Jack's perspective on Safari English Club

My time volunteering at Safari English Club was really so memorable and worthwhile. Zanzibar in itself is incredible! I had previously been to 6 countries in Africa, and can safely say there is nowhere quite like the islands. What Zanzibar Schools Project have going on in Unguja Ukuu is also amazing and I hope it continues to grow with the help of volunteers and local teachers.

I loved living in the bustle of Stone Town and driving to Unguja Ukuu each day. The drive is very beautiful once you’re out of town and we usually picked up a delicious sweet potato chapatti wrap along the way for 500 shillings (17p!) The journey was always filled with good chat amongst the volunteers and Zanzibarian teachers, and of course great Swahili music played at the volume it’s supposed to be played (loud!)

Once at the school, it was time to help the students of Standard 5 with their English. There were fun times, challenging days, eye-opening moments, and a lot of laughter. The class was everything a class of that age should be and more; intelligent, charismatic, witty, musical, energetic and humorous. Having located the syllabus I identified the topic of animals (‘wanyama’ in Kiswahili) which proved to be enjoyable and with a lot of language to teach in order for the students to be able to describe animals by size, characteristics, habitat, and more. It’s amazing that even when teaching a seemingly universal topic you still discover cultural differences, for example the children of Unguja Ukuu made it very clear to me that dogs are not “tame”, but “DANGEROUS!”, and that goats are “friendly”.

I also realised that occasionally I’d use English vocabulary that they didn’t know, and this was causing some confusion. “Teacher Jacky, es-cellent?” a number of students asked, much to my bemusement, until I realised that my positive exclamations of “excellent!” to a correct answer or good attempt in class were not being understood. This was very amusing, but also great because it created an entire lesson around these types of words; excellent, brilliant, good, bad, etc. It became necessary for all answers, whether verbal or in their exercise books, to be proclaimed as “excellent!” for ever more (even incorrect ones!)

I also taught ‘telling the time’ in English. This turned out to be unexpectedly complicated because in Tanzania and Zanzibar they use an alternative ‘Swahili time’, meaning each time had to be converted from Swahili time to ‘dunia’ (world time) before being translated into English. Nightmare! This topic also exposed me to the children’s musical side and how naturally rhythmic they all are. I took it upon myself to make a (very) basic drum beat on a laptop, and started playing it in classes while displaying a time on a clock. “What’s the time?” I asked, “quarter to two!” they chanted back in perfect unison to the beat, dancing under the table in some cases. It was great and I think it really helped them engage with the topic in a fun way, even if they gave my beat a thumbs down!

Before leaving we managed to organise a sports day where I played on a football team in a mini-tournament with some of the students in Standard 5. It was lovely and I was so impressed by their skills.

Overall it was a fantastic experience, and the main downside that springs to mind was that due to circumstances I could only volunteer for just over 2 months. My rapport with the children, as well as my Swahili, was building and I think the lessons would have only gotten better if I could’ve been there for longer. Hopefully I’ll be back one day!


Inspired by Nature...and volunteer Stina

I’m at the end of my internship as a volunteer at Safari English Club. Most of my time is spent with the advanced class and I particularly enjoy working with alternative learning, such as working with different subjects or issues in a creative way, although it can be challenging sometimes. I have found that quite a lot that the kids find it difficult to use their imaginations. However, having said that, I definitely see a development from when I first met them until now.

Recently, I met a volunteer Lina from Germany who is working with the young people in Fuoni, at Zanzibar Learning 4 Life Foundation. When I found out that she is an art student, I saw the opportunity to invite her to run some creative classes at Safari English Club (using plenty of English, of course!) and she gladly agreed to come. The students don’t often get to do this kind of creative work, but they really enjoy it as a change from the more academic school subjects.

We planed the art project together and ran it over 3 days. It started with Lina introducing different styles of art.  She showed some of her art, and made the students practice some different techniques in pairs by drawing each other’s faces. This activity was a great way to introduce sketching, and the classroom were filled with laughter, which really showed the kids had a great time even though they had been really concentrating.

The second day was about the idea of nature as inspiration.  The students were able to sit outside and to draw what they found beautiful and interesting.  They really enjoyed it and I really enjoyed being with them in a different context. 

The third day we finished with the idea of “free imagination”.  We were working with nature as our inspiration.  The students could draw whatever they wanted also using colour. And at the end of the class they had to talk about their drawing.  The art project was a great success and the kids really enjoyed the three days.  And some of them are really talented artists!

Yesterday Muslim came to me, he wanted to show me the sketches he has been working on since the class ended on Thursday. He’d been spending time around the village drawing different flowers, trees and even a bicycle. He is such a talented boy (as you can see in the last picture) and this really proves the importance of working with creative processes combined with practising English, that can inspire young people and help them see their potential.


Finding Nemo with volunteer Carin

I’ve been volunteering with Safari English Club for 4 weeks now and I’ve been teaching Standard 5 for most of that time. Generally there are between 24 and 30 students in the class and the first week I had to work hard to remember all their names, matching them with the appropriate faces.  I still make mistakes, but they appreciate it when I do know them by their names.

Every day, Monday to Thursday, I pick up Stina (the other volunteer) in Stone Town and on the way to Unguja Ukuu, Sadiq the local teacher joins us. On our way to school we talk about our lesson plans. Since teaching isn’t my profession, and my Swahili is ‘kidogo’ (very little), teaching at Safari English Club is an adventure every day. I make good use of the TEFL course that I did earlier in the year.  I really appreciate the great materials that I was given by some friends, like flashcards, a quartet game covering the alphabet and memory cards with wildlife animals. And the internet is a great source of inspiration. Besides the fact that I’m not a teacher, it’s sometimes hard gauge the students’ level. Sometimes they know more than I expect and the next time they know so much less than I was hoping for… flexibility, patience and a talent for improvisation are the skills required from my side.

Last week we watched “Finding Nemo” spread over two days (after 60 minutes several kids fell asleep) and we discussed the film the next day. Besides listing the animals that we’d seen, we talked about how Nemo’s father felt when Nemo was lost.  We practised ‘Happy’, ‘Sad’, ‘Angry’ and ‘Scared’ and what it looks like as an expression on your face. I taught them the song: “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands/stamp your feet/turn around etc”.

The kids love to sing and make the hand movements and it was encouraging that they started to make suggestions themselves. We finished the class by blowing up a balloon and drawing one of the faces on it. I wasn’t surprised that most of the students chose a happy face, although I saw an angry and a sad face among them.

From next week onwards I’ll focus on how sentences are built. I want to help them understand the difference  between nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. I hope that that will help them to build sentences themselves! It’s quite different compared to how sentences are built in Swahili (they combine a lot in one word, like subject, time and verb) whereas the English uses separate words, so it will be a big challenge for all of us.

On the fourth day of teaching I was given bunches of flowers by two boys in my class, Hamis and Twahir…. my heart melted and I knew: I’m in the right place!

Thank you Jack and Lucie

Lucie and Jack have been in Unguja Ukuu for 2.5 months and they’ve just left to continue their world tour.  Here are Lucie’s thoughts on the experience and some photos from her last few days in Zanzibar.

I’ve really enjoyed my past 2 months with Safari English Club and I’m sad it’s coming to an end. I‘ve become really fond of the students as we’ve got to know each other and it’ll be hard to say goodbye. I’ve been working with Stina in the advanced class which has been great, having someone to bounce ideas off in class and plan sessions with. We started working on goal setting and understanding skills and qualities and we discovered that what we thought we might cover in 3/4 days would actually take a couple of weeks as there is quite a range of levels in the class. Over time we have got into a good routine of finding ways to extend and simplify what we have been teaching, though this can be a challenge and doesn’t always work out perfectly. We all muddle together and make it work as best we can. 

