Chukula za asubuhi!....a breakfast chaser

Funny things happen...I had had my usual breakfast of fresh mango, mtindi (yoghurt) and toasted muesli, and a freshly brewed coffee. I alighted the bus and greeted the 7 girls with "Marahaba" as they "Shikamood" me...all wanting me to sit with them! I sat with Yustina who is trying really hard to learn new English words. I had brought my Eng/Swahili dictionary as we had agreed and she furiously started scanning for new words. Actually, it was as much for my need as hers! Happy reached over and said "Madam Flan....Kujaribu chakula" Try some food.....mmmmmmmmmmm They looked awfully like grasshoppers to me....and of course they were but they were all eating them so...I had to too! Oh dear....not really my idea of breakfast chaser...but atleast I can say I did eat them....and actually quite liked their salty flavour!!

Sat 21 May "Amani Disability Centre Awareness Day”

Text message…Amani Disability Centre Awareness Day”  Sat 21 May 2pm Can you come?
Grace and Briony two young volunteers from the UK with the same energy and exhuberance Elena and Camilla had, were seeing the fruits of their energies materializing. I had met the two girls at Ricky’s café about 5 months ago. A table of 6 young wazungu, I just had to go over and introduce myself! The other 4 girls were heading further out of Moro but they had only just arrive on a 6 month placement through a UK organization. I had met Grace several times but hadn’t had the chance to visit her at the Centre for the Disaled. Today was my chance!
Daladala drivers had been on strike for the past 3 days so I started to walk into town then realized that I didn’t know how to get to the Amani Center!! I knew which line of daladala to take but I had never been to Chemwino (the area of town) soI didn’t trust my poor sense of direction. As it was nearly 2pm, I caught a taxi! On arriving I was swamped with little people “Shikamoo” coming from each one and all of them trying to secure my hand and lead me inside the decorated hall. I was marched proudly to the front of the hall and expected to sit at the head table. I was a mzungu so I must be important so I must be seated there!! This was what the beautiful children thought. It took a lot of dissuading them to accept my returning and sitting in the fourth row from the front…This was not good in their eyes but it was a compromise which allowed them to sit in the chairs around me. The hall was still empty of spectators. Grace found me and apologized explaining that it was all functioning on Tz time. This is what I expected so wasn’t uncomfortable or worried at all! In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the music and watching the children dance on the stage. During the next hour I witnessed the excitement mount, met new wazungu Vols from in and around Moro, then at 3pm, the event began. A kaleidescope of dance and song from: lively Bongo Flava/ cultural/ song& dance from the children themselves/ Gospel and Choir singing / lively entertainment and an interval providing Chai, home made cakes and mandazi…..
A highlight was definitely the spontaneous inclusion of a young Amani boy into a lively dance ensemble. He proudly copied the routine with a grin from ear to ear. His rhythm was natural and he was totally at ease with every change that occurred. He won everyone’s hearts and people surged to the stage to stuff money in his pocket and encourage his humble, spontaneity and natural skill. He was such a darling, his smile got bigger and bigger…and his pocket bulged. He couldn’t believe what was happening. When the routine ended he happily emptied his pockets and handed all the rewards to his very proud Amani Mama. The applause was deafening!
Working with the disable anywhere in the world is demanding and frustrating but because the stigma is so great in Africa, it is very hard to get public support here. Well done girls for putting these beautiful people so positively in the public eye. Your tireless energy was fruitful.

Friday 20 May. Demons rudi tena!

