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Long-time TEAA friend Okunya recently began his third
assignment guiding a Kenya secondary school, this time Wandiji Mixed
Secondary, near Homa Bay. He and TEAA scribe Ed Schmidt have
agreed on a set of books for a TEAA-funded reading project and TEAA
web-ster Henry Hamburger has sent math materials he developed for
a project under the aegis of College Bound, an outstanding Washington
DC organization. The latest Wandiji words are upbeat:
"My students are making good progress not only in Mathematics but in other areas too. Yesterday five of our students took part in verse speaking competition at the county level and two of them excelled. They will proceed to the regional competition in two weeks time. Am elated because this is the very first time they are doing so. Later this month, our boys' soccer team will be playing at the district level for the first time in the history of the school and the boys are fired up.
"Last week I was able to elbow my way through our Ministry corridors and obtained a printer for use with our computer. This has proved very useful in printing the practice exercise items you sent us, though most of the time the process is slow because we only have one computer. But so far am happy because we are making progress."
New TEAA partner and friend Margaret Mbise was a key figure in the founding of Nkoaranga Secondary School 15 years ago and has been the headmistress ever since, as well as a teacher of maths and physics. This O-level school with 320 students (200 girls) located 15 miles northeast of Arusha serves as a testing ground for the English language materials of the Mwangaza Centre, founded by TEAA-er Shoonie Hartwig. The school is thereby addressing a key issue for Tanzanian education, the improvement of skill in English, the medium of instruction.
Consequently, during a visit earlier this year we agreed that the most appropriate form of assistance would be a collection of novels for recreational reading along with textbooks for English grammar. Indeed, Ms. Mbise and her teachers had prepared for the visit by drawing up a detailed specification of such books. She now writes, "The students have been very delighted for now they can learn effectively by sharing the books. They send their appreciation and thanks to all members of TEAA for their well-wishing spirit. The shortage of books has been a long-time pressing problem to us... We promise to keep them safely, but accessible to the learners so that they may increase their knowledge considerably... Pass our regards to TEAA members. I have attached receipts and a photo [above] to this email to support details of purchases. Thank you for your cooperation."
Mbegu Za Urafiki (seeds of friendship) - the Newletter of Friends of Tanzania, an organization founded by Peace Corps returnees - features TEAA-er Ed Schmidt in the lead story, Teachers Training Teachers, of its current issue. It's about FoT's third annual "Rural Teacher Capacity Building Workshop [in Moshi, which] brings together Kilimanjaro region and international teachers for a week of professional development.
"The participating teachers, including headmasters, develop and model techniques using locally available resources to enhance the learning of mathematics, civics, languages and applied sciences. This January, Ed Schmidt of Teachers for East Africa (TEAA) joined the group and demonstrated resourceful math and science applications, such as measuring and constructing a pendulum with a pencil and string," as teachers are doing in the photo above.
More generally, at these events participants "have shared ideas of current differential learning approaches and classroom management techniques that can be effective in Tanzanian rural primary and secondary schools, applying these methods in the final days of the workshop during practice teaching at nearby government schools. Selected Moshi area teachers return as mentors in the following years' workshops."
|Please let us pause to celebrate the life of Kibet Bore, long-time great friend of TEAA-er Bill Jones, who writes "So much like his father, I loved his company." That father, who also died young, was part of a remarkable group of students from Bill's time at Kapsabet Secondary, a group who remained Bill's friends long after the demise of TEA; the friendship extended to the entire Bore family. I was privileged to see, first-hand, in Kapkitony and in Nairobi, how strong these ties remain after half a century.||Kibet was, Bill writes, "quite sensible about following the treatment regimen that doctors in Eldoret had laid out for him. He had setbacks but always seemed to bounce back, remaining in remarkably good spirits. Our bargain was that we would keep in touch monthly. If we slipped a bit, the next e-mails would likely have an apologetic tone or there might even be a telephone call. In late March, when I spoke to him, he laughed and said, 'I'm still here,' when I asked him how he was."|
|Headmaster Wamoyi at Lunza Secondary has written to acknowledge successful transmission of funds. He also notes that term 2 has begun and that "your continued assistance is boosting our performance in a great way. Today English is the best performed subject. There's also a remarkable improvement in the sciences. Once more on my own behalf and on behalf of our students and the Board of Management I wish to very sincerely thank you and the whole TEAA team for your support."|
"Global Engagement" was the phrase of choice as 125-year-old
Teachers College of Columbia University celebrated "a tradition for
tomorrow." "Our faculty, students and alumni have been active around
the world" noted Marion Boultbee, holder of a TC doctorate and
long-time Director of International Services.
