30 April, 2008
Monday we visited Ifunda Secondary School, our newest as of only January this year. It was an enjoyable day because they have really thrown themselves into the program, and in fact have arguably the best lab amongst all schools. Their headmaster attributes some of this to the fact they are a technical school and have history with installing and maintaining equipment – not to mention a good appreciation for it.
We took one of the Ruaha College technical support team with us so that we could do regular maintenance on the same trip since Ifunda is about 50 kilometers from Iringa town. He and Allen spent much time getting hardware and software issues resolved, although we had to bring back one computer that had a bad hard drive and RAM board. Replacement programs are a way of life given the age of our computers.
Monday/Tuesday I paid close attention to Iringa’s version of “The Music of the Night.” It begins about 10PM with the disco down the street (noise pollution is not yet dealt with here); midnight brings a now-and-then toot of a horn from a returning resident to wake the sleeping guard who must unlock the gate to admit the car to the parking area; the first rooster is about 4; the prep signal to the first muezzin is 4:30; the first loudspeaker muezzin is promptly at 5. To this we add the variable, the barking of the wild dogs that roam the area, some nights nearby, others distant, timing unpredictable. Some nights I take them all in, most nights I am more fortunate.
One new activity this year: I am driving. Miraji bought an automatic transmission car, and I have tackled the right hand drive and Tanzania “roads” which I had never attempted with the added complexity of the stick shift. No problems yet –
28 April, 2008
While most of my reporting is upbeat, the reality of implementing new technology and procedures in schools already stretched many ways is a very challenging proposition. Success is pretty much tied to three roles: Headmaster, Lab Manager, and Computer Teacher. Often these last two roles are assigned to the same person, perhaps along with other teaching responsibilities. You have a chance for success when you get good people in these slots; you can continue the success if they stay or are replaced with similar capable leaders. The latter further relies on documentation and turnover scenarios that are often absent in a developing county.
In a country still desperate for leaders, and almost devoid of technically trained staff, all of the above is a challenge. And the demand for these limited leadership resources constantly takes those few to the next level or to a new school willing to offer greater enticements. This phenomenon represents the biggest challenge our schools face in sustaining their programs.
Yesterday we had a long meeting at Cagliero Secondary School. They joined the program last year and did an excellent job of making teachers available for our training program. But they failed to hire qualified staff, and their ability to teach students this year did not materialize. The Headmistress was promoted to a new post, and the Lab Manager was wearing three other hats. Finally a trained computer teacher was hired before school started, but after his first day on the job this year he disappeared and later turned up in Dar es Salaam where the pay is much higher.
So our meeting was long and arduous. We will have to use a variety of creative resources to get Cagliero back on track. The good news is the new Headmaster appears committed, and we have several options that can get classes re-started by the middle of May. I have to keep reminding myself that it took us four years and a US internship for Miraji in order to get Pommern operational; it is not realistic that many school can avoid hiccups.
Sunday night I had dinner with my first Tanzanian son Miraji and his family, always a joy. I am treated like royalty, and we all consider me a full member of their household. I admit that, although they are all special, the highlight of the evening is my time with the youngest Angela. She particular liked the chocolate Kisses this year, but she is growing up too fast!
26 April, 2008
The last few days have been busy with meetings which have not provided very interesting pictures. So I took a few local shots to spice up the blah. For those of you who complain about your office location, I include a shot of my next door neighbor – who I think is getting ready for holiday feasting early. That yard produces a LOT of noise. Thursday the turkey was boss, yesterday the lamb took over. I also snapped some of the kids coming home from school.
We are into the detail work now: contractors, service providers, architects, furniture storerooms, transport, officials, etc. Drafting the invitations to the dedication of the Internet Library has been extremely time consuming because of the protocol involved with so many government invitees. But this is a major educational advancement, and we want it to get the recognition it deserves. It is also complicated because Kichangani, Global Outreach, and the Rotary are all involved.