It was many weeks since the presence of Demons had been felt. A normal Friday began….However….just after assembly one of our students, who had recently returned from a long period of time away from SEGA, disabled from the haranguing effects of the Demons, was beset with an arm that wouldn’t work! Nearby, another student’s wrist was physically increasing in size (we still don’t really know whether she had previously injured her arm or whether this phenomenon was the cause!) The girls became spooked and consequently one more girl went out in sympathy believing the Demons had entered her. A quick decision to send the girls home diverted the attention and prevented repercussions ….. Little did we know what the afternoon had in store!
Friday arvos, staff meet and students spend their time with their Religion instructors…Christian and Muslims spend time with their own.
I remember becoming aware of the cries of fear about ½ hr into our meeting but thought the sessions must be focusing on role play to help handle the morning’s episode. I really didn’t tune in properly until the cries became louder, more frequent and very confronting ……. I was worried….but why wasn’t anyone else???......”OK…..mzungu…..just relax….it must be okay!”  I really don’t have the words to explain the range of emotions I went through that afternoon. I was torn between wanting to run to the girls and hold them and stop everything that was happening and tell them that it wasn’t real and that they were ok and everything would be fine………… and having to stay focused on the Staff meeting and logically discuss issues and make sensible, balanced decisions!
BUT…… How do I know that my version is the right one??? I emersed in a very different culture from my own and have to live through and accept some of these challenges apparently! This is something I know I wont get used to. It was heart breaking to hear the distress and know that their fears were real in their minds. The staff was much better at disguising their discomfort but they too, were concerned. They knew the Ministers were with the girls and trusted that they were better able to handle the situation that us!
My escape with the Non Formals girls at 5pm with Sablano on the bus, was a relief….6pm finally saw the end of the session and some peace return.
The weekend was also peaceful and this past week has been uneventful. I am grateful. We recite the school prayer together every morning at assembly and hope and pray that the girls stay free from this stress.

Throat bugs.

Fighting throat bugs is not an easy job especially when the physical body is a bit run down and the mind has been running on over drive for too many months dealing with a multitude of new situations outside the comfort zone!
Hamna shida! No probs…I think my body is easier to fix than Kelly’s…my computer! I have mended quickly thanks to a course of antibiotics, a weekend of doing nothing (except resting, reading and no talking…apart from trying to talk to Evie when she Skyped!!....) I didn’t even venture outside my gate!
Kelly….well she is a source of frustration! I have removed all my pics/videos/ docs…etc and C drive is still full!!...internet doesn’t load; she takes much longer than my students to respond to a question…then says…she hasn’t got space to do anything…..even my 16GB USB won’t save anything! It has room….so Kelly says!!!
Technology….!!! Not sure what to do….Oh well atleast I am well again…Not sure which Dr to take Kelly to though! I didn’t think I would ever appreciate the existence of the internet café so much!!!


Tz school girls are required to wear their hair very short. It becomes a milestone for them when they graduate from Secondary school and can allow their hair to grow longer. With this comes the freedom to have their hair braided, styled, extensions added. This is something our girls really look forward to. Meanwhile, during the term the SEGA girls have established a competent hairdresser to ensure they meet school requirements and that their hair is kept short!
Mariam, Form 2, is one of our resident hairdresser and is happy to share her talent. She is skilled in holding the comb with a razor blade several millimetres from the comb’s edge to ensure an even shave is given. It is equivalent to what we would describe as a #2 or #3 shave!! She then draws the comb/blade across the scalp in a smooth sweep resulting in a very professional finish.
I was fascinated to watch the process as the girls lined up for their hairstyle howeve,r I declined the offer of a free sitting!! I am sure the Non Formal girls would not be pleased if I shaved my hair off (together with a few other significant people in my life I suspect!!)! As I travel to school each day on the bus, my hair blows freely in the wind. The windows are always open unless it is pouring rain! To stop my hair getting too damaged by the elements, I would gather my long locks into one strand, twist it around and hold it over my shoulder until we arrived at school or until I couldn’t be bothered to hold it anymore! Since earlier this year, I have had 3 or 4 girls vie for the chance to hold my hair for me in a similar manner!! They love to touch and stroke my hair as it is so different from their own. To hold it is certainly an honor! I am now very used to this scenario however it took a bit of getting used to (observance of personal space doesn’t seem to be relevant here in Tz...) so I try to continue my conversations (the bus such a wonderful classroom for the girls to practice English and me to learn Swahili!!) without noticing the inconvenience. I gratefully accept and thank the girls’ for their thoughtfulness!


