For the Love of Learning

For the love of math (after school & unprompted).

In a country that struggles to educate its children it’s inspiring to see how eager they are to learn despite the fact that the odds are stacked up against them in such a fundamental way. Although Amani does a very good job at providing adequate resources and good teachers to the kids that go to school there – and in that sense our kids are lucky compared to their otherwise more fortunate peers –  most government schools really, really struggle. The 800-student village school we visited a month back was a ‘good’ example; schools in more remote areas are an even more sorry affair with no teachers and no learning materials to speak of. The buildings might be there, the eager students in their tattered but sweet uniforms show up every morning, but the infrastructure to learn just isn’t available. Even if you take corruption and embezzlement of state and aid funds out of the equation, what does a country like Tanzania with almost no taxable income and few examples of success do about more than 20 million children who desperately need and want an education? Is the government to blame for the sorry statistics – literacy rates are decent but only 54% actually graduate primary school, a sad seven percent make it through high school – or is the equation of too little money with far too many children just impossible to solve?

Given that many of the Amani kids have been so hungry to learn for most of their lives, they’re amazingly unselective about how and what they learn. They’re also incredibly patient. From 9-year old Mwanaisha sitting in front of the whiteboard after school doing maths on her own just before the library closes, to 14-year old Mudi spending a good hour just going through alphabet cards with Boogie in the library, trying to remember and memorize letters with a patience and persistence you rarely see in an adult, their enthusiasm is heart-warming and somehow deeply humbling. Rama, another teenage boy, spent nearly two hours after class learning how to pronounce English words with Boogie and afterwards just picked up another book and sat down to read it on his own, while one of the roughest kids at Amani, a 17-year old who doesn’t read a word and understands little English, came over with a Cinderella book and asked that Boogie read it for him… Can you even imagine that happening back home?

We have another afternoon at Amani today as I’m doing my second tour of the school for a group of safari tourists. I know I’ll see similar scenes when we arrive: kids reading on their own (often books that they’ve managed to sneak out of the library much to Boogie’s displeasure ;)) and practicing English spelling on a piece of paper they fished out of a trash can. When you’ve had very little your whole life, whatever you get needs to be grasped with both hands and fast. We easily forget this in our land of plenty, I think, and become numb to the often-said-but-not-easily-grasped “but they have so little”-argument we hear on the news every night. But it really is true that so little can be so much for so many over here.

I need to get ready now, our taxi will come soon (our new B&B is really cozy and lovely but too far from Amani to walk) and I have  bit of prep to do for the tour. Anything you’d like us to write about in the coming week; anything I’ve forgotten to cover so far and you’re curious about? Let us know in the comment box below.

Thanks for following the blog & lots of love from cloud-covered Moshi,

-K&B

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