary schools in five regions of Mwanza. The programs seek to educate the students on sexual and reproductive health, human rights, and respecting both themselves and others. In order to evaluate this aspect of EBLI, Nuri has to visit each school and interview most if not all of the students involved. Today we went to Igogo Secondary School.
I love going to the schools, it’s such a neat experience. It’s been great getting to see areas of the Mwanza region that we haven’t been to yet, I feel like I fall in love with Mwanza all over again every time we go somewhere new. Rose and Gertrude, the two lovely EBLI staff members who work with the school programs and help Nuri interview the students, are the sweetest ladies ever and love to chat with us. We’ve talked with them about our schooling, our futures, marriage, pregnancies and labour (it should be noted that Gertrude is seven months pregnant with twins), Swahili, and everything in between. They love to laugh and are so easy to talk to. Interacting with the students is difficult, Nuri and I are novelties to them and the closest we’ve gotten to any true interaction with them is last Friday when one of the students said they wanted to shake our hands, so we had to walk around the whole room shaking outstretched hands and listening to their giggles as we chirped “asante” over and over. Nonetheless, I love seeing the students in action. I love listening to them answer Nuri’s questions (in Swahili, I can usually only pick out select words and then wait for Rose to translate), I love watching them interact with their fellow classmates, and I love being in the school setting. Teachers are eager and proud, and students are eager and giggly.
I was woken up at 5:30 this morning by a really loud horn. I think, at least. My half-asleep brain registered it as a horn of some sort. Regardless, I couldn’t fall back asleep so I skipped breakfast to wallow in my tiredness for a bit longer before concluding that I wasn’t going to get anymore sleep and got up. Checking my phone, I saw that Nuri had texted me; Rose said we were going to another school today, and she would meet us at Agha Khan Hospital in town so we could all catch the dala dala together. Since interviews for MikonoYetu have been put on hold until Maimuna and I can sort out another way forward with a new interviewer and I’m still a little unsure of what the task list for the upcoming event is, my schedule is pretty flexible. Off we went to meet Rose and Gertrude.
Gertrude was about half an hour late, but she’s fully excused because she’s super pregnant and because being late is just a thing here. We trekked to Idogo School and chatted with the headmaster for a while before filing into a classroom of probably eighty students that I tried to smile as warmly as possible to. My smile was met with giggles and stares, as per usual.
Nuri conducted the interview with the group once the Form 1 students filed out; they hadn’t started the EBLI program yet so there was no point in them being present. Rose translated, Gertrude sat down and scrolled through Facebook on her phone, and I tried not to listen to Rose’s translations as much as possible so that Nuri had an extra set of ears to work with. I succeeded in half listening, not-so-subtly people watching, writing down a to-do list for tonight (blogging not being part of it, but that’s beside the point), not-so-discretely taking a picture of the “Speak English Only” sign on the door, and almost falling asleep a few times.
Speaking of the aforementioned sign. “Speak English Only” was painted in light blue paint near the middle of the door. I couldn’t tell you my source, but I heard before coming to Tanzania that secondary schools were all taught in English, which I found really intriguing; obviously this is a very tangible remnant of English colonialism (fun fact: Tanzania became a British colony after the First World War when Germany was stripped of all its colonies). Turns out that source is unreliable; elementary school (Standard 1-7) is taught in Swahili with mandatory classes teaching basic English, and secondary school (Form 1-4) is taught in Swahili with a bit of English, keeping in mind that every single one of these kids speaks Swahili at home and in their communities. Only post-secondary education is taught in English only. That being said, the fact that English is taught in schools, post-secondary education is entirely English, and there’s a sign on the door of a secondary school classroom asking students to speak English shows that English prevails as the language of education, power, and prestige. Which, frankly, is unfortunate. I’m not here to change the culture or even assess the culture and give it two big thumbs up or down, nor am I here to criticize aspects such as the persistence of a colonial tongue, especially when I myself have benefited greatly from the prevalence of English in this space. As my father loves to tell me, I’m pretty blessed that the language of business and power is English (this is always followed by a small rant about the inevitable and impending collapse of the United States of America. Miss you, dad). Nonetheless, why do Tanzanian teenagers need to learn English? Why do they need to take time out of their school time to learn English when they could be learning math, reading, writing, science, history, and social studies in their native language? Is English relevant to the majority of these students? Is forcing English a good idea? I by no means have answers to these questions, nor do I purely disagree with English being taught in schools. I simply see merit in asking these questions, and wonder if part of the dependency that has hindered many African economies is in part an issue of language. But that could be my English minor speaking up, it’s hard to tell.
That long rant aside, I had a fantastic day today. We explored another part of Mwanza (pictures below, along with a few from our hike to Capripoint on Saturday), laughed a lot, learned more about how to interview the students and about their feelings towards the program, and navigated our way back home very effectively. I’m exhausted, just spent the last hour writing and ranting instead of putting together case study drafts, and have just resolved to shower tomorrow instead of tonight because showering is dumb and tedious. But it was a good day, and I think it’ll be a good week. I’m meeting with Maimuna tomorrow morning to discuss a way forward and chat with Lydia, who will probably finish up the interviews for MikonoYetu. Hopefully we’ll have a plan after the meeting, time will tell.
Over and out.