A thought-provoking and exciting day for the CDI Education team.
7.40 – Arrive at the school. Sophie is chatting with Mr Kafeda, asking him about various school dynamics. They are standing overlooking the courtyard with early morning sun filtering through the trees. Sophie thinks she is Louis Theroux.
8.00 – Out in the courtyard roughly 100 students from form 2 are on the ground on their hands and knees. The teachers are circulating and hitting them with canes. The activity doesn’t seem to have a definitive end. Is really quite distressing, and again brings into focus the question of corporal punishment.
Mr Kafeda comments that he personally doesn’t agree with this culture of negative reinforcement, a perspective that we had not yet heard from a teacher.
8.31 – Robbie decides he fancies the role of martyr for the day and requests that the teacher hits him so he can empathise with the students.
8.35 – Naturally, the teacher assumes Robbie is joking. How little she knows. After convincing her that he does indeed want her to cane him, she lifts her stick and brings it down on his hand.
8.37 – Apparently, Robbie’s hand is numb. Also his eyes are watering. We accuse him of crying, he insists it’s hay fever. Again, the rest of the team is sceptical.
8.40 – Lessons have still not begun at Salma Kikwete secondary school. Form 2 is still getting beaten. We have yet to establish why.
8.45 – We question the method of corporal punishment to another teacher and she also acknowledges her displeasure. This feels positive, until it is established that said displeasure stems from the fact that her arm and shoulder are sore after caning 14 year olds all morning.
8.53 – We count the number of classrooms, determining that there are roughly 67 students per classroom if they are all being used. We then start planning what problems we can address, hopefully incorporating local partners and people in the community.
11.20 – After returning to the school, talking to Mr Kapinga, and Robbie making further complaints about his hand, we wander into the staff room where Sophie is sitting with the English teacher and a glass of suspicious looking milk, looking deeply uncomfortable.
11.22 – Sophie shoots me and Robbie a look of unadulterated desperation, mentioning that she has to finish the whole glass.
11.23 – Robbie steps up for act of martyrdom number 2 and chugs half of the milk. Sophie winces.
11.24 – Robbie looks very ill.
11.25 – We leave Sophie looking eternally grateful and go back across the road. Transpires that the milk was actually just plain old fermented animal milk. Robbie reminds me that it’s irrelevant, it was disgusting and he should know – he drank a lot of it.
11.34 – Robbie now has a stomach-ache to add to his ever-growing list of self-inflicted ailments.
13.00 – After a couple more mix-ups at the school – including Aran arranging a jogging session with the headmaster of Manzeze, we go to a meeting with the students who were involved with CDI’s Peer2Peer programme last summer.
13.01 – In the classroom, the notes on the blackboard go into intricate detail about antibodies and disease (all in English). The ridiculous ability-inappropriate nature of the Tanzanian curriculum is brought into stark reality when we sit down with the students and struggle to get any English responses to even simple questions.
14.10 – The students relax as the session proceeds, and with it their English improves. In school, they are punished for speaking incorrect English, even in non-academic conversation – and as you’d expect this means they lack confidence and don’t feel comfortable making mistakes.
Despite this, the session is really valuable, and while communication is at times difficult, we get a real insight into the students views of the school, as well as some more information on how it is run.
16.02 – We return home after a strange but productive morning. Just another day in Dar es Salaam. Tomorrow we will start planning, and the prospect of actually implementing schemes to try and improve the schools is an exciting one. However this last week has really shown how difficult it will be to design strategies that have the right balance between ambition, realism, and need for sustainability.
Alice Pavey, Education Project volunteer