We’ve tried to incorporate creative activities such as role play, making vision boards, using drawing and collage which I think they have really enjoyed. My favourite days are always those where the students have had time up on their feet, mingling with each other, using the language they’ve been learning. They can be quite shy taking part in group discussions or answering questions in front of the class so I’m always happy to see how much they‘ve taken in during their lively mingles because you wouldn’t always know it otherwise! I think it’s so funny that as the teacher how you can leave the class with a completely different energy level depending on the reaction from the class. Hearing them confidently playing with the language amongst each other makes me leave with a buzz. I think it’s the same for them too.

‘Project Sea Life’ grew organically after watching a documentary from Kenya about plastic pollution. The students were really interested in the topic and one thing rolled on to another. We enjoyed making posters about the issue which we then joined together as one big picture and we made a video where the students all chose something to say to the camera.  After we decided to continue the plastic pollution theme by doing a small ‘Reduce Plastic Waste Campaign’ in Stone Town with seven students who volunteered. I was so proud of the way they handled this experience. They spoke to members of the public (69 people in total!) at Forodhani Gardens to raise awareness on the issue in English and Swahili and then approached hotels and restaurants to encourage them to reduce their use of disposable plastics. They took it in their stride and supported each other when having conversations with hotel staff and management. They were amazing!


I’m glad I was able to be part of Safari English Club even for a short time, and encourage volunteers to keep coming and working with this curious and energetic group :)

Introducing Kristina, Lucie and Jack


We’re delighted that Zanzibar Schools Project has 3 experienced volunteers who’re generating lots of momentum now that the Ramadan is over. Kristina will be at ZSP for the next 6 months, which provides fantastic continuity in the important lead up to the public exams for the 12 and 13 year old students in Standard VI. Kristina’s a Danish student studying for a bachelor degree in Social and Special Education.  She’s previously worked in Mwanza, so appreciates Tanzanian culture, but she can see how different Zanzibar is due to the predominantly Muslim culture. She’s enjoying getting to grips with the ability of the kids and how to motivate the teachers to believe that they can succeed.

Recently Kristina ran a repeat English test on the new intake of 126 Standard VI students. We ran the tests for the first time in March to get a baseline on the new intake. The results are encouraging – on average the top group increased their scores by 40%.  But even more exciting is that the lowest group increased their scores by 30%. It’s particularly rewarding to see one girl increasing from scoring 0 to 33%! Maths was also tested but sadly the students are scoring on average 7%. We are trying to think of ways to improve this – possibly by employing a specialist local maths teacher.

The three month review also showed the link between achievement and attendance. There is a group of 30 students who are showing no improvement and frequent absence. Individual discussions are being held with this children to find out why they have poor attendance. They’re being put into a remedial class with Sadiq (our best local teacher) to motivate them to see that they can improve too. If not, they won’t be able to stay in Safari English Club. Everyone is told that lunch and tuition is provided ONLY in return for effort and attendance.  This may seem a bit harsh to First World readers, but it’s important not to create a “dependency culture” when free lunches are provided with “no strings attached”.

Jack and Lucie are British volunteers who’re taking time out from their working lives to travel around Africa.  They’ve been planning this trip for a long time and before leaving home they studied for CELTA English language teaching qualifications. Jack’s going to be particularly popular with the boys as he has a football training qualification and the boys are fluent in the international language of sport! Jack’s worked on volunteer projects with kids in West Africa and most recently was working in London as a Family Sustainment Officer working to prevent homelessness and sustain families across Westminster.  Lucie has been working with children, young people and at some points their families for the past 9 years, ranging between the ages of 2-16. She’s interested in the arts, enjoys dance and is looking forward to sharing her enthusiasms with the children in Unguja Ukuu.

Lucie and Kristina are working on plans for the advanced class…they’re planning on running a course on independent study and life skills with a view to developing the course to cover topics such as having a healthy mind, relationships and conflict resolution. Jack is planning a “getting to know you” session for Standard V. He’s taking over this class from Sadiq who’s going to be working with the students from Standard VI who need a bit more motivation and help with basic English language skills.

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I couldn’t resist putting in this photo of Feroz with the President Ali Shein, the 7th President of Zanzibar – he was visiting London recently and found time for tea with Feroz. Dr Shein was a student at Lumumba school in Zanzibar, the school that one of Safari English Club’s students joined in February.  


Reflections on leaving Zanzibar

From Andrew: In Kiswahili the word “Safari” means “journey” (it’s also a Tanzanian beer!). The children chose it for the name of the after school English club as the project funds occasional outings.  The idea is to introduce children to other parts of their island and to have a fun day where they learn new activities. Continuing to uphold this tradition, two outings for 100 students (plus helpers) were organised just before we left in mid-May. We’ve been fortunate to build a relationship with ISZ, the International School of Zanzibar, where the facilities are perfect for a school trip.

Students were those from the new Standard 6 intake, none of whom had been on a "Safari" before but they’d heard about it from their friends who have been in Safari English Club for a while. On the Saturday the weather was bright but on the Sunday it rained - not that that impacted the activities or the enjoyment of the students! Almost all spent about 30 minutes in the swimming pool. It was the first time they’d ever seen a pool, very few can swim and so, understandably quite a few were nervous at first. But with the use of floats and "noodles" they happily splashed around and tried to swim. The girls played rounders and used the swings and slides while the boys played football and basketball. Teacher Issa, other local teachers and senior students from the community assisting with crowd control, burkini management and other activities!  Thanks them and the International School for letting us use the facilities and to the volunteer lifeguards who assisted both days. 

Throughout this term I’ve been teaching the Advanced Class with a focus on preparing them to be Tour Guides. These tours are to be offered to guests at the small hotel in the village which is being refurbished.  We hope the tours will give the students "real live" English practice, new skills, as well as some income to the Safari English Club and the students. Two tours are planned: "The Village", which is historically important and "The School".  I’ve been trying to get the students to take and use notes, rather than writing everything they are going to say out in full.  This is a departure from their usual lessons, where they write out what is on the blackboard and a vital skill to learn. To give a focus to the activity we hoped we’d have a visit students from the International School where our students could practice on their counterparts from the International community. Very sadly on each of the 3 occasions that visits were planned they had to be cancelled at short notice as the roads were impassable due to flooding.   Nonetheless the Advanced Class has enjoyed and benefited from this Tour Guide Training and that visits will take place when the rainy season is over giving a chance to build further links with ISZ.    


From Reneé: Teaching English at Safari English Club is one of the highlights of my year, particularly the 6D class! These students are so eager to learn English (and in some cases maths), I found myself wishing I could be their full time teacher! I’m not a teacher and I’m not able to stay on Zanzibar and teach indefinitely as 'life' calls for more amazing experiences and challenges! I had class D once a week and they were the most enthusiastic and eager out of the year group. Their faces light up when the 'penny dropps' and the wonder on those young faces when I gave them exercise books to work with (when learning the different body parts for example) is a memory I'll treasure forever! I know we shouldn’t have favourites, but there’s a boy called Ramahdan who managed to creep into a corner of my heart! His English was 'barely there' and his maths so basic, he couldn't or didn't understand 3+1=? He repeated after me (when I first asked him whist teaching dominos) 3+1+1 instead of 3+1=4....Ramahdan didn't understand the basics of adding and single digits at that! I wrote out by hand pages and pages of sums for him starting with the basics like 0+1=1, 1+1+2, 2+1=3 etc and the times table. I also wrote out counting in odd numbers, even numbers, counting in 5's and 10's. Ramahdan promised me he'd learn from the many pages (I had Sadiq interpret for me)! Do you know that around 3 weeks after giving him these pages, I could ask him random addition sums and he knew the answers! I cried when I asked him 5 sums in a row and he got them all right! His father even came to the school wanting to know about the 'mzungu' (white person) who was teaching his son English and Maths! I have to mention that Ramahdan got one of the highest marks for his English test on body parts out of his class. 

Sharifa is a young lady aged 22 who attends the advanced class when she can. Sharifa recently started her own sewing business. Susie (one of the previous volunteers) left some money for Sharifa to start her business. Sharifa has made dresses for girls and has successfully sold them; she has used the profit from her sales to buy more fabric which she turned into some lovely dresses and those dresses she is hoping to sell during Ramahdan. Business cards have been designed for her with a logo she has chosen. Sharifa knows she needs to find a few outlets where she can sell her dresses on a regular basis. Sharifa would very much like to become a full time seamstress/business woman and I have no doubt she will.

