Liz Rose (VSO Volunteer) - final report

LIZ ROSE – Last Report from Jambiani 

It is time to leave and I am doing it with great regret. I have loved my time here and I am really appreciative of ZAP for giving me this opportunity. The support and friendliness of the villagers has been massive and I count so many of them as good friends. Fortunately I am not going far, just to Stone Town, so I shall be able to keep in contact. The work that ZAP has made possible on the library has been so admired that I have been asked to do the same thing for other schools. I shall start working as an advisor for the Ministry of Education in the New Year.

Zap has enabled the school to achieve a great deal. There are now sufficient English books for all the students in the secondary school and Jambiani is one of the few schools to have a decent range of literature books. USAID provided maths and science books at the beginning of the year and so I have been able to concentrate on improving the quality of the teaching in that subject. Maths teachers are rare in Zanzibar and most stay in town where the working conditions are far better. The two that I work with have worked really hard to ensure that the students are working independently (copying is rife here) and that they actually learning the topics.

I had hoped to improve the examination results in both Maths and English but as I would have difficulty in passing the Form 4 exams, I abandoned that target. The exams are written in dreadful English and they are far too long. This year’s English exam included a question about a poem by John Donne (which certainly isn’t on the syllabus) and asked for it’s relevance to Tanzanian society. Instead I’ve concentrated on developing better teaching and learning styles but at every opportunity I get, I moan to the inspectors about the overloaded syllabi and about the students having to do all their subjects in English when there are far too few decent English-speaking teachers about.

I am working with the Form 3 students, preparing a play about HIV/AIDS to show to various audiences later in the month. When I first proposed this with the English teacher, he was very enthusiastic and only later, did I discover that neither he nor the students had ever done something like this before. I certainly haven’t. We have an enthusiastic group of 10 students, one of whom is a born comedy-actor. Whenever she appears, she reduces us all to hysterics which is a slight problem as by the end of the play, everyone is dead. I am working on the ending.

I have had plenty of opportunity to work with the teachers both in the secondary and the primary school. I have worked mainly with the maths and English teachers but I have also prepared many lessons with teachers of other subjects. ZAP has been very supportive and enabled me to provide lots of little things that have really made a difference. We now have a clock in the examination room so that students can keep check on their timing when doing the Form 4 National exams (Like GCSE – only much harder and here, in the student’s third language). The school magazine has been a great success and will be continued by a colleague. The library, of course, is the envy of the island. ZAP has enabled us to put newspapers in there every day. There are no newspapers in the village (and few can afford them) so this has been a great success. I get complaints if the papers don’t arrive. I am able to mount displays of photos of important events, something impossible without a small budget. Teachers are now using the resources that ZAP been able to provide and they have been really enthusiastic about flip chart. I was able to give every secondary-school teacher sheets of flip-chart paper and pens so that they didn’t have to write their exams out twice on the blackboards and so that they could prepare diagrams in advance. Even with the photocopier that Zap has provided, it would be too expensive to make 140 copies of each exam. The photocopier is used with the higher classes where there are fewer students. The science laboratory is well equipped but was knee-deep in dust. ZAP provided netting to keep out the dust and a weekly cleaner so that it can be used more effectively.

I have been concerned about the lack of useful employment for the women (and many of the men) in the village. Most collect seaweed, sew hats or do other tasks that bring in very little money in relation to the time that they take. We have started two schemes. One is making soap. I work with several of the teachers and a group of students and we make soap about once a month. We are selling it at great expense to visitors to the school, though I am currently trying to find a larger market. We do sell to the teachers as they like our soap but obviously that is not very viable financially! The teachers look at the prices I am charging visitors for the soap and just fall about laughing. We are also looking at using the women’s embroidery skills to make bracelets but we are still at the pilot stage for that. Both schemes incorporate a lot of basic skills on budgeting, costing and marketing; that will benefit the students later and possibly help them to develop successful businesses of their own.

Recently I have been working with African Impact (a small tourism business that brings out young volunteers to “help” in Africa). They are sending me a regular flow of young people who are able to work on an enrichment programme for our children with disabilities. Between the funds from ZAP and their donations, we now have a collection of suitable toys and learning materials for the children. We are working with two blind children, 2 with partial hearing, two with fairly severe learning difficulties and a few others who come to play. I was quite concerned with how the teachers would react as “learning through play” is not a concept that has quite arrived in Jambiani School yet   - and one of the children is extremely loud. To my pleasure the teachers are enthusiastic and come to help and when the inspectors arrived recently, they were very impressed. Although I have a lot of experience in working with children with moderate learning disabilities, I am definitely learning on this job, a real case of “The blind leading the blind”. I am currently teaching the two blind children to read Braille – with bottle tops! These children are socially integrated in the school but there is little education for them here. They just sit quietly in the classroom being ignored for most of the time. Their parents are too poor to send them to the special units in town.

The English community classes are still continuing and I count all my students as valued friends now. We had a wonderful day-out to Jozani Forest a few months ago and we are planning a final farewell do for the beginning of December. This is one job I am not leaving quietly.

Zap has made a real difference to the school this year and I am so pleased to have been able to work with Janie and Pat. I shall keep in touch with ZAP and the village. It is a real pleasure that the new job will enable me to keep popping back to see how everyone is getting on.

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