Christmas Newsletter

The generosity of our supporters and the enthusiasm of our volunteers (extracts of whose reports I include below) have contributed to another period of steady progress in Zanzibar. The full, illustrated versions can be found on the ZAP website as can a link to our new promotional DVD.

On my July trip, I was ably assisted by Olivia and Emily who, on their second visit to Jambiani, have become valued lieutenants. We were joined by two new ZAP volunteer teachers, Somaya and Emma, on an 8 week official field trip. With Ministry permission and headmaster Maabad’s blessing they taught English to the whole of Form I at the school – 120 children in all.

On my return trip in November (with Andrew and Pat), it was very encouraging to hear universal praise for their efforts. They had brought out quantities of excellent teaching aids, and from the first were determined to make their lessons fun, encouraging their pupils to participate and to enjoy themselves. The result, says Maabad, is a marked increase in the children’s confidence – particularly in spoken English. It says a lot for them, and for the good reputation of ZAP that they were given such a welcome from the staff. After hot and busy mornings in the skuli, Somaya and Emma held extra classes in the ZAP Library and at Blue Lagoon, read aloud to the little kids in the evenings and became involved with all 3 nursery schools – playing games and showing the teachers how to use the new materials from the UK.

Olivia, Emily and I visited all the other ZAP projects during our stay and held the usual Village Committee meeting, to monitor progress and to take note of new requests. The ladies’ sewing classes are particularly popular with the committee, who stress how important it is to give the ladies what they call a ‘life chance’. ZAP has purchased two further sewing machines which do complicated things, such as button holes and overlocking, and we funded a course of 10 seminars in town for the sewing teachers to improve their skills and enable them to pass these on to the growing numbers of enthusiastic ladies in Jambiani.

We made a trip to the JKU Military College in Stone Town which trains our plumbing students. They are very nice boys – but noticeably thin, and under-nourished. Their training has to incorporate military discipline, which must take its toll physically, and they had already asked Mr Pandu (ZAP Manager) if we could help them with extra rations. I authorised extra funds for food for all our students, including those at Karume Technical College, and Mr Pandu has set up a sort of ZAP soup kitchen in a strategic part of town where all trainees get two square meals a day. We hope that, when qualified, these young lads will be able to set up a ‘fundi’ co-operative in Jambiani, (fundi: workman) with all the extra life-enhancing opportunities that this would bring to their families and to the wider community.

(N.B. On a later trip in November, Pat, Andrew and I visited both technical colleges, the Modern Tailoring Academy and the Nursing college. We met all our students, who are doing very well, according to their instructors – the two electricians had their exam results which were 87% and 75% - very gratifying! We have agreed to their spending a further years’ training, to make sure that their qualifications are as high as possible before they start up on their own.)

Mr Pandu and I made a tour of the Nursery Schools where ZAP has set up porridge supplies on 3 days a week. It was during our final visit to the third school, where – the ladies explained – they had not been able to wait for us, and had already distributed the porridge, that the real benefit of this nutritious meal became strikingly obvious. We were greeted by a crowd of noisy happy children, positively bouncing up and down and almost overwhelming us with enthusiasm.

Somaya writes:

The teaching progressed well and we both developed a great rapport with our students. I tried desperately to learn all my students’ names, as I felt it was very important in order to be able to build a relationship of mutual respect and recognition. After five lessons of grappling with names such Nyamcha, Astuweni, and Mwanajuma, I felt reasonably confident that I could put a name to all 120 faces - most of the time!


However it was not all smooth sailing and we did encounter some problems. For example, both Emma and I discovered we had deaf students in our classes. We decided the best way to tackle this was to pair up the deaf pupil with one of the more advanced ones. We asked them both to sit at the front so that they were able to lip read. The interaction and friendship within the class was very poignant, with the disabled ones never being ostracised, treated differently or neglected by their peers.

…………..I left Zanzibar having learnt so much. The community was always willing to revaluate current practices, and react to constructive criticism, whilst also trying to make a valuable contribution themselves, in an attempt to better their lives. The locals were not proud or too stuck in their ways. They approached everything with such an open mind, always ready to cooperate, something rarely experienced in other places I have taught.

Most importantly, I never witnessed any inequality, or disrespect of women and girls. Women’s’ interests and rights were taken seriously; as such they were all afforded an opportunity of empowerment, within their private and public lives.

Emma writes:

I was lucky enough to be invited to one of my student’s houses. She took me there in the pitch black of the evening. There was one candle in the corner of the room next to the evening meal (tea and sweet bread) – the house had no roof and no furniture. In the dim light, it was hard to know how many people were at home but they all fussed around me offering food. I hesitated, knowing there was little to go around, but the family insisted I ate with them.

………..We soon realised that some students didn’t have the equipment they needed for school, due to the poverty of their families. ZAP had provided each child within our classes with an exercise book and pen. All the students were grateful and happy but in one class the reaction was so extreme that it took me aback. When the students in this class received their equipment they started clapping and cheering with excitement, even sniffing the pens with delight!

Olivia writes:

Whilst we found the spirit of Jambiani mercifully unchanged, certain aspects of village life had moved on…fewer women were farming seaweed, several now turning their attentions to the sewing cooperative in full swing at the school; the fishing trade had unfortunately dwindled although the construction of the new main road had resulted in alternative employment for some of the young men.

………… It turns out that during the past year many of our old students have been using the system we set up last summer, borrowing books from the Library to practise their English. As a result, much of our time on this visit was spent expanding the resources available at the ZAP Library and showing villagers how to use the Kiswahili – English dictionaries to their advantage. Word is spreading fast, particularly amongst the women, that the Library is a place where anyone is welcome to come and study!

Emily writes:

At 5 pm every day you could barely hear yourself think as the younger children descended on the Library to hear their older brothers/sisters/ friends read English books aloud. Assisted by Emma, sitting on the floor with them, they looked at story books and drew pictures - while Livs and I took the opportunity to talk with the older school boys and girls who were eager, as usual, to practise their spoken English.

…… One of the things we had learnt last summer was that the school was desperately short of English, Maths and Science teachers with the requisite experience. The village committee had asked ZAP to sponsor bursaries for teachers to go to the Zanzibar State University for further training in these disciplines. ZAP agreed to fund two places and our challenge during this visit was to choose candidates from a long-list prepared by the committee. Two excellent applicants, Makame (man) and Nassra (girl) were awarded these first bursaries, and have already begun their degree courses.

Janie sums up:

The hectic two week visit by Livs, Ems and me soon came to an end, rather fortunately as far as I was concerned as I had begun to have health problems. As ever it was exhausting – and immensely rewarding in equal measure. Waving good-bye to all our friends this time, I felt some small sense of achievement as I contemplated the way in which ZAP projects seem to be making a real and sustainable difference to many lives in the village. It has been an uphill task setting up the basic building blocks, but we really are getting there, thanks to all our supporters in the UK.

November 2007

ZANZIBAR ACTION PROJECT is a Registered Charity in the UK No. 1108030