Murgwanza Secondary Form 4 Graduation

Yesterday was the first ever Form 4 Graduation at Murgwanza Secondary School. You can be assured of two things whenever there are big events like this in Africa. 1. It will start late 2. It will be looooonnng!! After a big breakfast, Jake and I set off to the school at least 20-30mins after the official start time. We got almost to the school when Ephraim found us and said "Mama Mitchell, you are very early, we are not ready, I was just coming to your house." So we turned around and headed home again planning to return in another hour or so.

As we were approaching home, Oli came running in tears as he had cut his finger while playing at Bishops house. I am sure he was actually fine till he saw me. Despite Alpha’s best efforts at first aid, I did bring Oliver home and try and clean and dress the wound again. I use the term ‘clean’ loosely as Oliver and clean just don’t go in the one sentence.

Anyway, at about 11am after coffee and a trip to the bathroom we returned to graduation. This time Oliver insisted on coming too. So Jake, Ephraim, Oliver and I headed back to the school, panga (for Ephraim to dress up as a Massai for the fashion parade) and gift (really just cardboard box wrapped in pretty paper for the purpose of photos) in hand. Camera and water bottle were at the ready. On arrival I spotted Liz and Rose up the front on the stage as it were, except we were all outside under some make shift tarps and cut down gum trees. I told Ephraim I would be fine in the audience and didn’t want to sit up the front. Jake, Oli and I took our seats only to be approached by a teacher and told us we MUST sit at the front. Sometimes I wish I was not white and could just blend in!! So we trekked up the front and Liz and Rose laughed saying you didn’t REALLY think you could sit there did you??

We sat and sat and sat and waited and waited and finally after about another hour the guest of honour arrived and the proceedings could begin. Of course despite the fact that Secondary School in Tanzania is all supposed to be taught in English the whole graduation was in Swahili. There were short skits and songs and dancing and then FINALLY after about 3 hours the Form 4 Students got their certificates….sort of.

The students have not actually done their final National Exams as these commence on the 3rd of October. So while certificates and prizes were awarded for the top student in each subject (except Maths, Physics and Chemistry because there are actually no teachers for these subjects even though there are many students who will sit the National Exams in these areas!!) The leaving certificates were given out, hands were shaken, photos snapped then the students walked 5 paces and returned their certificates to a teacher. You only get to keep your leaving certificate IF you have paid all your fees. So many will wait and if they fail, they don’t bother to clear their debt and get their certificate. Those who pass have more time to save up the money they need to get their certificate once the National Results are out. As I said before, often the debt owing is only about 20,000Tsh (about AU$13).

The ceremony now complete meant it was time to eat and drink and disco till dark. Liz and I, by now, were hot and tired and I for one had had more than enough, so we quickly ate, drank a soda and fled home. The boys had lasted through the entertainment but left as soon as they had seen Ephraim and James rap and Ephraim in the fashion parade. Mitchell and Rob had quite sensibly decided to stay home.(Rob actually had to teach at the Bible College)

Now some facts about Murgwanza Secondary which I learnt at the graduation through the assistance of Liz’s translation.

  • Murgwanza Secondary was opened in 2008 with 109 students in Form 1.
  • These 109 reduced to the current 63 Form 4’s
  • Many have left due to pregnancy or just run away.
  • Murgwanza Secondary now has about 540 students and 8 teachers!!!!
  • Next year the government expects Murgwanza Sec to take 720 students!!
  • Murgwanza Sec has 7 classrooms and needs about another 11.
  • Mugwanza Sec has no office for Headmaster, no clerical staff, no staffroom, no library, no hall and no power.
  • Murgwanza Sec has no science labs and only one water tap for the entire school.
  • Murgwanza Sec is short about 60 chairs and 50 tables for students and has no teacher’s desks.

Some figures may not be exact as I am trying to remember, but you get the idea.

The list went on and on but it is all very depressing. Most of the talk was based on the fact that they need more money to acquire the things above. They need the parents to pay their school contributions. They need the parent’s to realise that education is important and to send their kids to school…every day. There was much talk of the need for female boarding at the school as many girls travel long distances to school and ‘get bad advice along the way’. I think that was alluding to pregnancy. They need teacher houses at the school to encourage more teachers to come and teach by providing them accommodation.

Each term the hospital sends in a doctor to the school to ‘examine’ the girls for pregnancy. If you are found to be pregnant you are expelled from school. If you disclose the father as a fellow student, that student will most likely go to jail!!

A year’s schooling at a government secondary school like Murgwanza costs about 200,000Tsh a year. That pays school contributions, tuition, security, uniforms, books and other small expenses. That’s about $130 AUS a year. These kids are SO keen to learn and get a better life through education. They struggle so hard with lack of teachers and resources. Please pray for them as they sit their National Exams next month.

Tomorrow, I will go to Ntobye Sec Graduation as they will be celebrating their second year of Form 4’s and if you think Murgwanza has it tough..... Ntobye has 3 teachers only for about the same number of students, as well as all the other problems as outlined above. Rose and I are going to head down about 1:30pm and stay for an hour or so just to show a presence.

So now this year we have been to a Baptism, a Confirmation, an Engagement Party, a Bible College Graduation and a Secondary School Graduation. In October we are going to a wedding so all we have left is a funeral!!! Hopefully we can give that one a miss.