Week Moja in Tanzania: Meeting new people, counting in Swahili and teaching STEM

Karibu sana!

The team has officially completed and survived their first full week in Tanzania, and have had an amazing time thus far. The people are amazing and always friendly, the food is delicious, pure and fresh, and the scenery is unreal. While it is certainly impossible to fully express in words our experiences so far in this overwhelmingly interesting country, we will do our best, with this blog post and more to come. Sawa sawa?

The morning after landing in this beautiful country we were introduced to the three partner schools of Asante Africa, the organization we are collaborating with for our first three weeks in Tanzania. Ewald Tesha, the director of programing for Asante, drove and introduced us to the mamas and teachers of the schools we will be working with. First up was Nkwamakuu Primary School: Mama Sisilia (headmistress of Nkwamakuu) talked with us about the challenges at the school, which included teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), as well as the challenges associated with teaching large numbers of students in small classrooms.  After our introduction, we were presented with morning tea, and then we headed down the road towards Mt. Kilimanjaro to Kilingi Primary School to see Mama Faraha, and discussed very similar challenges. That afternoon we also met with the staff at Orkolili Secondary school and Mama Mcha. Overall the staff and teachers at all the schools were very excited to work with us, as we are with them!

Asante Africa and the Pavlis team did not waste any time getting down to business, and we started our work at Nkwamakuu the next day. We arrived a little after classes began, and were very quickly introduced to the Class VI (similar to US 6th grade) mathematics class. The lesson of the day was multiplying and dividing improper fractions. As Nkwamakuu is a primary school, all of the lessons are given in Swahili (the official language of Tanzania). As such, the team very quickly learned basic mathematical lingo in Swahili, as well as got much more confident in our Swahili numbers. The entire experience was very interesting and enlightening for us, as we got a glimpse into how the Tanzanian educational system worked. We did our best to make the lesson exciting and interactive, bringing volunteering students up to the blackboard to solve problems for their classmates, as well as giving everybody some individual problems to work on their own, as we walked around assisting where needed. After morning tea, we moved to the Class VII science class, and led a lengthy discussion on the basics of electricity and circuits diagrams, simple mechanical fixtures, solar, wind, hydroelectric and mechanical power, and the benefits of renewable energies in general. The teachers were present for this discussion, and were very interested in the various topics discussed. This was also great review for four engineering students! Since this class involved much more complicated language than the mathematics class, we were grateful for the help of our translators, Albin and Alexi. It was a very full day of teaching, but made us very excited to continue working at the schools in the coming weeks.

The following day, we joined Mary and Lorelle as they led a human centered design (HCD) workshop at Nkwamakuu Primary School. Teachers from both Nkwamakuu and Kilingi Primary Schools attended the workshop, as well as our translators. This workshop was similar to some of the Pavlis classes we had previously taken at Tech. It involved a lot of one-on-one communication and activities as well as small group collaboration. The desks were rearranged so that we worked in groups of 4 people or so. This eased conversation as well as promoted friendliness and brainstorming. The human centered design workshop is mainly designed to generate and refine ideas for solving human centered challenges. The brainstorming involves the use of many Post-It notes. The main goal is to brainstorm ideas on how to solve the problems and issues at hand. All the groups of teachers had the same problem that they were trying to solve: over-crowded classrooms. After generating ideas to solve that problem, they were given restrictions, such as not being able to build new classrooms. This forces you think outside of the box, and to come up with simpler and perhaps more sustainable ideas. This workshop was very beneficial for the teachers and for us as well.  It allowed our relationship to grow with the teachers and schools where we would be working for the next two and half weeks. The overall enthusiasm of the teachers and their willingness to learn makes us very hopeful for the chance of sustainable projects.

Over our first weekend in Tanzania, we went on two safaris. On Saturday, we went to Tarangire National Park, and on Sunday we went to Lake Manyara National Park. Tarangire is famous for the number of elephants within the park, and it did not disappoint. As well as seeing elephants in Tarangire, we also saw giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, impalas, warthogs, water bucks, and even two cheetahs and two leopards. At Lake Manyara, we saw more elephants, warthogs, wildebeest, and zebras, in addition to baboons, hippos, water buffalo, blue monkeys and many kinds of birds.

The main form of transportation that we have used so far is the bajaji. A bajaji is a semi-enclosed three-wheeled motorbike with a bench seat in the back and a seat in the front for a driver (and a passenger). We have also used public transport, which can be any variety of different vehicles altered to maximize their capacity. Driving around Tanzania, we constantly see many different unique sights, such as the Maasai tribal people, various livestock and the beautiful Mt. Kilimanjaro.

We’ve included some of our favorite pictures from this last week below; enjoy!

We are very excited to continue working here in Tanzania, and will be putting out another blog post shortly; stay tuned… Feel free to share the link to this blog with family, friends and anybody else who might be interested!

Asante sana for reading!

Team Tanzania

Teaching Nkwamakuu Students Bajaji Mt. Kilimanjaro Tarangire National Park Nkwamakuu Sign Kilingi Students Tarangire National Park


5 comments on “Week Moja in Tanzania: Meeting new people, counting in Swahili and teaching STEM”

  • Chris Wyman
    July 11, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    Wow! How exciting!
    It is great to hear your excitement about the location, the people, the classes, and just the general visuals that you are taking-in.
    WIll be interested to hear you use some Swahili when you get home!

  • Cari Helberg
    July 12, 2017 at 1:59 am

    Sounds like lots of good opportunities. What did you come up with for ways to improve the crowded classrooms?

    • sgkorsta
      July 18, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      The crowded classrooms was a problem the teachers decided that they needed to work on. Unfortunately, not knowing this was a problem before we got here, we were unable to come up with any plans to assist in finding a solution for this problem. In the future, we will inform teams coming here of this problem and advise them to come up with teaching strategies to help cope with the situation.

  • Kelly Heligas
    July 17, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Can we get some name for the towns and possibly a longitude / latitude? I’m hoping to find your locations on Google maps.

    • sgkorsta
      July 18, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      The main city we are based out of at the time being is called Boma Ng’ombe (3.3361° S, 37.1366° E). Then the three schools we are working at are in the surrounding areas, Orkolili Secondary School (-3.3560° S, 37.0834° E), Kalingi Primary School (-3.1790° S, 37.0453° E), and Nkwamakuu Primary School (-3.2637° S, 37.1134° E). Then our rough estimate of the house we are staying is just outside of Boma (-3.3507° S, 37.1372° E).

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