Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Teacher training

By Sally Christensen’s

I came to Mambo View Point at the suggestion of my daughter, Alice, who was working with nurse training Tanzania in 2010/11.  She stayed at MVP and helped compile a list and purchase some sorely needed medical equipment at Mambo Dispensary.  erHer
When I initially contacted Herman he wanted me to help out on a tree nursery project but on arrival I discovered that the land had not yet been purchased so I threw myself into other projects.  We both raised funds by doing a half marathon in Baltimore, USA in October 2012.

First Impressions
Mambo is just a Shangri La.  The elevation gives a gorgeous climate of hot, sunny days and cool, at this time of year, sometimes windy, evenings.  MamboViewPoint stands on the edge of a cliff and some mornings the vast plain below is covered with a soft, white blanket which slowly creeps up the mountain side. Star gazing is a must at night.  In  the day one can explore the lush valleys where all kinds of fruit and  and vegetables are grown with great success.  The hills are often terraced and MVP has done some brilliant work on bringing water to the populace.  I visited these bore holds and wells at the beginning of my stay and was well impressed.

Early on in my stay I visited the school down the hill, Mambo and Mambo B Primary School,  I felt the most useful thing I could do would be to work with the English and Science teachers to give them ideas on teaching methods, using teaching aids, songs, games and activities:  to  help them assess students’ comprehension and  to evaluate their lessons.  To allow  the children to learn through experimentation, through looking at real objects, through touching and feeling things.  To learn and  have some fun at the same time!

There are 2000 children attending Mambo and Mambo B Schools which are located on the same property.  There are about 22 teachers.  Most of the classes have over 100 children and some 120.  There are sometimes 4 or even 5 children on a three seater bench with one fixed desk.  The floors are reddish earth, the walls are crumbling, in some classrooms the windows do not open.  There  is nothing on the walls just a huge blackboard at one end of the room.  There is often not even a table for the teacher to use..  There is no electricity in Mambo town nor is there a generator.  The teachers do have text books but the students’ text books are never given out as there are only about 10 per 100 children.  The teachers do have lesson plan books some use them some do not.  The children are extremely well behaved because discipline is very strict.  Most teachers have a stick.  One day I saw a female teacher beating a young girl’s hands very hard.  The girl was crying.  I asked why she was being beaten and the reply was that she was late.  The head master intervened and sent the line of children waiting to be beaten to their classrooms.  I heard two days later that at a teachers’ meeting the Heads told the teachers not to hit children.  Let us hope that is the end of beating at Mambo.

A huge factor in the poor results of education in rural areas of Tanzania and other sub Saharan countries is the absenteeism of teachers.  It runs at about 45%.    The reasons for this are many.  Sickness, they have to go so far for medical treatment;  deaths in the extended family.  In my second week there were virtually no teachers at school for three days.  There was a death in the village and every teachers were absent all day paying respects to the deceased.  I took the opportunity to visit another primary and secondary school at  Chambogho a very nice motor bike ride away.  Another reason is very low morale,  teachers are poorly paid and have to travel 4 hours to receive their pay, Heads
On a more positive note I was welcomed into every classroom, teachers responded really well to the new ideas.  16 teachers and 2 heads came to my teacher training seminar at the end of the second weeks  and the following week 2 teachers had made their own teaching aids, 2 teachers brought in seeds and flowers for a science project  and 2 teachers had started assessing students understanding  by asking individuals instead of the constant chanting, repetition, copying from the board.  The children loved the songs and games and learned them very quickly.

Scholarship Students
Mambo View Point has been sponsoring students and I helped Herman on this by meeting with this years’ scholarship students, their families and the  Heads, we had to fill out lots of forms.  Most of the scholarship students  come to MVP every Sunday and Marion and  I would encourage them to express opinions having watched excerpts from films.

Part Time Teaching Assistants
When you have a class of 100 it is a huge benefit to have a teaching assistant.  There was funding for two assistants  so I helped on discussions with all parties present of how this would work, setting a timetable and finally writing a contract .  I am no lawyer and the questions and problems that arose before the deed was done was quite an interesting experience and took a long time.  I then tried to monitor how the assistants were being used.  There is work to be done here if anyone would like to come to this paradise and help out.

Reinforcement and Monitoring of Maxine Lemay and Joelle Lepage’s 2009 project MAMBO GAMES

I read their excellent report and it sounded like such a great project that I enquired if it was still up and running.  Sadly, the volunteers who had been taught all the games had left the area and not much was happening.  We invited children from Mambo to come to Friday Games at the football pitch and a lot of fun was had playing things like duck, duck goose, tag, dodge ball.  I decided to invite the same teachers who came to the seminar to come to the play ground.

