Arusha Project


For Strugglers and Dreamers
July 22, 2007, 9:30 am
Filed under: Abroad Program, Uncategorized

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In the thick of a tropical hillside forest rests a sacred waterfall. Set in a beautiful and lush gorge, the site was traditionally used as a place of sacrifice and worship. On one side, a small fountain of water juts out of a rock wall – it is said to have healing powers, to be the water of God. At least that is what Tom says and this is practically his back yard.

Nearby is a little school, six humble rooms in total (but only three small ones are finished and useable) filled with old rickety benches. This school is Arusha Project Volunteer, James’ placement and in the mornings, he teaches the younger children English.

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The school caters to students, age 4 to 30 who come from homes broken by HIV/AIDS. All have lost at least one parent to AIDS and some are living with single parents, grandparents or foster parents. They walk as far as five kilometers with their siblings to attend the free school because they have no way to pay to attend a public school in their home village. The teachers are all practically volunteers and only see a salary if enough funds come in that month. The simple building, the students, the teachers all give meaning to the name Hatuchoki, “we cannot tire.”

Tom, the founder of Hatuchoki, was fortunate enough to be able to attend school up through Standard 4 as well as additional tourism and art courses, so he’s quite well educated. A few years ago, a friend came to him and begged Tom to teach him and help him pass a required test to enter into secondary school and then college, and so Tom started teaching.

In Tanzania, the school system starts with primary school and continues on to secondary school provided students pass an standardized entrance test. Government primary school is taught in Kiswahili and secondary school is in English, however there are private primary schools taught in English that parents can pay to send their children to, so they will perform better when they enter secondary. After that children can take Standard 1-7, each lasting a year, and each more and more tailored to your profession of choice. Standard 7 is actually dedicated solely to learning the tourist industry. The last step is university, although it is a common perception that higher education doesn’t really result in a better life, that there aren’t enough jobs requiring an undergraduate or graduate diploma, and that just being able to negotiate the booming tourism industry is enough.

And so Tom started teaching. Gradually more and more people started asking Tom to teach their children. “When someone comes to you and tells you their story, you can’t say no,” remarks Tom. With a donated class room and a couple benches, Tom built what is now, three years later, the Hatuchoki schoolhouse. As long as children can find a seat in the room, they are welcome to come to school.

Profit, or a living wage is hard to come by here. Tom, a Tanzanite mining veteran of 15 years, gave up the job because it was too dangerous. At the bottom of the mine, Tom recalls, if the oxygen pump machines fail, you die. When he first started Hatuchoki, he still relied on mining to fund his work as a teacher, so when he needed money, he would leave his students for periods of time to go mining, and then return when he was able. Hs students would await his return to commence their studies. Now, Tom sells his art and occasionally works as a driver. He says life here is a day-by-day existence. Most people work very hard just to make enough for a meal. At Hatuchoki, if there is money, it’s used for new benches, desks, teachers’ salaries. If there isn’t any, improvements just don’t get made.

But Tom is a dreamer, and has a seemingly endless list of potential business ideas (like transporting cheap electronics from Dar es Salaam) that he’ll do if, and it is the notorious if, he gets the money to start something. With the projects, he claims, he’ll be able to fund a new schoolhouse and maybe even steady teachers’ salaries.

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In the meantime, the school survives and so does Tom. He watches out for his students to whom he imparts his knowledge. He says one day, when he’s old and he can’t work anymore, his students will remember what he did and they will take care of him. Until then, he says to struggle is to gain the education you need to teach others, and it’s these messages of struggle and hard earned accomplishment and opportunity he can pass on to the youth.

-Kaia

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