Monthly Archives: October 2012

Teaching science with a heart

“We as science teachers are feeling really tortured”, says Demetria Swai, a Biology teacher.  She’s one of only four science teachers at Moshono secondary school in Arusha: of the others, another teaches Biology, one Physics and one Maths. The school has 1000 pupils.

To fill the gaps, temporary teachers are brought in where possible. But in the meantime, Mrs Swai spends two days a week teaching at a neighbouring school – which has no Biology teacher at all.

Science education is in a bad way in Tanzania. Yet the issue that brought Swai to Dar es Salaam was not the lack of teachers but the methods they were using. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Learning, not burning [churches]

“All these men just hanging around doing nothing…!”, my Mum kept commenting when she visited Tanzania. It’s true. Partly because social life happens outside, and partly because Time here is a different kind of commodity – something to be shared, not jealously guarded as it is by us in the West, running around shouting about how busy we are.

By now, though, I had stopped noticing the lazing and lurking and staring; I (sometimes) enjoy the gentler approach to time. And many of these men – they are usually men – do work somewhere, during irregular hours perhaps: selling produce in the market, working in a relative’s shop, repairing things.

But even if they’re lucky enough to have that informal employment, a desperate lack of skills prevents them ever getting more than unstable, unreliable work for a minimal wage.
That skills deficit starts at the most basic level. Tanzania has made progress: the share of national income spent on education more than tripled in the last decade; in the same period, enrolment in primary schools doubled. But just being in school, it seems, is not enough. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Eating weevils

Ant, Roach and Rat: meet Weevil, our new housemate. He’ll mostly be hanging out in the cereal and the bag of flour.











Tagged ,

A bad name

“I strip Dar es Salaam of the ‘haven of peace’ title!!!”, commented a Dar resident on Facebook. The discussion was about the rise in violent crime here – more on that topic another day – but it could just as easily refer to the current religious tension in the city.

Tanzania is home to 120+ tribes. Mosques and churches and temples sit next to one another without a bother, as do their followers. At a training session for grassroots leaders we organised a few months ago, I was impressed by the mix of faces I saw. At the end of the day, a group of Catholic sisters asked the Muslim participants if they could end by singing a blessing. The latter agreed, and we all listened patiently as the song filled the room.

But it’s not always so civil. The latest story – after the somewhat more predictable reactions following the Innocence of Muslims – sounds almost too ridiculous to be true. A 14-year old boy peed on a Koran, following a dare from his Muslim friend. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

The conference I wasn’t supposed to be organising

Tomorrow’s the big day. Whatever happens, I did learn a few things.

1) How to use a phone,  combining the best of Tanzanian and Western methods. In other words: If they don’t answer, keep ringing. And ringing. If they say they’ll check something and call you back, say you’ll stay on the line. Phone everyone you’re working with every day to remind them of what they said last week they would do by yesterday. Phone everyone you’re working with to check they received the e-mails you sent. Don’t bother with landlines; any numbers you find on websites are probably already out of order. Get everyone’s (three different) mobile numbers. Lose any self-consciousness about shouting down the phone. Hang up before either of you says goodbye. Continue reading

Tagged , ,

Big rain

The Alliance Française cancelled their monthly culture night tomorrow beacause, they said, there was heavy rain forecast this week. It seemed a bit of a rubbish reason – this is an event that takes place indoors – but this could be some serious precipitation, the start of the rainy season at last. Hopefully, people are a little more cautious since the floods last December killed over 50 people in Dar, and will be more prepared this time.  The meteorological agency’s very official warning letter published on their website should at least convince those civil-servant types infuriatingly obssessed with formalities – the kind of people who have been driving me mad the past weeks – that this is for real.



Tagged ,

The creative spaces

Not just there for the free wifi

I’d had the same idea, but someone else got to it first – writing about Dar es Salaam’s emerging tech/innovation sector.

“With Kenya’s ‘Silicon Savannah’ booming to the north, and money being ploughed into Rwanda’s ICT dreamland to the west, Tanzania seems to have been left in the dust”, writes the journalist.  That’s starting to change though, thanks to Dar’s two new tech/innovation hubs. I’ve been to one of them a few times: TANZICT hosts unusual, and actually quite useful networking/learning meet-ups, in a free, open public space with wireless internet and electricity – not to be sniffed at in this city. Their ‘Girls’ Night Out’ series of events – women-only sessions for learning, practising or sharing new tools and technologies – are a brilliant idea.

Dar is still a long way off Nairobi though.  “If there is one truthful stereotype of Tanzania, it is that the country can be painstakingly slow”, continues the article. Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,