15 June, 2008
Friday marked more departures as Lugalo students left for break, but not until they had one final assembly for us. The timing was good because they were able to meet Barbara, the second representative from their sister school Saint Stephen’s. The day also marked the end of the road for Paula, who caught the mid-morning bus to Dar and her KLM flight late night. I will really miss Paula. She was a source of much help and motivation while she was here – at a time when I really needed it. However, my sadness at seeing her go was far surpassed by my joy of seeing how much the experience moved her.
Last week might have been the showcase for the masses at the Internet Library, but Saturday was the beginning of the real deliverables. Barbara opened the doors of her workshop to full attendance, and the teachers were busy discovering what the future will look like for the rest of the day. We have challenges because some of the equipment planned for the room is not installed yet (NO – the container is not in Iringa yet – maybe next week – wait a minute, that’s what I said last week – and the week before) but we are achieving our objectives. This will be a week and a half of accelerated learning for all, and we are most forturnate that Barbara is here to spearhead the workshops (and might I add at her own expense.)
This will be a stretch for all. Tanzanian education tends to be super structured and teacher driven. These teachers will all be in uncharted waters as they try to appreciate the vastness of the internet, discover sites that are relevant to their coursework, visualize integration into the curriculum, and plan how to include and motivate the students. If they succeed in all of that, they will then have to deal with all the issues of new-found internet opportunity for a room full of students who will undoubtedly be anxious to try anything and everything. We expect the first half-year to be almost completely experimentation, with serious usage in the 2009 school year. These teachers will be true trailblazers for their country, or as we have named them, the viongozi wa viongozi (the leaders of the leaders.)
Father’s Day was spent wishing I was watching the U S Open to see if Tiger could add another miracle to his portfolio. Hopefully someone taped the Saturday-Sunday action so I can see it myself on my return!
13 June, 2008
Tuesday marked a definite turning point as toward-the-end activities started kicking in. Uncle Bill and his band of merry fundis (Lindell and Jarod) departed Tanzania for the US after yeomen work in the new lab and several of the schools. They will spend a couple nights in London on the way back.
Paula, Barbara, and I took off for my most peaceful place on earth, Mwagusi River Camp at Ruaha National Park. We took Mama Zenda, head mistress at Iringa Girl’s Secondary School, with us. What a treat to be able to share this adventure with the ladies. Everything about Mwagusi is wonderful from the accomodations to the food to the personal service. The evening meal, set in the dry river bed and surrounded with lanterns set into the banks to give a wonderful effect, is to die for.
The animals cooperated and gave us a good show on our afternoon game run.
Much of the excitement on Wednesday was right in camp. A particularly friendly elephant entertained us at breakfast and at one point looked like he might actually come in and join us. He stayed around camp the rest of the time, causing detours when travelling to and fro. He also left numerous and profound reminders of his presence on the footpaths.
10 June, 2008
The weekend was predicatably a wind-down couple of days. After running as hard as we have in preparation of the dedication it was nice to relax a little. But in addition to my Saturday activities from the last blog we also had a milestone on Sunday. Karibu (welcome to) Global Outreach, Ally Mbugi.
Ally is joining Global Outreach as our office manager with basic day-to-day responsibility for our operations in country. He is a delightful 25-year old who will graduate from Tumaini University in a few weeks. I am very excited because he has most of the basic skills we so desperately need to run this program which has so dramatically expanded over the last year. I am also appreciative I will have two weeks with him before I leave to begin developing our relationship.
Monday we travelled to Image Secondary School, easily the best visit of any village school in the region. The Headmaster Pastor Ngogo has taken the beautiful pastoral area and in four short years transformed it into a magnificent school. Unlike most rural schools, it had a plan from the beginning and the benefits are obvious.
Perhaps even more important, he realized early the value of building a true community and welcoming donors and friends in a manner that was not only thankful and appreciative, but motivated them to continue assisting a worthwhile effort. When visitors come they are typically greeted by the entire community about 200 yards from the school and escorted in to dancing, singing and celebration. This is followed by performances and speeches for up to an hour. Then it’s tour and lunch – and always with an abundance of true love. It was quite a joy for me to be able to give this experience to Paula and Barbara – and to once again enjoy it myself.
8 June, 2008
Friday was QUITE a day. The Minister of Education arrived to singing, cheering, and great excitement of the students and teachers. We first took him to Lugalo to witness the Saint Stephen’s videoconference (actually we had videotaped the actual link-up at the Global Outreach office the day before to hook up at the scheduled time.) As always with these kids, the Minister was blown away by the English proficiency and confidence of these students after a year of the videoconferencing. He could not stop talking about our wonderful Form I student Janet, who speaks English almost as well as you and I. Most Form I students are still working to comprehend English well enough to understand their teachers at this point in the school year. Hearing Janet was a more powerful exhibit of what has been achieved here than any speech or presentation that could ever be made.
