Written by Lee Marcus, a student at the University of Pennsylvania who is working with The School Fund in Tanzania for the summer of 2012.
Students began to file into Neema Craft Café on Sunday at around 1:30 PM. “Mambo,” I said, handing each of them a TSF t-shirt. The room was set up for the launching of Maisha Mikononi Mwako (Life in your hands), The School Fund’s new after school program for 31 secondary school students in Iringa, Tanzania. The program aims to give students the tools they need to succeed in school and in life, providing them with academic support and technology training in preparation for high stakes Tanzanian National Examinations.
At Neema Craft Café, the guest of honor had arrived, five media representatives were on hand, and much of The School Fund Community in Iringa was present – headmasters from Lugalo, Ummu Salama, and Miyomboni Secondary Schools, Iringa Region Education Officer Mr. Joseph Mwinyikambi, Iringa District Education Officer Mr. Seme, and of course our students and their families.
Each of these individuals spoke to our students and their families, urging them to take life into their hands. This is a chance, said Principal Muhammed of Ummu Salama Secondary School, to take life into the palm of your hand, where you control what you can achieve. This is your responsibility, your chance to excel in front of adults that believe in you, said Mr. Benjamin Kabungo, headmaster of Lugalo Secondary School. Madame Ramlah, headmaster of Miyomboni Secondary School, was the last to speak, and waited for parents and other community members to leave. “This is your opportunity, to be disciplined, to work hard,” she said, candidly. “Take it.”
The students arrived for their first day of Maisha Mikononi Mwako, timetables in hand. Students in forms 1 and 2 had English class, in which Mwajuma Abdallah explained in detail the nuances between the definitions of the words “request” and “ask.” One classroom over in form 3, students took a diagnostic test in Kiswahili grammar, language, and literature. Mr. Nkungu took the examinations home
in a folder for marking and analysis. Over in form 4, Hekima Mhole shaded the region on a coordinate plane that depicts the different combinations of mangos and oranges he could buy. The energy and positivity was contagious.
At the end of the day, students filed out of classrooms, looking as if they had just been pushed by exceptional teachers. Some of the form 3 boys pounded me with clenched fists. I felt the energy, the life in their hands, a powerful feeling that made all of us smile, because we are all in this together. Students and teachers believe in each other, and that is what makes our aim, for all of our students to excel, possible.