Monday, June 16, 2014
“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” ― Jacques Barzun
The quote above is true of many societies in the Western world, but not here in Tanzania. Teachers are highly regarded and respected while education is known by all to be the only way out of poverty and the best way to a good job, a good spouse, and being able to help your family. Education is not free here, all have to pay. Government schools are the cheapest but not the best, and private schools are better and much, much more expensive (by Tanzanian standards). Tanzania is also having a population explosion as the population has doubled in the last twenty years. There are not enough schools even for those who pay and nowhere near enough teachers. Almost 2,000 teachers die every year from AIDS and they cannot be replaced fast enough. It has gotten to the point where if you have passed fourth grade, then you can teach second grade. The local teachers college used to graduate about 200 new teachers a year, but now the government is asking them to graduate 500 new teachers a year—and there are plenty of young people who want to learn to be teachers. We get asked all the time to help with school fees for individuals (and we do the best we can, but in no way can we help all who ask), so we had to ask ourselves what was the best way to use the money we had for education. Some friends who were here from the U.S. suggested that we provide scholarships to the local teachers college. The only stipulations were that the recipients were poor, Christian, had the grades to be accepted by the college, and would stay in Tanzania to teach. It costs $250 a year for each student to receive a full-boat scholarship—fees, tuition, medical, books, room and board—everything. It is a two-year program, so $500 produces a new, Christian teacher for Tanzania. The picture at the right is of the latest six graduates of our scholarship program. Our friends from Jonesboro, Arkansas, made it their mission to keep this program funded, and we have been able to provide ten scholarships a year for the past six or seven years. Can you tell from the picture that the students are happy to have good jobs and to be teachers now? We have four that are starting their second year this fall, and we should have enough money from our Methodist friends in Arkansas to add at least four more and maybe six. We will try very hard to keep the number at ten. We started with eighteen scholarships the first year, but as the economy crashed, we had to cut back. Still, over seventy Christian teachers are now teaching, teachers that would never have had a chance without the scholarship help. Some of their stories are very sad, but they don’t let the past hold them back. The number of young children who will have good teachers thanks to this program is in the thousands. That’s a lot of bang for the buck. We have also supplied biosand water filters to both the Bunda Teachers College itself and the primary school on the grounds where the teachers train. The kids who get to have this training are so grateful that almost all of them have written, called, and/or came by in person to thank us. We meet each one here before they begin, and Karen makes them an identity card with their picture on it to keep the workers at the college honest. We had some trouble several years ago, but Karen’s new methods of payment and identification have worked beautifully. We cannot thank enough those who have given to this program. Look at the picture again. These poor kids, some of them orphans, are now able to give hope to hundreds if not thousands of other young children coming up through the grades. It is but one of our many projects, but it is a very important and vital one. Everybody wins and the whole country is better as these graduates are sent all over by the government—and the graduates are happy to go. Did I mention that all these students are also very good English speakers? We’ve never had a drop out or a single student who didn’t work very hard and make good grades. I’m almost positive we can do eight scholarships this year. Another $500 and we can make it ten. If you want to help, send whatever you can give to the One Book Foundation, 1910 Old Wire Road, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 72703, and note that you want the money to go the scholarship program. You will be blessing many, many children.