An Untypical Day Volunteering in Zanzibar (Renee and Andrew Dodd)

From Reneé: Our day started off pretty normally although we were heading out earlier than normal to fetch Zulekha (the girl with the very poor eyesight I teach in Class D) for an appointment with the optician, Dr Rajab. He was our last resort on the island because he thought he had a pair of glasses for Zulekha that could work!  From the last report you’ll remember that I’d noticed that Zulekha was struggling to see the blackboard and we'd decided to take her to the optician, but her eyes were too bad for the first optician to manage.  So we planned to drive out to the school, collect her and Issa (one of the teachers) and return to Stone Town to see if Dr Rajab’s glasses were a fit! Then we’d drive back to school, have lunch and teach from 1:45pm.

It’s worth noting that each journey to the village takes at least 45 minutes when the weather is OK, but this is the rainy season when there’s a danger of roads becoming impassable due to flooding. So we were relieved to collect Zulekha and Issa (her teacher) and get back in good time for the appointment with Dr Rajab at the hospital in Stone Town. Amazingly the glasses fitted her and she can now see!!! It was quite the emotional moment, I was pretty much moved to tears...I LOVE it when stuff happens like this! We’re not sure when she'll get used to wearing her glasses all the time (she had them off in the car on the way back to school); she’s probably still rather over whelmed by the whole experience! 

As we were in Stone Town I popped into our apartment to use a “proper” loo. Andrew turned the car round and went to park it. I was back in a few minutes and found him where I expected but not as I expected! There were four men standing round the car with the bonnet open and a fair bit of steam coming from the engine!

From Andrew: I turned the car round and there was a sudden “pouff” from the bonnet, the car stopped and was enveloped in steam! We couldn't stay where we were so, helped by a few others, we pushed the car down the road.  When I opened the bonnet it was clear that the top of the radiator had split open along a 10cm length and one of the others looking on “helpfully” told me that I needed to replace the radiator!  There was a car parts shop nearby so I went to find the cost of a new radiator whilst Issa went to find his friend who “fixes things”.  The friend, who actually repairs refrigeration equipment, wasn't there but Issa found “Best”, his friend’s friend, who really does repair cars!  He looked at the car, said he could fix it and that we could use his almost new Toyota to drive to school and back whilst he did so! We're still shaking our heads at this man’s kindness and trustworthiness! We’re also lucky this happened in town and not in the middle of nowhere! So, having called Pamoja (the normal car repair place) and confirming what it should cost, we left the car with him along with a deposit for the repairs and headed to school, picking Sadiq up on the way. 

From Reneé: We arrived at school to discover a power cut. I’ve been using the projector to teach the children basic English vocabulary.  Andrew’s put together a presentation that can be used on any laptop; it's like a PowerPoint and it contains the words and pictures of topics from the our English/Swahili basic dictionary. It includes body parts, clothing, transport, shopping, family, housing, colours, shapes etc. So using our largish laptop I got the presentation ready for teaching today’s topic which was clothing, jewellery, colours and shapes. Before the new topics could be taught, Class C had a test on the previous topic which was body parts. The results were pretty mixed! After several reminders about revising for the test, clearly a number of them didn't do so! A few managed to answer nearly all of the 10 answers; a fair number left blank spaces and the rest wrote their answers in Swahili despite me telling them that this is an English class and you are to please write your answers in English! I think that the way I am trying to teach them could possibly be a new way of 'teaching/presenting' subjects to these children and I hope that when the new volunteers take over, these children will grow in their knowledge of the English Language!

From Andrew: Meanwhile I continued to prepare the Advanced Class for being Tour Guides to students from the International School.  We returned to Stone Town with Issa, who insisted on coming to make sure everything was sorted out.  The car was fixed, with the exception of the fans, which didn't want to work. Still driving the mechanics car we followed him to an electrician who raided his store and using parts from a 20 year old red BMW got the fans working again. 

From Reneé: Issa then left us to return home by local bus; we were so grateful for his kindness in helping to us sort out the car! We went home to recover but the 'untypical' day wasn't quite over! Just as I started to prepare supper the power failed, again! Unfortunately this didn't last long enough to force us to try the 2 for 1 pizza offer at a local Taverna! I'm planning to try this another day with or without power cuts! In the end we enjoyed supper and the call to Andrew's daughter doing exams at university back in the UK before listening to the rain on our roof and going to sleep.  Not all days are as exciting or rewarding!


Opticians and fish markets (Andrew and Renée Dodd)

(From Andrew) Seven weeks in…We've been here for about 7 weeks and have been exploring and dropped into a good routine. As we live in Stone Town we’ve done most of our exploring here.  Stone Town isn’t large and you can walk around it in less than an hour. It’s made up of narrow alleys used by pedestrians as well as bicycles, hand drawn carts and, somewhat annoyingly, relatively fast-moving and noisy motorbikes and scooters. Stone Town offers many photo opportunities which we explore at weekends. The doorways are beautiful with amazing carving – some in Indian-style, some of Arabic origin.  Although some of the arts and crafts are very good, a lot of is quite derivative and found all over East Africa but there are items specific to Zanzibar.

One amazing spectacle is the early morning (6:30am) fish landing and market that takes place on a small beach near the port.  It’s a busy jumble of people, boats, fish, more fish, the smell of fish and quite a few cats. There’s a small harbour but the boats don't actually dock or reach the shore, instead people swim out to the boats and swim back holding fish or large plastic containers filled with fish.  These are sold on the beach either to middle men who take them to market or direct to the public. It's well worth visiting and not on the usual tourist circuit.

We usually cook for ourselves and shop in a variety of places. We find a massive disparity in the cost of what is often an identical item.  The market is close by - we were using one person to help us shop for fruit and vegetables and avoid us being charged the “Muzungu” rate but we found that his cut was a bit too large and we generally get charged the same as everyone else.  In Kiswahili “Muzungu” is a foreigner and generally white. It's not derogatory. In Uganda joyful shouts of "Jambo Muzungo" (hello foreigner) greeted us in virtually all villages and you can buy T-shirts with "My name is not Muzungu" written on them! We pick up vegetables from stalls along the road to school and buy beef (rump) at $15 a kg at a shop in Mbweni.

As we teach in the afternoons, mornings are taken up with admin, back exercises (Andrew) and Pilates (Reneé). Due to extensive African travels over the last 15 months, we spend a lot of time processing photos! We now sleep through the loud call to worship that rings out at about 5.30am from the nearby mosque and cathedral bells that sound at 6! After school we swim at The International School. Not as refreshing as it sounds as the water temperature in the afternoon is as warm as bath water! 

On Sundays we attend an English language church group which meets in people’s homes.  On the 1st Sunday of the month we congregate in St John's Church, an old Anglican church in the “Freedom village” of Mbweni. The Church was built for freed slaves back in the 19th century. The group comprises expatriates from Europe and North America who are working on Zanzibar. This provides much welcome Christian fellowship, something that we’ve missed on our travels. 

(From Renée) A note about a girl with bad eye sight…we’d noticed she was struggling to see the blackboard and decided to take her to the optician. So on Friday Andrew and I drove to Unguja Ukuu to take the girl and her father to Stone Town to the optometrist for her scheduled eye test. Unfortunately the optometrist said that she can’t help her as her eyes are really quite bad and referred her to the hospital. We duly headed over to the hospital where the girl was registered and had more tests done. This optometrist had quite a number of other patients waiting to see him, however, the optometrist we saw in Stone Town had called ahead and as a result, she was able to jump the queue!  One of the tests that had to be carried out couldn't get done until much later as the chap had gone to the Mosque (it was Friday, the holy day). Issa, one of the teachers, had come with us and we gave him money to cover their lunches and the bus back to the village. It turns out that the girl's eyes are so bad that she needs really thick glasses that aren’t available (or can't be made) on the island! Issa suggested to us that we take the father and daughter to Dar..... apparently that is where she needs to go to get her prescription! 