Stress and anxiety manifests itself in many ways. I have learned from experienced during my many years of teaching adolescents and it has been noted by many people worldwide who deal with teenagers that their behaviour can be unexplainable!!
“....... Students, particularly girls, succumb to bouts of hysteria triggered for no apparent reason......”
I have certainly had my experiences broadened in how girls can respond to these pressures. I witnessed and experienced the effect Demons have had on our girls....A cultural belief which is potent, and very real in many of our girls’ lives!
Wikipedia explanation of DEMONS: “..........The supposed existence of demons, a spirit or a supernatural being........ is an important concept in many religions. In some present-day cultures, demons are still feared in popular superstition, largely due to their alleged power to possess living creatures.”
Having been confronted with several situations which challenged the trust between the girls and some key people in their everyday lives, we were thrown into a situation which escalated into fear and repeated bouts of hysterical behaviour!
Firstly one of our girls became possessed.....then another......then several days later, four more! Our initial victim had been sent home to be looked after by her family. Our girls, especially the boarders as they had been with her during the height of her episode, dwelt on her robotic, paralysing and uncharacteristic behaviour. During the following week they replicated her response!
Having left the classroom, I encountered the two girls who had left my class about ten minutes earlier. One girl was lying on the ground and appeared unconscious whilst the other was kneeling beside her. I went to them and quickly realised the intensity of the situation....still very unaware of why this was occurring! I called to Counsellor Pauline to come and, in the short time it took her to arrive; I was confronted with two more girls. These girls had also suddenly collapsed. They were quickly attended to by two more girls who began praying fervently over them.  Unfortunately the bell rang and both classes of Non formals and Form 1’s poured out from their classrooms and were upon us. This resulted in two new cases of unconscious girls who were beset upon by anxious, praying friends.  During our efforts to divert the two classes of girls away from the scene, we witnessed many very scared and frightened girls as the feverish intensity of the praying increased to fever pitch. Fortunately Polly was in the school grounds and she and Salome were summoned resulting in their quick decision to remove the girls to their homes and so remove the sources of hysteria. Empathy for the situation was given but when commanded by an adult, each obsessed girl was suddenly able to respond and ably walk to the awaiting car!  
I was stunned by how intense the situation was and how quickly it had escalated into hysteria!
The impact of these scenarios was far reaching. Every girl was affected by what had happened. The local pastor was invited to speak with the girls the following day. He spoke positively and from a non denominational perspective, encouraging the girls to rise above the thought of Demons and use their positive thinking to protect themselves.  They responded well but it took many weeks and a lot of reassuring and support for normality to return and for the affected girls to recover. This was a challenging process because many of their family members believe that a Demon can jump from one person to another.....from someone who is going through a bad time in their lives to another person who is also down and sad. Their treatment can vary from simply giving them a safe place to stay or, as in the case of one of our girls, taking them to the local Healer who uses natural herbs and medicines to exorcise the Demon. Our suspicions that these remedies were hallucinogenic are still unfounded, but highly likely, as the resulting behaviour was very out of character and very scary for our unsuspecting girl.

Education For Life

Another one of my roles at SEGA is to assist in developing and nurturing leadership and the development of a range of life skills in our girls.
We are currently teaching and progressively developing a curriculum which focuses on developing personal skills and leadership in the girls. By using this knowledge and skills as a foundation we aim to develop positive social skills and ultimately empower the girls to take responsibility for the success of their own lives and be able to productively interact with others at home and in the wider community.
Our Education For Life team consists of Polly, Salome, Counsellor Pauline (a very intuitive and energetic Lifeskills teacher!) and Naomi (Community outreach coordinator) and me. We meet every Tuesday to ensure progress/ planning is happening, and that support is given to all involved in this ongoing process.  Our outcomes focus on
We have many exciting activities happening during the week and already I am seeing small changes and evidence reflecting application of our Lifeskills/Leadership focus.
·         Daily assemble, run by student leaders is becoming a better avenue for communication from both the student body and the staff.
·         Students giving the morning talks are better prepared and consequently, delivering their talks more confidently and assertively.  Public speaking is challenging for anyone! Staff are giving constructive feedback during the assembly and praise is happening regularly.    
·         Debating club: again public speaking is being practised. Still many skills to learn.
·         Environmental Club: Wednesday afternoon club is focusing on beautifying firstly the SEGA environment with the vision of reaching out into the community and educating them on how and why we should care for our surroundings.
·         Community Outreach : activity #1: Grace and Naomi have started accessing permission from the numerous community officials and families to allow our Form 1 girls access into Kihonda homes during their: Help in A Home activity which will see the Form 1’s giving assistance (eg cleaning, cooking, farming playing and talking with them, reading a story etc) to the less able families in our area
·         Positions of Leadership: currently the job descriptions of these positions have been written and the girls are writing letters of application. Elections will occur this week. These positions will allow the girls to practise: decision making; teamwork with fellow students as well as staff; time management; assertiveness in ensuring goals are met; and many other skills as well!
·         Career guidance....Pauline has conducted some inspiring interactive activities during the past few weeks to give the girls correct career information and assist the girls to  establish goals identify the  steps required to achieving them. We have organised some women as guest speakers to share their stories. These women are working or are still at College but have practical advice and interesting stories to help our girls broaden their visions and give insight into the reality of what might lie ahead.
These are just a few examples of what is happening. I will endeavour to share the activities as they continue to unfold!

