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Africa Education

Tanzania - Jamhuri School

Where to start!  We were welcomed back to the Jamhuri Primary School in Moshi to continue the work we started last year.  We spent the first week making sure all the computers worked blowing out the dust and generally tuning up the machines. We made several improvements to the classroom - benches around the walls, a new roof cap, and most importantly, solar electricity for the computers.  We also brought an “Internet In A Box” (IIAB) system with us.  

Internet in a Box was originally created to allow doctors and hospitals in remote parts of the world to access all kinds of resources.  Usage has expanded to provide educational content to remote schools in Africa and South America. The system consists of a processor the size of a deck of cards with WIFI included and an external hard drive.  That’s it. We were able to download lots of WIKIs including Wiki in Swahili, world maps, Kahn Academy math lessons, a series of educational cartoons called Ubongo, also in Swahili (think Sesame Street) and lots more.  A local network was established so that each of the students could access content.  Bravo to Mark (with Dan’s help) for figuring out how to program the IIAB and downloading all the content!

The goal was to teach 5th and 6th year students, as well as any of the interested teachers to hopefully excite them about including hands-on work with their own lessons.  Believe it or not, the students start learning about computers in 3rd grade.  However, all lessons are from the book with no hands-on training at all. We were going to try to catch up the 5th and 6th years with 4 courses – Intro to Computers, Intro to Word, Intro to Excel and Intro to the Internet, each with 2-hour sessions.  In 2 weeks of classes, we taught 130 students in classes of 16-24 students, all four topics.

PowerPoint visuals helped us introduce computers and Word.  We had help with a few teachers who translated what we taught while we demonstrated. The kids are really smart and picked up information quickly.  The biggest challenge for them was using the mouse – that’s a new concept for them – rolling and double clicking all while trying to figure out which fingers to use.  


We followed up with Excel, teaching about columns, rows and cells doing sums and averages using some of the sample tables taken right from their textbook. You could see the lightbulb go on – the theoretical became real.  Finally, we tackled the internet and how to research using Wiki by searching for the weight of an elephant and the population of Tanzania.  It was quite a competition to see which group found the answers first.  In Google Maps we showed them how to zoom from a worldwide map down to finding their school.


One of the most gratifying things was to see the teacher interest increase as time passed.  Initially, we had one or two teachers listening and translating.  By the time we left, several teachers, including the head teacher, were helping the students during lessons and were also talking about how they could use computers in some of their lessons.

Before we left, we contracted for installation of glass windows to cover the window grates which could be swung open, dramatically reducing classroom dust.  As you can see from some of the pictures, the benches the children are sitting on are actually backward desks.  We also contracted for 25 chairs to be built over the next few weeks so that the children could reach the benches and work effectively.  

One of the fortunate things about traveling is that you meet new and interesting people.  We met a young woman from Boston, Margot Hinchey, at our hotel bar one evening and got to chatting as we learned she had lived in Tanzania for several years.  It turns out she had started an NGO to establish a community center called Simba’s Footprints on the other side of Moshi, with a fund-raising arm in the US.  Once the center was up and running, it was turned over to very competent locals led by her partner, Charles Godfrey to run, while she maintained a seat on the board and moved on to other ventures.  This center serves 1,000 children and women, as an after-school center for the kids teaching music, agriculture, computers and homework help.  During the day, women are taught tailoring and business skills.  Simba’s supports 14 primary schools in their area of town with outreach to teachers.


After spending some time with the group, we formed a bit of a partnership.  We offered them the second IIAB (we brought 2 with us), the lessons we developed for Jamhuri and the dongles necessary for them to set up a wifi.  They offered to help Jamhuri with local computer support and also help us with local contractors for projects as needed.  We are excited about this partnership and happy to be working with Simba’s footprints.


Moshi wasn’t all work and no play.  We headed to Arusha National Park for a 1-day safari.  The park, while small has loads of animals and the day didn’t disappoint.  There were plenty of baboons – adults with babies, babies feasting alone and even a very rare albino baboon.  In addition, we saw blue monkeys, lots of zebras, giraffes, families of warthogs, colobus monkeys, grey crown cranes and much more.  Hope you enjoy all the pictures!


From Tanzania, we headed to Kigali, Rwanda for a safari and a little R&R.  Thank you Charles for introducing us to Rwanda, for organizing a spectacular trip and treating us like family.  Rwanda is the land of 1000 hills and it certainly was!  We were impressed with the country’s natural beauty, its massive effort to rebuild the country over the last 30 years and all the friendly people.  As a country, they certainly seemed to have their act together.  As an example of their commitment, someone from every family goes out to clean up the streets and parks the last Saturday of the month – everyone from the President on down.  That’s teamwork!

While in Akagera National Park in the northeast, we found a lion pride hunting a cape buffalo, hippos, rhinos, a leopard, many giraffes, zebras and more.  The Elephants were elusive.  We could see them across the marsh, but they appeared to be keeping cool in the shade of the forest.  The park was beautiful and lush after the rains which made locating the animals even more special.  Our guide Tim did a fantastic job locating both beast and bird for our many pictures.

While on our way to Lake Kivu, we took the opportunity to visit the Rwanda Genocide Museum. Tim had previously given us a history lesson on the 1994 genocide, so we were better able to understand and appreciate the exhibits.  We found the museum to be sobering, educational, and most of all moving.  It was reminiscent of the Holocaust Museum with the exception that many thousands of victims have been reburied from the mass graves into the gardens.  There are several other memorials around the country where thousands of other victims’ remains have been relocated as well.  As other mass graves have been uncovered, remains are moved and entombed at a local monument so relatives can easily visit.  

When driving to Lake Kivu in northwest Rwanda with Isaac, we stopped by his home to see his adorable 6 month old daughter and meet his wife.  We traveled through beautiful farmland, with so many family plots.  Rwanda is a small country so every bit of land counts.  Farms were terraced up some pretty steep slopes! We also passed so many delivery men taking produce to the local market on bicycles.  Imagine biking with three or four huge bunches of bananas or 5 ft bags of onions, carrots or cabbages down the windy steep hills to market.  All I can say is strong legs and backs!  


As we got close to the lake, we passed 8 volcanoes, 2 of which are still active.  At night, if the sky is clear, you can still see one glow. We also passed a recently discovered tributary leading to the Nile River, making the Nile the longest river in the world!  Lake Kivu is one of the great African lakes – 30 miles X 50 miles, located along the border between the border of Rwanda and the Congo.   It was a relaxing few days with lovely weather and delicious food.  Our one outing was to take a boat ride around the coast to a hot spring where we soaked with the locals, just what we needed!


Saying goodbye to Africa is always hard but we’re off to India!  Next stop Mumbai.