Rather a long story with not much of a happy ending (yet!)....we’ll pop into the optometrist and ask if they are able to send a prescription to Dar. We don't think so because the hospital has said she needs to go to Dar... Anyone who wears glasses knows that you need to find a pair that fits your face before they get sent away, then you need to return to the optometrist to collect your glasses to see if they are right. I'm not sure how this family can get to Dar twice and pay for glasses without a lot of help.

On a separate note, we are sorting out an optometrist to come to the school for a mass screening as this girl is just the tip of the ice berg.  On limited incomes, families just can’t afford eye tests for their children and so many of them miss out on their education for such a simple reason.

Gasica's new school (by Andrew Dodd and Ann Dieckmann)

Gasica is in the process of buying a piece of land near Unguja Ukuu.  His after school club in Fuoni (a residential area near Stone Town) is over-subscribed, but he wants to expand to run a mainstream school offering the full range of subjects at Primary School level. He wants to bring his proven educational methods in an exciting project that ultimately can accommodate over 600 pupils aged up to 13. Gasica has found a suitable piece of land in Unguja Ukuu, an area where he’s well known and respected by the local community. Gasica is working on the first challenge which is to raise $50k to purchase the land – he has already raised $11,000 from his trip to Canada and from a donation from Australia.  The rest of the money will come from the sale of 2 containers of bicycles from Canada which are due to arrive in Zanzibar at the end of May.

The cost of building a simple school is being worked on! There’s a team in England and Zanzibar working on a Rotary Global Grant application which matches funds that are raised by local Rotary Clubs. The grant application process isn’t simple and requires that Gasica demonstrates the long-term sustainability of the school.

We’re very lucky that our current volunteer, Andrew, has a professional background as a construction project manager.  He wasn’t expecting to working on the design, phasing and budgeting of a school when he agreed to teach in Zanzibar, but it’s fantastic to help his expertise. Gasica plans to start with a primary school for 136 students with five classrooms including a computer room as well as a library, art room, admin facilities, toilets and a volunteer house.  There will also be a large, grassed play area / football pitch.  The scheme will utilise and involve the conversion of an existing building on the site as well as the construction of the other facilities. The site is flat with an existing building, water tower and water well as well as a few collapsed buildings.  The plot has four large mango trees and smaller trees on the perimeter that will not be touched and the odd banana plant and palm tree that will remain if possible. 

The school has been designed in the style of other local schools since they are simple to construct,  and work well with the climate.  However, there will be some modifications such as the inclusion of proper covered walkways both in front of the classrooms and between school blocks, for use particularly in the rainy season, and the elimination of some of the unnecessary walkways around the back of the classroom buildings.  One of the changes that it would be nice to make would be to find a roofing approach that meant that the rain didn't drown out anyone speaking as happens with the current corrugated iron roofs.  This last challenge is still under evaluation including the potential cost implications.

Ultimately the plan is for a school of 18 classes. This is planned for six phases over five years and will include a School Hall as well as 2 computer rooms, two libraries and an art room.  The concept is to use the same classroom as a building block to provide flexibility and ease of conversion from a normal classroom to say a computer room.  Some of the facilities will also be used by the local community. If you’d like to donate to the project please contact ann.dieckmann0@gmail.com


Dominoes and Stone Town (by Andrew Dodd)

Nearly two years ago my wife, Reneé and I, started looking at options for volunteering in Africa and my father asked if we’d like to teach English on Zanzibar. He’d assisted with the Kio Kits (the ipad-like tablets that the project uses) and put us in touch with Ann and Caroline who run the programme.  After various other adventures, as well as taking an online TEFL course, we now find ourselves living in Stone Town and teaching English at Safari English Club. In total we’ll spend nearly ten weeks on the island. 

We have a small third floor, one bedroom apartment with a bathroom and kitchen near the Anglican Cathedral and former slave market with views from our spacious balcony across the rooftops of Stone Town.  This has a nice breeze and faces West so we can see the glorious sunsets that occur at this time of year and shelter from the rains when they hit.  When we aren't wandering around town, exploring the island or teaching we spend our time on the balcony reading, processing photos, eating, preparing for lessons and writing up reports on the school project.  The apartment is in easy reach of the market and other Stone Town sights and makes a great base and place to stay. 

Unguja Ukuu is just under an hour’s drive away. The car the project provides is parked in a car park near a police station a short walk away and we leave at 12:30 each day for the school picking up other teachers along the way.  Driving on Zanzibar is not difficult although the idiosyncrasies of some of the drivers keep you concentrating.  As you get further from Stone Town the traffic dies away and it quickly gets rural.  The roads are good, there is the occasional policeman who may ask where you are going or for your licence and a lovely avenue of mango trees on one stretch.  The fruit and vegetables sold by the side of the road are also good quality and much cheaper than the market in town.  The best buy being a 5 litre bucket of passion fruit for about five pounds - more than two can eat before they go off!

Safari English Club lessons now start at 1:45pm with Reneé taking some of the younger classes and me the so called Advanced Class.  We finish at 3:15 and try to visit the International school on the way home for a swim in their pool after dropping the teachers off again. 

Reneé has so far been teaching the classes to play dominoes. This has taken longer than one would think with the advanced class taking two days to fully understand and play properly and the younger classes three! Teaching dominoes has taught the children new phrases as well as helping with their maths and practising their general English.  It is organised to be a vocal game with players stating what number is on their tiles and how much they add up to when they put them down and scoring at the end of the game as well as saying "your turn" and "I can't go" as appropriate.  Although the younger ones know the numbers they only get from say five to eight by counting and not by immediately knowing the answer and some have to count the dots on the tiles each time.  Maths is something they struggle with and need lots of help with. 

I’m taking the Advanced Class and have been concentrating on preparing them for the challenge of being Tour Guides for the local hotel. The plan being for tours of the local village as well as the school providing additional interest to the tourists and some income for the Safari English Club.  Some of the students just lack confidence whilst some really struggle with finding or remembering the right words. This has involved learning new phrases, learning facts about the school and how to respond to potentially critical questions such as "where are the toilets?". The response being to ask if they need to go now and not to state "we will go there later".  There will be the opportunity to try the tours out shortly after the Easter half term break with visits by students from the International School.  This class is very mixed in capability. They come from the senior school across the road and whilst some have been regular attendees at the English Club others have not. You can certainly see the difference in confidence in speaking English in the children who’ve been coming regularly for the last 2 years.  I’ve  also covered some maths with them and as with the other classes they need all the help they can get with it although it is not a popular subject with them. 

Zanzibar and Stone Town are very interesting places to live and visit The teaching at the school is both challenging and rewarding and we are looking forward to the time we are spending here.  We would recommend volunteering here and working with the children to anyone. 

Dinners and Encyclopedias! (Ann)

Safari English Club arranges school dinners for 190 children every day for 4 days a week so that they can stay for after school classes. This is how you organise it, Zanzibar style!  First you go to the our of town market and find the wholesale shop. You negotiate the cost of 7 “packets” of rice, each of which contain 65kg of grain. Then you purchase 100kg of beans. Four strong men haul the bags onto the top of the local bus (dalla dalla) and the English teacher hops in to accompany everything back to the village. Then the bus stops outside the deputy head master’s house and the grains are put into safe storage. Here’s the total cost for 16 school lunches (enough for a month of teaching):

7 packets of rice @ 56,500 TZS                395,500
100 kg of beans                                          240,000
Cook and assistants                                   144,000

Total                                 779,500 TZS       (£242)

So a school dinner costs about 8p a day per child. The cost of firewood is covered by the school and the parents contribute 2,000TZS (about 60p) a month to pay for coconuts and spices.  Much of the cost is kindly covered by CoCo’s Foundation but we are raising funds to pay for the balance...so do come to our fund-raising lunch at the end of April!