Changing direction: My role as staff teaching support...

As I change direction during second Semester from my teaching role in the classroom to focus energy on my role of staff support, my aim is to help our staff to draw on and increase their skills and enthusiasm and realise that to nurture critical/higher level thinking students, doesn’t have to be disruptive or time consuming. It is often the small things teachers do which encourage inquiring minds!
During May 30 – June 1 we are having our Teacher Training in service co-facilitated with Melissa (from our sister organisation: The Foundation For Tomorrow,TFFT  in Arusha). This will be a springboard for progressing with developing the skills of our staff!
To assist in this ongoing process I have an enthusiastic team to support me with whom I meet weekly. We aim to ensure process is gained and motivation is maintained. To be sustainable skills will be transferred and kindled in our two Tz teachers: Meshack (Maths/Physics teacher and Academic Master) and Joffrey Lubega (Bookkeeping/Civics teacher) who has already benefitted from Melissa’s training through TFFT at his previous placement in Arusha. Polly (Director), Salome (Head) and I complete the team.
Our hope is that both Tz teachers will continue to nurture an interactive teaching culture at SEGA when I leave.

15 May. Approaching Mid Year. Investigative Learning: creative thinkers..or creating thinkers?

Registration and celebrations for SEGA
As the year unfolds and first semester draws to an end it is evident that the pressure and reality of having to study hard and to succeed is taking its toll on everyone.
Both Non formals and Form 2’s are facing National exams this year. SEGA has recently celebrated the milestone of officially being accepted as a Registered Secondary School which enables our girls to partake in these exams. This was a milestone we celebrated with a special lunch of pilau and sodas, a new music system to play the 3 new CDs ( featuring the girls’ favorite music) throughout the whole Friday afternoon (Religion classes were postponed until the following week!) and into the evening...Having completed our staff meeting some of us joined the girls in the large canteen bunda. We sang, danced and shared the enjoyment of the celebrations.
As the pioneers of SEGA, Form 2 feels many pressures. Of course they are striving to pass for their own advancement and to secure an income and be able to make choices in their lives, but the additional burden many of them carry is that their families are depending on them to succeed and pull them all out of poverty!! A HUGE burden for these young girls because their extended families are many in number and vast in need. Additionally....SEGA staff wants them to succeed. For many students, this is also a pressure!
Secondary teaching in Tanzania
Secondary teaching in Tanzania is delivered to meet the stringent requirements of the National Exam held in late November. The curriculum is traditionally delivered in lecture style to ...’get as much information into the students’ minds as possible and make it stick’... so that they can regurgitate it in an exam designed, it seems, for this type of learning!
Unfortunately this system is harsh. Standard 4 (form 4) exams not only examine the topics the student learnt during that year but includes examination of topics covered throughout all Standards 1 – 4 (Forms 1 – 4). I know I would suffer in this system as my ability to rote learn and recall exact detail is not strong, especially after a long period of time has elapsed. Being a kinaesthetic learner I need visual/practical, as well as verbal input to learn effectively! I learn more quickly when I am required to apply my knowledge to a given situation...NOT just reiterate details/formulas/or definitions etc..!! This is the situation for many students...not just in Tz but worldwide!
SEGA is unique....
SEGA is somewhat unique here in Tz because the aim of its education program is to achieve academically as well as nurture the girls to become critical/active thinkers; be able to make realistic relevant choices in their lives and to practise applying their knowledge and skills to empower them to be successful.  SEGA’s focus is not just on academic success but on success in all areas of their lives
Staff are constantly challenged with helping the girls achieve good academic results. Having been teaching in the classroom, I have been able to appreciate the many challenges Tz teachers face. Academic delivery and nurturing critical thinkers through engaging participatory learning is seen by many SEGA teachers AND students as contradictory and a distraction from the ‘real teaching which should take place (but which only has the National exam in mind)!  “How can we teach the WHOLE syllabus if we are not lecturing/teaching every word in the text book?” The students themselves get very anxious when they are taken away from familiar teaching techniques, especially in core subjects!