TC's international initiatives - notably including our own TEA and TEEA - are collaborative, done "not by establishing campuses abroad, but instead by working with other countries to help them build capacity," noted Portia Williams, Executive Director of TC's Office of International Affairs.
TEAA-er Peter Moock - with the collaboration of TEAA-ers Sue
Nanka-Bruce and Brooks Goddard, as well as that of Dr. Boultbee - ably
presented our past and present. He spoke of the 1960 American Council
on Education conference at Princeton where "African educators
expressed concern about their nations' capacity to produce a new
generation of citizens who could assume leadership roles, especially
at a time of acute shortage of secondary school teachers," as many
colonials were packing up and new opportunities beckoned African
Tying our teaching of long ago to TEAA's current financial support of priority needs in East African secondary schools, Peter observed, "We're still at it." more at TC
just arrived from computer teacher Nuru Hamisi, at right.
|Reviews of books about East Africa and other parts of the continent appear frequently on this website, thanks to TEAA leader Brooks Goddard. New this week: 4 reviews .||Hitchhike the World, Book I by TEAA-er Bill Stoever, published in 2013, is available from at least three online book dealers. For more, read this February 28 review .|
Ed Schmidt and Henry Hamburger, Jan-Feb, 2013
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So long as my heart ratchets up a notch whenever I meet or greet a terrific secondary school principal or manage to respond adequately to a situation with a word or two of Swahili, or spot some cobs of fire-roasted maize on the streets of East Africa, I guess I'll keep going back.
In the course of three weeks, Ed Schmidt and I made it to 30 encounters with schools, educators and students. Twenty-one of these were secondary school visits, typically lasting half a day, and three took us to primary schools. We met at other locales with primary teachers, university students and leaders of other educational NGOs including one founded by TEAA-er Shoonie Hartwig. The most ambitious undertaking was the week-long teaching workshop that brought Ed and other experienced teachers from around the globe to broaden the outlook of teachers on the ground in Tanzania who do such important work in difficult circumstances.
There is more good news: we had unfailing ground transportation. For long distances there were on-time bus-rides, the highlight for smoothness being the one from Arusha to Nairobi on a newly completed regional road. Matatus and a few friends with cars covered the middle distances, and our feet or the eager, ubiquitous bodaboda offerers took care of the rest. "Unfailing" is, however, a term of art. Transportation did not fail us, but it is fair to note that rocky roads into the countryside rearranged our internal organs, even in ok vehicles while the bodaboda guys have moved on from bikes to almost all motorbikes: progress for them but a mixed blessing, since between the dust and the fumes, one fears for the lungs of the pedestrian throng.
It is the schools, however, that are the focus here, and they, regrettably, are not unfailing. Indeed, the failure rates on national exams are remarkably high, as are the rates of low-end passes. The case of math(s) is particularly disturbing. In the worst case an entire graduating class had an average math score lower than D- on the national exam. D, D+ and C- averages were common at poor and community schools and the sciences are not much better. Are the exams just too hard, written for the top students? Is this really a national championship posing as a national exam? We hope so. Can TEAA be of any help by funding a decrease in the number of students per available book? We hope that too.
National schools are another matter. There, there is good news. We stopped at one such school to drop off memorabilia from back in the day and found that in its new national status, the school is awash in recent and ongoing construction. Near another one, we met by chance a couple of students: cheerful, friendly, forthright, well-educated and articulate young women. It was enough to restore faith in the future.
But where are we, really, half a century down the road? It's not a cheery prospect, if you let yourself think about it. The political situations remain dicey, the per capita economic production numbers are low and the populations have all quintupled, up from a total of 24 million for the three countries to more than 120 million over the course of these fifty years and still burgeoning, while land area is of course constant and the climate changes.
Still, there are earnest and often talented people at each school we visit. How can one not try to help them do the job that - with good cheer and against all odds - they are trying to do?
TEAA mourns the loss of Peter Indalo, minister, community organizer, doer of great works and our regional representative for several schools in Kenya. He and his wife Arita have been delightful hosts to TEAA travelers over the years, most recently in 2011, when Peter was the key figure in the Migori portion of EA-11. In the words of our scribe Ed Schmidt, his passing is "the loss of a dear friend. It feels like the end of an era."
Peter founded and led a regional organization that helped thousands to obtain clean water, build fuel-efficient cookstoves and grow fruit trees and introduced many to fish farming and small businesses. This work was supported in large part by St. Paul's Memorial Church in Charlottesville, VA.
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