We've had some extra help from two UK volunteers, Suzie and Ros.  They’ve been very helpful in giving individual attention to the students, encouraging their reading, dictionary and study skills. The students really benefit from one-on-one time that teachers aren’t able to give in school classes that average 60 pupils. In Safari English Club we have up to 30 students in a class, but with mixed ability it can be quite a challenge to teach.  However, we’re all now heading home and handing over to Andrew and Reneé who are staying until the start of Ramadan in May. 

We had a fantastic gift from the International School of Zanzibar. They donated children’s encyclopedias and a range of colourful reference books. It was incredible to hand out one book per child and to see their delight in looking at them. The school doesn’t have this type of text books and the teachers only have black and white notes. So the lesson must have been an explosion of colour and images for the students. We went round the class talking about the pictures that particularly captured the imagination –  hot topics were fish, the coral reef, doctors and injections and flags of the world. One of the local teachers was fascinated by a drawing of 18th Century French Courtiers and asked if that’s what we wear to get married!

We’ve had 2 weeks teaching 190 students rather than 60.  We  spent 4 weeks with the local teachers working out how the after school club would be structured and we decided to focus on English, maths and general studies/subject revision. Initially the teachers are reluctant to use some of the resources so we’re working on building confidence in this area over the coming weeks. One teacher, Issa, is co-ordinating the project.  His role is to  track attendance, deal with persistent absence, monitor results of weekly tests and to allocate resources such as the Kio Kits, encyclopedias and dictionaries. He’s set up two tracking documents on a laptop that was kindly been donated to our project. Issa is the best at speaking English and is keen to make the  project work. He’s the only teacher with a degree and the results he achieves in teaching science are significantly better than the other teachers. However, as one of the youngest teachers, he initially had to overcome some resentment from the older teachers that he was the one selected to run the project.


A visit from Sheenu

I had the pleasure of visiting Zanzibar for about a week in February, 2018. This trip was an initiative to see Safari English Club’s current progress and challenges as well as to identify areas where I can make any contribution to improve the quality of life of the children attending Safari English Club and Unguja Ukuu students in general.  I arrived in Zanzibar on an early morning flight and was feeling very excited at the potential possibilities of working with young minds and meeting the students at Unguja Ukuu. Caroline picked me from the airport, we drove home had breakfast, freshened up and headed out to Unguja Ukuu!!!!

On my first day I met Gasica, a young ambitious man who demonstrates exemplary leadership qualities. Gasica helped set up Safari English Club and recently had the privilege of travelling to Canada to talk about his work and raise funds for his new school project.  When I visited Safari English Club he shared his experiences of visiting Canada, telling people about the many challenges that students face because of cultural differences, traditional values and lack of educational resources and opportunities in Zanzibar.  It’s a very conservative Island where a good education is a rare privilege. Girls and boys lead very separate lives and have different domestic responsibilities. Understanding these challenges and striving to overcome them for a better tomorrow paves the way for many Zanzibar students and Gasica is aiming to pioneer in bringing these changes in Zanzibar.

On the way to the school, we picked up one of the most amazing teachers and personalities I have ever met; Sadiq! Our bonding was instantaneous it's what I call bruv luv!! Like two peas in a pod we were singing and laughing all the way to Unguja Ukuu! Sadiq has an amazing class presence and his love for teaching and his students is evident in the manner he conducts his classes. He’s very patient with the children and his teaching methods are enjoyable, bringing positive vibes into his classroom which further energizes his students who need recharging after a full day at school.  He makes afternoon classes bearable and convinces children that learning English language is fun!

Then came Haroun, a young ball of energy who is full of life! It was Haroun's birthday on my second day at the school and he had a special cake prepared for him to celebrate with his friends. Haroun's joy was immeasurable when he saw the cake! The children sang him a birthday song in English and Kiswahili and he even received the birthday bumps from Ann, Sadiq and other students!  Haroun is so inspiring because he is very ambitious and self motivated. I believe a great deal of his motivation stems from the fact that he passed his high school with great results and is now geared for further education. Haroun is constantly seeking advice on how to improve his quality of life and loves being a mentor to the younger children!

Haroun never spoke a word of English prior to joining the Safari English Club and during his time at the school, he often faced setbacks and discouragement for pursuing English Language from his teachers and family. But there’s no stopping this energy ball! The setbacks only fuelled his drive for learning.  He’s a great role model – he gives up his free time to volunteer at Unguja Ukuu and helps the teachers with  lessons. He’s always motivating the young minds and encouraging them to work hard and achieve their goals. Haroun's father wanted him to become a fisherman like himself.  But Haroun has other aspirations and wants to continue his education and attend college. He currently works as a diver and is learning about marine biology and life saving skills. His employer is also incredibly supportive of Haroun's ambitions and encourages him to seek further education, also promising him a permanent job after completion of his education. He wants to be known for his achievements despite his adversity and dreams of becoming "a big man in Zanzibar one day!" I see the sparkle in Haroun's eyes every time he talks about his big dreams and aspirations and can't help but love him for his ambitions and motivation! He is very inspiring and a lovable young man!

My trip went by so quickly, and the highlight was attending the "Sauti ya Busara" festival on my last day in Zanzibar! Ann, Caroline and I headed to Stone Town with about 30 of the older students to see the opening ceremony of the festival which was very vibrantly colourful and musical! There were various artists showcasing their talents in gymnastics, drum beats, traditional folk dances, stilt walkers and other amazing performances that took the streets of stone town toward the Forodhani Park! Safari English Club had made arrangements for older children to attend the festival and provided snacks and drinks for them as well.  Without the club’s support the students would even have known that this important African cultural event was taking place! It was a hot sunny day with the sun blazing down on us but the festivities kept us dancing until almost sunset and it was time for the kids to return to the village.

The trip was filled with enriching experiences of love, kindness and generosity extended to me during these five days. Ann and Caroline welcomed me warmly and were always there to listen and support me with the ideas and suggestions I would bounce off of them for the club. From arranging my accommodation during my stay to sharing meals, they made me feel so welcomed and comfortable I did not want to leave Zanzibar!!! I am planning to return as soon as possible for a longer stay where I can actually conceive the ideas and suggestions that we shared during this trip including starting Yoga classes, choir and Unguja Ukuu anthem to welcome visitors at the school! I’m looking forward to associate myself with the Safari English Club and Zanzibar Schools Project for a long term partnership!

A project and a dentist in the classroom... (Ann)

We’re going to work on a project, working in groups of four, every team will produce their own magazine. The deadline is a week today”.  Duly the class translated the instructions into Kiswahili. Then they looked at a selection of donated magazines. The roles of Editor-in-Chief, Advertisement Manager, Writer and Art Director were divided out and the groups considered possible topics and target audiences for their magazines. One of the students. Sharifa said that she wasn’t convinced that everyone understood the instructions so gave a long lecture in Kiswahili.  One team of girls decided that their magazine would be “For the brave women of Zanzibar” and another group, inspired by a feature from an in-flight magazine decided that their journal would be about furniture. A group of the younger boys wrote about travel and Sharifa wrote a beautifully inclusive magazine about fashion that included the following editorial views: “When you talk about Old Fashion some people can laugh but this is important section that old fashion look good.”

The second lesson on the magazine project covered a lot of the same teaching points as the first. One of the brightest students, Mulhat, (aged 16 and whose English has been perfected by watching the entire Disney back catalogue), explained that she’d never done projects before, but loved her first one. Her magazine took the topic of “Furniture”. It’s great to encourage students to express themselves in English as well as seeing them working as teams. After four days the magazines were complete – one had an enticing introductory offer of 80% off nd another has a twitter feed!

The second project this term was based on the Ecotourism presentation Maria gave recently.  Caroline has divided the more advanced students into small teams who have decided on a focus for their imaginary small businesses. The teams were set into action to decide on an enterprise to undertake and a name for that enterprise.  Results were very reflective of the lives and experience of our students.  A company called ‘Beautiful Culture’ was set up to create handicrafts for sale at a local hotel.  ‘Free Farm’ is a small firm concerned with keeping laying hens and selling their eggs.  ‘Chicken Project’ will buy in fertilised eggs and hatch chickens for sale to a variety of chicken farms for further commercial exploitation.  ‘New Model Flower’ is a small concern offering a service painting henna tatoos on interested customers.  ‘Kanga Shop’ is a highly competitive company that trades in Kangas (brightly coloured printed cotton fabric) in a cut throat market.