1 May....The First of another month....Serengeti and more....!

I can't believe that it is the first day of a new month....again! It only seems the other day that I was sharing with the Form 1 girls: "Pinch and a Punch's the first of the month....Slip and a Slap you can't get me back!!!" We had fun last month when I explained that it was just some fun to recognise the start of a new month! This weekend I slept over at SEGA because Matron was not well. We always have fun...especially on a weekend when I stay. Some of the girls greeted me this morning with a .....pinch and a punch!! We laughed as I didn't think they really understood it's significance!
Life has been very busy and too hectic trying to do all the tasks in my job description. After six months, finally the realisation that the four areas identified for me are full time positions! For each one to be done properly and effectively they require a lot of attention so, in my 6 month review with Polly, we have made some adjustments. Hopefully these will take place soon, ease the pressure I have been experiencing and consequently allow me the time and energy to address the major focus of my placement in Learning Support and curriculum development.

During the past month I have:

*.....Hosted Philo from Iringa who brought Melina to SEGA to sit the exam and try for a position in Form 2 Melina's schooling had been interrupted by circumstances outside her ability to control. Unfortunately she wasn't ready for Form 2 and hopefully will resit the exam at the end of 2011.
L-R: Philo, Pauline, Melina.
 Philomena: My African Mama.
*.....Lived with Pauline, our Counsellor, who couldn't find a home to rent. She is an amazingly supportive and passionate woman who is supporting our girls in coping with their lives. Happily she now has accomodation and will move out and into her new home later this week.
 Pauline and I working on the Leadership/Life skills Curriculum.

*.....Edited and processed over 100 letters from the Form 1 and 2's to their sponsors as well as coordinated the production of a book "All About Me" and personal letters from the Form 1's to their buddys in Lawrencville Middle School Colorado. Next time I will stagger the timing of each of these tasks!
*.....During Easter 16 VSO Vols experienced a SENSATIONAL adventure to the Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater in northern Tanzania! Thanks to Wendy....VSO Vol and ex-tour guide extraordinaire, for her time and energy and for enduring and overcoming the many frustrations of coordinating such an adventure here in Tz!!! We all love you for your generosity and expertise. 
Our wildlife adventure began with the arrival of the gang from down south at Ndanda and Nyangao making an epic 30 hour trip via the slushy, slippery "road" to Dar then out to stay here in Moro to share the night with Wendy, Hermedy, (Zanzibar Vols) Liesbeth and Fredrique (Dodo Vols) and I before travelling together to Arusha. As we ate pancakes and drank real coffee I discovered a snake curled up inside my warm kitchen! At the time we thought it was a black mamba, very dangerous! Courageously, Hermedy and I immobilised it and chopped its head off!! Quite a scarey start to our day! (We now believe that it was a not so dangerous snake...!!) The skies had opened during the previous few days and the track was VERY muddy. We couldn't get a taxi out to my place so were forced to walk the track in the rain in order to get to a daladala and consequently to our bus. Fortunately I had thought to book tickets ahead of time because MANY people were trying to travel during the Easter break! Not more than about 50 steps from my red gates, Hazel slipped and landed on her butt in the dirty mud! We quickly helped her clean off the worst and as I walked away from her.......
I slipped... in almost slow motion ......face first into the dirty track and a muddy pool of shallow water!!! I was lucky that I had  my rucksack on my back and my day pack on my front which took most of the mud! I was filthy, muddy and dripping wet, so by the time I got to my seat on the bus, I could only laugh and believe that things could only get better!!............WHICH OF COURSE....THEY DID!!

Highlights: many, many, many of all of the regular, fascinating and beautiful African animals (elephants, giraffes, zebras, gazelles, monkeys, hyenas, beautiful birdlife.....etc..) but we were treated to: 4 sightings of leopards lazing in trees...many Lions....some also lazing in the trees and lying around lapping up the sunshine; sighting 1 of the 20 black rhinos remaining in the Crater; the migration of 1000's and 1000's of Wilderbeast moving through the Serengeti;  'pink flamingos' in the crater;  camping in the wild with zebras and other wildlife stomping around our tents in the dark of the night in search of food..( then realising that one or other of us had to get up and go out there to the toilet....!! ) ...and wonderful company!!!