Food Preservation
On one of my wonderful guided walks  I came across an unusual fruit which looked a bit like a green tomato.  It was called tomasi so with the lovely cook, Saidi, we made a chutney.  It was a learning curve on the sterilization of jars and we will never know if it worked as the 6 jars of chutney were  finished within two days.  We even sold some.  The next project was jam.  Plums and cape gooseberries were in season and they set nicely and again were very popular.  Today, if I can ever get this finished we are going to make plum chutney.  Marion hopes to find some ladies in Mambo who can be taught how to preserve fruit and vegetables and sell them to visitors or indeed anyone who likes good preserves.  Yes, another project for Mambo View which would not cost much to set up.  Always looking for donors or volunteers who could come out and do something like this.

What will I take away from here?

On my daily walk to school the echoing sounds of the little children calling out Jambo Mama Sally, the cow bells and the bleating of goats,  the smells of the wat tree in blossom,  that African smell of dried earth and dust, the sight of the woman  carrying huge loads of wood on their heads and really small kids with  full buckets of water  lurching along the dusty roads, the amazing views where you really can see forever, the incredible friendliness of everyone including the lovely staff at Mambo View Eco Lodge.  And the chameleons who kept us amused with their daily Tai Chee exercises.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

School inventory

At the time of writing, we (Jan & Sylvia) have already been in Tanzania five months. We have spent a long time at Mambo in the Western Usambara Mountains. Before that we were travelling for more than six months and this place just came at the right moment. At that time, we wanted to do some creative projects and heard about some possibilities at the Mambo Primary School. Therefore, we decided to visit the Mambo & Mambo “B” Primary Schools with nearly 1,700 children. We saw some challenges, like renovating and painting some of the walls of the school and we started fund-raising for this project via our travel blog (

It was a fantastic experience to work at this school, together with local people and 'fundis' who made walls really flat before we could work on it and make our own creations. We also worked together with Moddy, a local artist. He helped us a lot. Besides painting, he helped with translating and working with the children. We made a slide show about the project which you can see the result.

We still had some money left from the fund-raising, so we spoke with Herman and Marion about what else we could do. Two days later we visited another village, Tema. The school at this village was even worse than Mambo. For example, there where a couple of classrooms without any desks. The children just sat on the floor or even outside as in the case of the kindergarten. Overall, it was very dirty, many roofs were leaking, and the walls and floors were full of holes. It was very depressing to see this environment. At that time, we concluded  that just making an other wall painting should be like a  'flag on a mud barge'.

In order to help us decide which project would be most beneficial to the school, Herman asked us to make an inventory of all primary schools from the Sunga ward (a sort or region). With the results, we and other volunteers can support specific needs of the various schools.

We made a list of all the schools of the ward, arranged the MamboViewPoint car and a guide who could help us with translating and visited the schools. Some days we even had two or three schools to visit. The Sunga Ward is in the mountains and the roads are not always in very good condition due to the rain. So some school visits were real adventures through very small, difficult, rocky, and muddy roads with a lot of potholes. But we managed.

Before we started our visit we made a sort of questionnaire for the schools and a so-called “walking list”. With the walking list, we went through all classrooms to check the status of the walls, the windows, the number of desks that are in a room etc. If possible, we asked questions, such as what is the most important thing (they need) in their school.

Here, we put a list of some of the most notable things of each school together with some pictures.

  • Remarkable and even shocking for us was that children sat on the floor in one classroom.
  • Toilets in bad stage.
  • Not enough classrooms
  • Not enough teachers
  • Not enough school books
  • Leaking roofs
  • Not enough desks 

Also we saw a surprisingly good, new school. There were even two classrooms that were finished with roofs with a ceiling. The toilet building could be an example to the rest of the schools in the ward. We even saw three water basins for cleaning and gardening. In front of the new classrooms there were a couple of buckets filled with drinking water, which is special because we had never seen this before. At the moment, this school has two teachers for four hundred children. Of course they work in shifts, but they still have one hundred children to teach. A volunteer also teaches the kindergarten.. They use one of the unfinished classrooms. We met the teachers outside as there was still no teachers office.

Here the result of our work in a classroom from Mambo primary school.

After all these visits we concluded that there is very much to do. And most of these things should be done and paid for by the village and/or the government. We think it is to simple to give, for example 100 desks to one or two schools, however it would be better to set an example and inspire them. So we decided that painting is one of the best things that we could do as an “outsider”.

Therefore, we are very happy that we have already started to make a new wall painting (done by Moddy), on one of the walls of the Chambogho school. 

In the end....

During these time at Mambo, we learned so much and loved our stay. We are now going back to Holland, to visit our family and friends. But we wish everybody here all the best.

Sylvia & Jan