I have now been working at St. John's Bible College and Junior Seminary in Kilimatinde for three weeks. I am here until the end of May, working with the Kilimatinde Trust, a small charity based in the North of England.
There are three other workers out here with the Trust and we are known as Mzunga: the ubiquitous term for any white person in Tanzania. I am working in the library at the college, reorganising and cataloguing the books. This is a fairly large task, as it has not been done before, and the library has just been moved to a larger room so that there are books everywhere.
I am also helping to re-establish the Church Kindergarten for children aged 2-7. At the moment, we have approximately 50 children registered. At the Bible College and Junior Seminary, there are about 160 students between the ages of 15 and the late twenties. There are four years of secondary school, and many people do not begin until their late teens. Four of the fourth form students are going to England after Easter for 3 weeks accompanied by two teachers, a local MP and the school's finance officer. The finance officer, Joanne McAlroy, is working in Kilimatinde for 14 months with the Trust. At the moment, her main role is to convince the school to stop spending money it hasn't got, and to hope that the Diocese does sponsor the bible college students as they have promised.
An average teacher's wage in Kilimatinde is between 20,000 and 30,000 shillings a month (Â£20-Â£30). Here, the rich (of the cities) are very rich and the poor are very poor. The poor need assistance that the Government cannot give because it is crippled by trying to pay the international debt, which is an impossible task. Kilimatinde is in the Rift Valley, one of the poorest areas on earth. There has been very little rain for more than two years and, when it rains, there is nowhere to store the water. A water tank has just been built at the college by an English engineer, but it is not nearly enough. Kilimatinde's dam has been broken for several years. There are 3 generators for the village, but only those at the school and the hospital regularly work, for just a few hours in the evening.
We have just played host to a group of Germans who are supporting the Diocese of the Rift Valley, so we have had electricity for a week, and water pumped more than the three mornings a week it is normally supposed to be pumped. Now we are back in darkness from 6.30 p.m.
Everyone you meet wants to know your life history, so everywhere you visit you have to stand up and greet everybody. I am a continual source of wonder, as there are few 'one child families' in Tanzania, and everyone is amazed that my parents will let me go so far for so long, especially as I'm so young.
However, although there are few 'only' children, there are many AIDS orphans. AIDS is rife in Tanzania; it has been estimated that almost half of the population suffer from it. The situation is unlikely to improve as medical supplies are limited, needles must be reused, and sex is a taboo subject. Sex education is non-existent, babies really are delivered by storks. It seems certain that several of the children and students I am working with now will die from AIDS.
The picture is not totally bleak! The people here are full of life and extremely welcoming. Everybody wants you to come to dinner, and many of the students, at least, are keen to learn new things. However, the main thing is that the normal problems of running a school are compounded here by poverty, a lack of trained staff, and by the church and tribal politics and corruption that are widespread in Tanzania.
So why am I having such a good time???
Written by Swiv