My Tz boys!!

After a busy and stressful week we have enjoyed a lovely weekend. Saturday, despite often being my busiest day, was lovely and relaxing and gave me the opportunity to catch up with some of the Tanzanian Secondary students we have been assisting.

I spent a couple of hours (while my own watoto were off down the ridge cutting down trees for their second hut) chatting with James, Tuombe and Ephraim. We talked about school and life in Africa and their hopes and dreams. It was funny and sad and humbling all at once.

James and Ephraim are in Form Two at Murgwanza Secondary School and have just completed their March Exams. Both boys are prefects at school and respected by their mates. I was teasing them about being popular with the girls but they very seriously told me it is not good to have friendships with girls. When I questioned them further they said that if you make friends with a girl then the girl gets pregnant (by someone else), the girl can lie and say the child is yours. If she is a school student she is under age and the boy can be sent to jail. They are determined boys whose education is their priority so they can get a good job and be able to care for their family. They both say when they are married they will only have 2 or 3 children as any more is too hard to provide for even their basic needs.

Ephraim is a Pastors son and lives in a nearby village with his father. It is a 3km walk to and from school each day. He needs to be at school by 7am so is up soon after 5am to complete his morning chores and then walk to school. Ephraim is a bright student but has little time to study due to the time he needs to spend on domestic chores and travelling to and from school. Being a Pastors son there is not a lot of income coming in so they are always short of food and other basic necessities and so Ephraim usually only has one meal a day in the evening of plain ugali. Then there is school; Ephraim as I said is a bright boy and studies hard when he can. He often comes by here for help with his English and to borrow my grammar book or English – Swahili dictionary. He is keen on sciences at school BUT there are limitations. Murgwanza Secondary School like so many of the ‘rural’ schools here has a shortage of teachers and resources. There is no physics or chemistry teacher at Murgwanza and only one maths teacher. Therefore the students need to teach themselves and with no textbooks this proves a challenge. Ephraim told me he got 4% in his maths exam as they had no logarithms books to assist them with their formulas and there are certainly no calculators!!

Then there is lovely James. James has been coming here regularly for English tutoring and in turn he is teaching me Swahili and has been helping the boys with their hut. James is a shy boy in comparison to Ephraim but they are best of friends. James is not as bright but he works extra hard but again is limited by the same lack of resources as Ephraim. As well as his school work he also has many domestic duties at home to take care of and 3 younger siblings he helps to care for. There is no income in his house which he shares with his mum and 3 young siblings and on weekends with his older brother Tuombe. The other day he came to me desperate as his family and he had not eaten for 2 days and had no way of getting any food. James has a stomach ulcer and the staple diet here of ugali which is made from maize flour does not agree with him so I have been buying rice for him to eat instead. As with Ephraim his family usually only eats one meal a day but again due to James' ulcer he is advised by his doctor to eat more often. James, like Ephraim, is keen on sciences and would love to be a doctor but with no teachers and no science labs this dream is unlikely to become a reality.  Studying at night is hard as I have said before as these boys have no power and when they run out of kerosene they have no money to buy more for their lamps. I am still working on getting some solar lamps for these boys and many other students like them.

Both boys are waiting patiently for Mama Saskia (my mum) to come for 3 months in June and help them with their maths and science. I can assist with biology but I tried to help with Chemistry the other day and even google couldn’t help me. As for the maths -  just looking at the contents page of the textbook was scary enough. It is certainly not like Year 8 maths in Australia or even year 11 and 12 from memory. It is disheartening for these students who know education is the key to a better life for themselves and their families yet they struggle in a system that provides little help to them.

This morning I went to village church with these boys plus Tuombe. James and Ephraim sing rap gospel songs together -  it was quite hoot. On the way home I asked them to tell me what the message of the sermon had been (as my Swahili is not that good). They told me the message was basically a faith and deeds sermon. It is no good saying you are a Christian and yet not living like one. On return from church all three boys came for ‘chai’ – they, like any other teenage boys, sure can eat. But for these boys it was probably their first meal of the day and this was 1:30pm. Rob joined us and we read some of the book of James from the bible  a guide to Christian living.  It was a great time of fellowship. The boys ate all our bread and sampled vegemite for the first time (James liked it, Ephraim did not), all our mandazis (like donuts) and the rest of our dutch sweets and a peanut M&Ms which they thought was quite odd. The boys then had a bit of a sing a long with Rob. James is keen to learn the guitar and has learnt to play ‘Knocking on Heavens Door’ which we have explained is not a Christian song. They want to play it at the secondary school Easter conference Talent Show this week. This is a 4 day long Christian Conference held all over the country and for this region will be held in Murgwanza.

They are both good kids who have been dealt a tough lot in life but they do not complain and are always smiling and joking. They are a pleasure to have around and they break my heart every time they come.

 

Time Difference

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much: it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.~

Franklin D. Roosevelt
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