Once the companies were set up, business plans were discussed covering topics such as investment, marketing, production and profits. Students were introduced to concepts such as capital, depreciation, operating costs and cash flow. Business English will prove very useful to these students in the future.  Already three of the community students are putting what they’ve learnt into practice. Two young men have been building their own fishing boat and are now working on a proposal for a microfinance loan to help them buy the nets. And Sharifa is working out the potential for scaling up her tailoring business. Good luck to them with their new enterprises!

Dental health is a real problem on the island. Our friend Feroz, is a retired dentist from Brighton. He visits the island regularly to lead initiatives to improve dental hygiene particularly in rural areas and to educate children about brushing teeth. Assisted by a local dentist and a group of young dentists from Germany, Feroz visited Unguja Ukuu Primary School.  It’s incredible to see the enormity of the scale of the problem of tooth decay. The dentists managed to examine 300 out of the 800 primary school children and found that 200 needed urgent work on their teeth. To think that this number of children have toothache most of the time and that their teeth are so bad that they need extractions is horrifying.  The dentists estimate that ony a third of children use toothbrushes regularly.  Three classrooms were required for the dental camp – in one children were registered and had initial screening. Those requiring urgent extractions were given a slip of paper detailing what treatment they needed which they gave to the dentist who treated them. The second classroom was like a production line with  children being treated at their school desks. About 5 or 6 children were treated simultaneously. Unfortunately the German dentists couldn’t explain to them in Swahili what the treatment process would be, so our teacher Mohammed was drafted in to help. There were no parents on hand to offer any comfort so our volunteer Suzie held hands and cuddled the children who were most upset. Ros and I turned a third classroom into a waiting area where we played with balloons with the children to distract them from the screams coming from the treatment area. Although the children were very upset, this approach to treatment is the only solution as they needed to have the teeth removed as there’s no nearby dental care and dental health isn’t a priority for their parents who struggle to make ends meet.  It’s a tough experience for the dentists and we could see that they were shattered at the end of the day. We so admire them for spending their holidays this way and for Feroz’s amazing leadership to set up these important health camps.

Ecotourism and an art lesson with a twist (Ann)

Awareness eco-tourism is growing around the world and over the last 6 weeks we’ve learnt a lot about eco-friendly initiatives in Zanzibar.  We shared our AirBnB with Maria Dimmler who’s putting together a website about eco-tourism in Zanzibar. She’s been visiting hotels and lodges to work out whether they can be featured on the website and which principles of ecotourism they meet – for example being involved in the community, employing local people, using sensitive building materials and disposing of waste responsibly. Maria has also reviewed other tourist services and products such as day-trip operators and small social enterprises which employ mostly women in making handicrafts, soaps and other items that are sold to tourists.  We thought her research was inspiring and that the older students and teachers in Unguja Ukuu might also be interested in her work. The teachers are quite entrepreneurial – for example teacher Raiza gets students to make twig brushes and pays the school 300 Tanzanian shillings for the brooms which she sells for double the price to her neighbours.

So, on Thursday Maria joined us for the 45 minute drive to the village equipped with her laptop and photos of the small businesses she’s going to feature on the website. Caroline had prepared the students thoroughly with an appropriate vocabulary the previous day. With the help of Gasica (not exactly translating, but giving his own spin on Maria’s words), the students learnt about initiatives around the island. Next week Caroline is going to build on Maria’s presentation by talking about small business topics. Feedback from the students and teachers was positive, with much interest in the potential profits to be made in seaweed farming in particular!

Meanwhile I was keeping the youngest students entertained with prepositions and “Fun Maths”. The Rotary Club of Zanzibar, Stone Town, has kindly donated calculators and the students worked as groups to set each other maths problems and check the answers on the calculator. The introduction of this type of technology is very motivational and the students were encouraged to try more difficult multiplication and division sums.


The local teachers are busy preparing for the 120+ students who will join Safari English Club in March. They have met with the school committee and parents to talk about the principles of the club and the attendance and performance requirements. All the students sat a modified version of the Standard VI English exam that they will sit for real in November. Of course, the students haven’t done most of the syllabus yet. But even so, it was disappointing to see that 90 students scored less than 15 marks out of a possible 80 and there were four who scored 0.  Even guessing the True/False answers you’d hope to score a couple of points.  However, we are encouraged that there will be a class of 30 students who are have the potential to do well – some of them are already part of Safari English Club and a handful can already score nearly 50%.  The student teacher was allocated the task of entering the names and the results of the mock exams onto an excel spreadsheet.  Gasica says that the teachers have told him that they’re feeling very motivated about the process and now they know what they have to focus on.

Whether you’re at primary school or secondary school, the curriculum doesn’t include art and doesn’t encourage individual expression.  As a result, art classes always generate a lot of excitement. For Monday’s class I had downloaded some information about Lubaina Himid, the Zanzibari-born artist who won the Turner Art Prize in 2017. One of the girls is called “Lubaina“ and one of the boys has the last name “Himid” and they were particularly happy to learn about her fame! The students were asked to “Look”, “Question” and “Wonder” Lubaina Himid’s work and then to decide what they would like to make themselves. A small group wanted to make collages, some chose to work with paint and others used coloured pencils or pens.  The start of the practical session was a bit chaotic as students aren’t used to having a choice, but they all enjoyed the process and were very enthusiastic about the results that could be achieved by mixing paint with felt tip pen.

Photographs of the creative process taken by Richard Harris.

A new teaching approach and Sauti Za Busara

The main educational challenges in Zanzibar are due to poor resources. Children can’t focus in class because they’re hungry and there are 60-100 students in every class. There are few text books and the teachers have many demands on their time. If a teacher is absent no-one else will cover the class. Additional problems are caused by English being the medium of education. Subjects such as maths, ICT, geography and science are taught in English, but the teachers are far from fluent. When we first visited Zanzibar in November 2015, schools were shut for 6 weeks due to Presidential elections.  In Unguja Ukuu, a small fishing village, with the help of the school committee, we set up daily English classes to improve the English language skills of the primary school teachers.  When school reconvened the teachers were too busy to attend classes after school – they look after large families and grow crops to supplement the poor salaries.  So, instead we set up an after school club to teach about 25% of the children preparing for the Standard VI public exams and some of the secondary school students. But we were aware that it was the teachers that we needed to work with in order to see a major improvement in educational standards at the school in the long term.

Staff at our after school club felt that the primary school teachers were sceptical of our teaching methods.  We don’t beat the children, there’s lively group work, watching films and even some singing (in Sadiq’s class). Our classrooms are very different to a traditional class where rote learning is the norm. To be fair, we have less than 30 in a class and the children have some rice and beans in their stomachs so hunger isn’t distracting them. However, the sustained public examination success of students attending Safari English Club has changed the dynamic with the teachers!

Standard VI exams take place in November.  Last August, the primary school teachers started revision classes for all 126 students after school. We argued that this was too late to make any difference to results for the students who lacked basic English skills and could not catch up in 3 months. However, revision classes took priority and the children who’d been working hard in our after school club for the last 18 months were mixed up with children who had no interest in learning and were disruptive. However, the teachers rarely showed up and Safari English Club was left to cope with 126 hungry students who’d already had a long day at school. This year we want to avoid this problem and after discussions with the headmaster and the teachers, we’ve agreed that after school classes for all of Standard VI will start in March. For the first 5 months these classes will focus on English and Maths, but will also include subjects that are not usually taught in school such as study skills, exam technique and independent thinking.