Headmaster Ngogo dropped by with Lucas to deposit the annual school contribution to the program. All schools, once they have established thier programs, share in the ongoing costs of maintaining their installations. In this way they build sustainable programs for the future. This is a fundamental precept of the Global Outreach program, one highly praised by government and schools officials alike.
Last night I presented an update of the project to the local Rotary club. Lucas was with me and took an application for membership. With the inclusion of Paula Heap of Saint Stephen’s that now raises the number of new Rotarians growing out of this project to three. I also presented their club with a Sarasota Sunrise Rotary banner.
23 April, 2008
While it doesn’t make for great pix or interesting copy, Tuesday was one of my most important days in country. Lucas and I met with the Heads of School of all supported schools. We reviewed accomplishment, plans, and challenges. Our major focus this year is SUSTAINABILITY which is becoming a catchword in the Aid to Developing Nations world. It is something Global Outreach has considered from day one, and that we are now preaching to all our partners at every level.
After the group meeting we held one-on-one meetings with each school. It is this meeting where you probe to learn the problems that the cultural norms of Tanzania do bring to your attention voluntarily. You prepare yourself for the worst, and then you are better able to deal with the surprises which are certain to come. I would classify this year’s soul searching as about a Medium on the scale. The good news is that it is over and we can now begin addressing and solving these problems.
After the meetings we showed the Heads of School the new Internet Library and the second room we hope to add in the future. While the Library is still very primitive in development, Allen couldn’t help demonstrating in true Tanzanian fashion (see picture above) that the counters were indeed being built strong. I declined my own demonstration that could have show even greater strength of construction!
21 April, 2008
Saturday can be a big business day in Iringa, and that was the case yesterday. I met with Bishop Ngalalekumtwa (try that five times quickly) of the Catholic Diocese, home to Kichangani. We reviewed our joint visions of providing quality education to the children of this region. I presented him the good news that we are applying for a new Rotary grant to open a second computer room at Kichangani; he presented me the good news that they will allocate one of their large classrooms for Global Outreach to construct own country office. We will pay only for the modification to the facility, such as partitioning and furnishings. This will help us reduce the cost of in-country operations and lower maintenance fees to the secondary schools.
Saturday also was much work for Dismas and Miraji, our university scholars. They did not particularly enjoy the activity of untangling the 55 headsets that I collected from those left aboard at the conclusion of my KLM flight into Amsterdam (with the help of the intrigued cabin attendants), but they were appreciative that we spare no expense to outfit our labs. You can see they found the pizza eating part of the work session far more enjoyable.
19 April, 2008
Lots of meetings the last few days. They included the Iringa Rotary president to review the progress report on the Internet Library, the Regional Commisssion (like a governor in US) to discuss protocol considerations for the library dedication, the computer maintenance support team at Ruaha College, and lesser players in our overall program.
Construction has begun in the internet library, and Lucas and Allen tried out for the installation team but were quickly and vociferously rejected. So much for trying to reduce costs in any way we can.
I had time to walk around Iringa a little today. You can see both growth and modernization in the construction activity, but there is no mistaking that you are still in Africa and it will be for some time to come.
17 April, 2008
Things are falling into a more mundane routine as the business of the trip begins to rear its ugly head. The last few days have been meetings for the most part, with large periods of waiting (what I do most in Tanzania) in between. We have met with the telephone service that supplies our internet to address performance and reliability issues, the bank to clarify account relationships, and other operational issues. In addition, the whole team conducted a planning session to clarify roles and responsibilities so that Miraji can take a leave of absence from his Country Manager job while he is pursuing a degree at Tumaini University.
I did return to Lugalo Secondary School to address the weekly assembly of students and get one more giant asante sana (thank you very very much) for the role Global Outreach is providing in their education. In the afternoon I watched the weekly videoconference with Saint Stephen’s. The highlight of the day was their Falcon Voice singing group with some music from my era. In addition, several of the younger students came to ask questions from their classmates.