We also went to Iringa Girls to see a Computer Literacy class. The minister was happy to see them learning Excel, since he is very focussed on improvements in mathematics in the children.
The above pictures are all from the dedication of the Iringa Secondary School Internet Library, from our arrival to a mass of humanity, to demonstration of the room’s capabilities, to the actual dedication and speeches. There isn’t enough space to capture the event in words, so I will just let you look at a few of the pictures to get an appreciation of the event. Do you think we are making an impact?
Saturday morning the entire US-based team was invited to breakfast with the Minister and a few of the local education leaders. The rest of the day was spent on catching up on all the work that piled up over the last couple days. As the folks here have observed, there doesn’t seem to be any non-work time in Tanzania.
However, Paula and I did make time to go to the traditional Saturday afternoon European community gathering for volleyball and tea at Kibebe farms. We chose not to enter the game itself but took a great walk around the farm so Paula could see all the animals and vegetation. It was really great to just have some relaxation for a change: the pace has been non-stop. I am really looking forward to next week and the trip to the national park.
Saturday night Barbara O’Neil from Saint Stephen’s arrived from Dar. She will be conducting seminars for teachers starting next Saturday. As soon as she got in was off to Lucas’s house for yet another reception for all the team. None of us has had to miss a meal while here.
6 June, 2008
Tuesday we completed the basic hardware and software setup of the Internet Library. As you can see from the pictures above, we now have a classroom full of computers.
Tuesday night we treated two of the Lugalo students to dinner – pizza and ice cream – at our guest house with Angelina. I have mentioned Nancy and Victoria before. They are incredibly bright, motivated, and destined to be leaders in their country. What a treat their company was.
Wednesday we dealt with the inevitable glitches that arise when you make a major technology installation. Later we will deal with the reality that these computers will have to be replaced when we get our container with the proper units out of lockdown.
Thursday changed from the big day of show-and-tell with the Minister of Education to the day of great scrambling, as another funeral wreaked havoc on our plans. Today it was the Minister who ended up in Tanga, a couple hundred kilometers north of Dar, at a funeral. I got the news by phone from Monica about midnight last night; needless to say it took a little while to get back to sleep.
The good news is that after all this, the Minister intends to travel tonight (by auto), overnight in Morogoro, and make the dedication. He is really enthusiastic about what we are doing and very committed to seeing it himself. That is VERY encouraging. In addition, Monica and I put on our thinking caps and have constructed a new itinerary that gets basically the entire program back on the agenda.
It is a joy working with Monica, about the only Tanzanian I have met who can quickly go to Plan B and then pull it off. It sure makes you wish for more leaders like her in this country – what a difference it would make.
1 June, 2008
Thursday Uncle Bill and his team went to Image to do a site inspection and came away extremely impressed with what Mr. Ngogo and his team are doing. They are one of our solar/laptop sites which have much greater hardware issues to deal with. The machines take much more abuse (not a negative term in this case) for a variety of reasons, and they are more fragile to begin with. Add in the wear and tear on the solar components and maintenance is a real challenge in our remote sites. It is one of our challenges when we try to keep our commitment to serving the poorest of the schools – because they are many times more expensive to outfit and support.
I spent much of Friday finalizing the schedule and program for the Lab dedication and the visit from the Minister of Finance. Mr. Missana, MP Monica Mbega’s aide in Iringa, and I completed all the official paperwork and planning. A visit like this turns out to be a pretty big deal I can now see. We are still holding our breath against last minute changes of plans, an ever present fact of life here.
The three month duration of this stay has really opened my eyes to the impact on life that death has here. There probably has not been a three-consecutive-day period that some aspect of my activities has not been impacted by the absence of someone (usually many more than one) working with me because they were at a funeral. One day it is Lucas and Angelina, the next day the Rotary contact, then the electrician, and on and on. I thought I understood the meaning of reduced life expectancy: I had not. Now I do.
Saturday Bill, his team, and Miraji went to Ruaha National Park. Allen was in Dar where he met Paula Heap’s plane from the US. Paula is the Director of Communications at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School, our partner in Bradenton. She will be here for two weeks to plan next year’s cooperative program with Lugalo Secondary School, assist in the Internet Library dedication and publicity, represent the Bradenton Rotary in outlining our next Matching Grant project and Kichangani, and to finally experience the Tanzania she has been so involved in from a distance.
So it was just Dismas and me left to work on the computers we will install at the Internet Library next week. Bill’s guys cleaned up the insides: we shined up the outsides. I also dropped by the construction site where I found the electrician hard at work on the new office. In the evening Lucas and I went to the bus station to collect Paula and take her to her Iringa home with Angelina and me. (For those of you looking at Paula and trying to figure out how Betty allowed this to happen, I think she is feeling rather guilty about not coming with me this year. That and she knows Paula has far too much sense and taste to cause any concern. As you can see, however, that knowledge did not wipe the smile off my face.)
For a first-timer’s view of Iringa, go to Paula’s blog at www.PaulaHeapinTanzania.blogspot.com