Nine teachers are part of the programme which includes a month of preparation time. We are now one week into this project.  The teachers have set the objectives – to encourage all Standard VI students to pass the public examination.  Specifically to have 10 pass with distinction (in 2017 there were 5 in this category), to have 25 pass with grade C (in 2017 there were 17 in this category) and to make sure that there are no failures. Target setting and planning are not strong skills in Zanzibar. The concept of contingency planning is particularly alien.  So the first week has been working on these concepts. The 126 students will be divided into 4 classes and will be streamed according to English Language skills.  A modified version of the Standard VI English paper is going to be taken by all students this week and then the group will be streamed so that the more able students can coached appropriately.

In general numeracy is poor in Zanzibar; African children believe they can’t do Maths. In Unguja Ukuu, only 30 out of 126 students passed their Maths examination. The school performed particularly poorly in Maths, so the new after school classes will include one day a week working on basic skills, using the Kio Kits and other games to persuade students that Maths is both fun and relevant to their lives!

In the short term, the programme is going to add significantly to the cost of the project, but in the long term we hope that we can save money that we are currently spending on bringing expert teachers to the village. We will have to fund an additional 90 dinners every day and also we will provide a fund of 400,000 TZS to the teachers to cover their additional hours. So we’re hoping for lots of support!

I asked the question who needs to be informed about the new programme.  The teachers replied that they should meet with the school committee, the parents and the other teachers (who aren’t part of the scheme) to explain what’s happening.  However, I was amused that they totally forget that they should talk to the students!

We hope the students will benefit from taking a mock English exam this week as it will show what they need to do to be successful in November. We want them to do as well as possible in this first test so the English teachers are teaching them some of the key instructions and how to allocate time for each section of the exam before Wednesday. Then we work out a marking scheme and divide the papers between about 10 of us to assess the results.

Sauti za Busara has just finished...it’s a major annual African music festival held in The Old Fort in Stone Town. However, it’s mostly attended by visitors from Europe, other African countries and non-Tanzanians living in Zanzibar. There’s a reduced entry fee for locals, but it doesn’t attract them. In villages such as Unguja Ukuu, there’s no awareness that the festival is even taking place. We took a group of the older students to opening of the Festival, which was free (an important consideration).  They hadn’t heard of the Festival before we announced that they’d be visiting the opening event. It started just outside Stone Town and ended up at the Forodhani Gardens where there was more free entertainment.  Everyone enjoyed walking as part of the procession and everyone enjoyed seeing the photos when they were back in school.

The Right to Movement and Haroun turns 18 (Ann)

In Zanzibar things happen in a fairly random way and somehow rabbits appear out of hats at the last minute.  That was certainly true of the first Zanzibar Half Marathon! To begin with, we weren’t sure of the start time... originally we’d heard 9am and then it changed to 6am. It was actually 7am (well 7.05am). We didn’t get the confirmation email of our group’s participation.  Half of our registrations had gone missing...but it was a great success none the less! 

The event was set up to highlight women´s empowerment and gender equality. Women and girls are at the heart of Zanzibar’s agenda for sustainable development and the idea was that the race will help to challenge stereotypes by showing women and girls as agents of change. Women here usually cover up so it’s hard to describe the impact of local women running the streets in Lycra.

We thought it would be a great opportunity for the older students in Safari English Club to be part of the race. There are a lot of girls in the advanced class and we always feel sorry that their interest in exercise is overshadowed by the boys’ passion for football. Our after school club takes place in a remote village – the students hadn’t heard about the race until we mentioned it and without special transportation they wouldn’t have been able to arrive in time for the early start.

We arrived at the start point early to sort out our registrations. In the half darkness the First Aid team was being briefed and the music system was being set up. 6am and it was already getting hot...just as well the start was 7am and not 9am! Rickety local buses started to roll in, packed with groups from around the island and it became clear that women were in the majority!  Race organisers say that 54% of the runners were women. Everyone mixed up happily – some elite runners from the mainland, lots of first time runners, families, work colleagues in branded T shirts, local running clubs and lots of women in traditional dress.

The bus arrived from Unguja Ukuu, crammed with representatives of Safari English Club.  They’d left at 4.30am and the bus hadn’t broken down, what’s not to like about that! Everyone got a T shirt.  Some people got a race number, some didn’t but no-one cared. 

We usually see the young people wearing their black and white school uniforms, so it’s always a pleasure to see them in colourful weekend outfits.  The girls are usually very demure, wearing long skirts and long-sleeved blouses.  We were surprised to see them taking off a few layers and running in leggings.  We’re also used to everyone ambling around fairly slowly so it came as quite a revelation to see some of them are quite speedy runners who covered the 5k in good time.  But the surprise of the day was one of the mature students, Makame who completed the half marathon.  Everyone wanted to be photographed with him.

The students loved taking part and being part of the first major race on the island to encourage women. Back at school on Monday we showed the photos of the day to all the students in Safari English Club and the older students talked about the importance of the race to women.

We’re delighted to report on the success of Haroun, one of the older members of Safari English Club. He was one of the founder members and has been enthusiastically attending the club over the last two years.  He left school in November and was offered a job at One Ocean, the top diving centre on the island. He was excited about becoming a dive master, using his English, his passion for the ocean and great social skills to work with tourists. But then last week he got amazing results in his exams – he has sufficient credits to attend university and get a loan.  So now Haroun is researching university options – he says that without Safari English Club he wouldn’t be in such a great position to have choices of what to do with his life.

Haroun is determined to help others learn English. On his day off he joins us teaching English and it’s great to have him in the classroom.  He inspires the younger students to work hard and to see how this can help them make the most of their talents. He’s just turned 18 and wanted to share a birthday cake with the other students.  After plenty of singing we introduced the concept of “Birthday bumps”.  

A roller coaster week (Ann)

It’s been quite a roller coaster week, even by Zanzibar standards! On Wednesday we heard that the Standard VI Primary School leaving examination results were published. But there’s no internet connection at the school so we had a day of frustration, not knowing how the students had performed.  In the evening we found out that five students had passed with distinction and had been selected to attend the top schools in Zanzibar!  Msabah is attending Lumumba secondary (the top government school on the island) because of his great results in science. Students from Lumumba go on to be the backbone of Zanzibar’s scientific community. By conincidence, this is where one of our volunteer teachers (Mushtaq) and the inspiration behind our project, Feroz went to school.  The others will be attending academies that specialise in languages, the arts and vocational training. Later on Wednesday evening we had a call from an excited Haroun, a founder member of Safari English Club and one of the most advanced student.  He’s just passed his school leaving exams with sufficient credit to get a free loan to go to university.  Asia, another of the older girls also passed.  There were 7 in their year group at school and only 3 passes, so we were happy that 2 of them were from Safari English Club.  Haroun says that the English language support helped him excel at school.

To put the primary school results in context, there were 120 students who took the public examination from the village school. A few fail and the majority get Grade D which is a pass.  This year there were 11 Grade Cs (most from Safari English Club) and just the 5 who got Grade B.  The primary school doesn’t have a great track record and is ranked 123 out of 240 schools on the island. One of the hardest subjects (apart from English) is Maths, which most students fail.  Until we started the after school English club, no students from the school had ever reached higher than a Grade C or been awarded a scholarship.

By Thursday the results had reached the school and the students who achieved distinction couldn’t wait to tell us about their success.  Their friends were so proud of them and you could see the younger ones looking up to them.  We congratulated those who got Grade B and also recognised the hard work of those who got Grade C.  We’re keen to see what we can do to nudge everyone up a grade so that we can have more passes in the future. Thursday’s English club started with photos and recognition of the happy students, then  Haroun gave a pep talk to the he younger students about the importance of consistent hard work and how they could aspire to achieve what he has done.

The most important part of Thursday related to pastoral care, the area where Gasica really excels.  We met with the head and the deputy headmaster to find out more about the personal circumstances of the students who will be going to school in Stone Town. We’d been told that Zanzibar culture makes sure that children are very mobile when it comes to schooling and that wherever there’s a better educational opportunity part of the extended family will accommodate young people.  This was certainly the case for 4 of the 5 scholarship children.  But for Sleiman it was a different story. He comes from a difficult background and his mother is a widow.  They don’t have family in Stone Town. The family relies on the income from his older brother who’s a fisherman. Sleiman’s typical day was to get up at 5am, get to school for a 7am start, stay after school for Safari English Club and then get home by 4pm.  Then he’d often have to sell fish at the side of the road to help the family finances and would run out of time to do his homework.  For the villagers, Sleiman’s success is a major talking point as they can’t imagine that someone from his background could achieve what he has done. Gasica talked to all the children who’d passed their exams and asked them how they felt.  The others were happy, but Sleiman wasn’t.  Gasica asked him why.  He said that it seemed that passing the exam had just caused his family more trouble.  They couldn’t afford the uniform or books. He was just hoping that his brother had a good catch on Friday so that he could sell some fish and the money could be used to  purchase the school equipment. But he couldn’t see how it could be done by Monday when he was due to start his new school.  Also he couldn’t imagine taking the local bus for more than an hour to get to school for a 7am start.  He’d be late and he’d be beaten.  Gasica has offered to look after Sleiman in his own home and is meeting his family tomorrow to discuss the details.  Safari English Club is going to contribute towards his keep. At last Sleiman could smile.

On Friday we were invited to celebrate the exam success.  The Community leader and his deputies were all at the meeting along with the teachers , the five students and one member of their family. As with any Zanzibar celebration at the school, the table was covered in a white lace cloth and the dignitories (including us) took seats at the front.  The Deputy Head said that the talk in the village was of the number 5 and everyone’s pride in what the students have achieved.  Everyone had advice for the students about working hard and choosing good friends.  At last the speeches were over and the students retired to the back of the room to enjoy the snacks and to look at their present of a recycled yoghurt pot filled with pens and pencils.

Logistically it’s quite a challenge for the parents to sort out school uniform, new shoes, books and accommodation in just a few days.  We decided to help by taking the students shopping on Saturday. Unlike British kids, the Zanzibaris are quiet when they are excited.  The drive to Stone Town was relatively subdued, no doubt they were processing the major change that’s about to happen in their lives.  We collected Gasica and his son along the way and also Caroline, proving that it’s possible to pack 3 adults and 6 children into a Nissan X Trail.  The kids who took turns in sitting in the front of the car struggled with the seat belt and took some persuading to wear it. First stop was the school uniform shop where everyone was bought a white shiirt and either a black skirt or black trousers.  Next was thestationery shop where everyone needed to buy 11 exercise books and paper to cover them with.  The shop was nearby the school that Msabah is going to so we took a detour to have a look.  The village secondary school has about 15 students in the year group whereas Lumumba has about 80 students in a year group.  It is about 10 times the size of the village secondary school and one of the girls said spontaneously “Wow, it’s so beautiful!”  Caroline had made copies of the photos of the school celebration so each child and parent has a copy of a photograph of the event.  As the children won’t be living at home we thought the photos would be a good reminder of the day and are probably the only printed photograph of the child and parent together.

The day ended with ice creams in the car park where they were shocked at the price of ice cream. We drove back to Unguja Ukuu dropping off one girl at her new home. It was the end of one chapter for them and the start of another.  We’re just so happy that we can help them fulfil their potential and explore the world beyond their village.  They are so keen to explore it and find out more about their world.


Gasica in Canada (Ann)

Safari English Club members crowded into the Computer Room to hear what Gasica got up to in Canada.  They were fascinated about his description of a “white world” where the snow turned everything white, even the trees. Ice hockey was demonstrated on the slippery tiled floor and everyone was amazed at how many layers of clothes he had to wear. The photo of Gasica in the Apple shop had many jaws dropping – the students have never seen anything like it. 

Gasica is such a great role model for the students.  His travels to the UK and to Canada are a source of inspiration for them to work hard especially at their English studies. Gasica certainly worked hard when he was in Canada.  The initial impetus for his visit was to speak at a fund-raising Gala Dinner hosted by Daraja Foundation.  This was a great start to his trip – he also spoke at Rotary Club meetings as well as at schools and universities.  One of the highlights was to meet the people behind “Bicycles for Humanity” and to help load a container of bicycles that are destined for Zanzibar Bicycles 4 Life.  They’re expected to arrive on the island in a few weeks time and repairing the bicycles for sale or rent gives great employment to young people in Fuoni.

When we left Zanzibar in March last year, Vadim, the sports teacher at the International School was keen to set up a Martial Arts course for local children.  The problem was that he didn’t have any links with suitable children that had a grasp of English and a good work ethic. Of course, ZL4LF was happy to recommend suitable students.  The objectives of the martial arts course was explained to the the parents to check that they were happy with the contents of the course.  In the heat of Sunday afternoon we watched a 75 minute practice session and were left amazed! Hope you enjoy the photos!And to finish off, there are changes in the Zanzibari education system that teacher Sadiq was moaning about today.  It used to be that students had to wear their blue and white school uniform in the secondary school until they’d passed their Form 2 exams.  This year the system has changed and all the students in the secondary school are wearing the black and white uniform that was formerly reserved for those who passed their exams...well the discussion makes a change from grade inflation!

Happy New Year 2018! (Ann)

Caroline and I are back in Zanzibar – just in time for the start of the new school year. The former Standard VI students are waiting for the results of their exams (primary school leaving exam) .  About 25% of the year group are at the local secondary school, but if they pass their exams they will go to a good school either on the mainland or in Stone Town. After two years of 6 hours of extra English every week, they’re still enthusiastic about being part of Safari English Club. Their secondary school teacher reports that this year’s intake are coping much better with the curriculum and thinks our English lessons are a major contributory factor. In my first class I asked the students what is motivating them to keep learning English and the responses included that they want to be successful academically, to become teachers, to get a good job, to travel to the UK and just because they like English.

We tested all the students and found that the majority understood all our oral questions which used the present and the past tense.  They were confident in giving their answers and no-one scored below 70%.  So a big thank you to all the volunteer teachers, the local teachers and our supporters for helping the children achieve this!

Tina Hofer, a teacher who used to work in Zanzibar, was visiting the island over the New Year holiday asked to visit the school last week. The students were delighted that she brought with her letters from her students in Austria.  The Zanzibari students asked Tina lots of questions to find out about her and her about life in Austria (are you married, do you have children, what’s your nickname?) Then they settled down to write about their lives and enjoyed using the newpens and pencils that Tina had brought with her. I particularly enjoyed the letter that started “I have 2 cats, one cow, a goat and a monkey” – I doubt if the Austrian children can top that!

After being away for 9 months there’s lots of news to catch up on.  Apart from the marriages, births and deaths, there’s sad news that the government has shut down the nursery school.  Two years ago two of the primary school teachers used their initiative to set up a nursery school that’s in the centre of the village.  The children are taught English songs, nursery rhymes and games so they are well-prepared for school.  They plan to take children up to the age of 8 at the school – currently these young children have to walk for an hour to school.  The teachers have already built two classrooms and have a third classroom under construction. However, the government has shut the school down until they have funds to build a fourth classroom (and ultimately have a total of 6 classrooms).  We’re hoping to raise money to help them build the extra classrooms so that they can reopen.

Plenty of English in action this week.  Comparisons – finding out who has the longest arms and the biggest chest! Plans for the advanced class are still being worked out but Caroline enjoyed teaching the students about the Zanzibari Turner prize winner and explaining some British humour thanks to a kind donation of the video “Three men in a boat”.

And the other big news of the week was Gasica’s return from Canada.  He seems to have coped quite well with the freezng temperatures – once he’d worked out what long johns are, he just didn’t take them off! He spoke at a lot of meetings about Zanzibar Learning 4 Life Foundation and his plans for the new school.  A highlight of the trip was the Daraja gala dinner where funds were raised for the new building.  The time away included Christmas, Gasica’s first experience of the season and he was stunned by the event and couldn’t begin to imagine how much money was spent on the electricity alone for the festive lighting! He’s returned home to his new wife, Rayyan – they had only 2 days together before he left for Canada, so she was delighted to have him back safely.