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.

Report from the Martial Arts project in Zanzibar by Vadim

I wanted to share with you some great progress we’re making with the children from ZL4LF and our BORA Project (Budo for a reason) based at the International School in Zanzibar (ISZ). The children are practicing regularly and we’re very happy with their achievement.

We’ve had a very productive meeting with Director of Primary Education at the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training of Zanzibar.  I outlined our vision of the BORA Project’s objectives, the philosophy and ethics behind it and our current activities.  This was received with much interest and appreciation.  Sofia (the Director of Primary Education at the Ministry) is very enthusiastic and wants to give BORA her full support and is very open to further discussions. She said that community outreach by ISZ is very much appreciated and this is what they have always been looking for. The Government of Zanzibar is keen to develop physical activities in the island’s government schools. The President of Zanzibar reiterated this very clearly on their last meeting.

In the context of the growing importance of physical education, our intention to provide more opportunities and improved access matches that of the government. We’ve started to build capability amongst local martial art instructors by our project (through BORA’s direct work with them) and sending them to some very remote schools and significantly increasing project’s penetration. Today the Director of Primary Education and the Director of the Sport and Culture visited ISZ and learnt more about what we do with the children from ZL4LF.


Apart from that we had a Martial Arts demonstration at the ISZ annual Craft Fare which was a great success! Please see the pertinent FB post about that here:


We’ve also been actively engaged in Aikido Seminars for our instructors as a capacity building component of our Project:


It's all about Gasica...

Well there’s a lot about Gasica this month!  On November 5th he and Rayyan married.  Rayyan was a Rotary Scholar who studied in the USA for a year and she’s been involved with ZL4LF for many years. We’re delighted to offer congratulations to them both and send all good wishes for their life together.

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Gasica’s long-awaited visa to Canada came through!  He had applied for a visa a few years ago, but was denied.  As many of you know, Gasica is not one to give up!  He thought that having visited the UK would put him in a good position to get a visa to visit Canada and it did!  He arrived in time for the Daraja Gala Dinner where he made a motivational presentation to the great and the good from Calgary Society.  Significant funds were raised that will be put towards Gasica’s exciting project to build a new primary school where he can put into practice his great teaching methods.  If you’d like to find out more about the Daraja Foundation, please follow the link below: http://www.darajafoundation.com

Gasica’s going to be busy over the next 2 months, speaking at Rotary clubs, schools and other organisations including Calgary’s Bicycles for Humanity, who regularly ship containers of bicycles to Zanzibar for ZL4LF to renovate and sell.

Meanwhile, back in Zanzibar, our volunteer Mushtaq was joined by his wife who enjoyed helping with lessons for the older students. We are also delighted to report that Maria will be working in Unguja Ukuu at the Primary school until at least mid-January.  She is a German-native speaker and will be running German lessons at ZL4LF, taking over from a volunteer who is returning home.  It’s quite amazing how one person arrives just in time to fill the gap caused by someone leaving. Please do recommend our volunteering opportunity to your family and friends.  Ideally we like volunteers to stay for 2-3 months and to have a teaching certificate (eg TEFL) or experience working with children. Please visit our website for more information. http://www.zanzibarsp.ninja/volunteer

This month we are also raising funds through the “Double your money” scheme from The Big Give.  If you’d like to make a really valuable donation towards Gasica’s new school, please visit this link:


The run up to exams

It’s the final month before the students in Standard VI take their exams. We’re very lucky to have 2 hardworking volunteers in Zanzibar supporting Gasica, Mohammed, Sadiq and Hamis. Mushtaq, originally born in Zanzibar but now a Welshman,  brings his experience of being a Maths tutor as well as having a TEFL qualification.  His first few days in Zanzibar were spent working out what level the students are at and analyzing the syllabus to see where they need most help. The teachers have asked us to help all 110 students in Standard VI, in addition to the 35 that we have been helping in Safari English Club. We have said that to pass exams requires long-term effort, which is what we are doing with students who come daily to our extra English classes throughout the year and that sadly extra cramming at this point in the academic year is pointless.  However, it’s hard to say no and we are working with the local teachers to help with revision classes.

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I thought you might be interested to read what Mushtaq has also been doing in his spare time.  This is an extract from his email: I am quite enjoying the experience and it has been fun so far. I have been walking and cycling around all my odd haunts and it's gratifying to know how much I remember and frustrating sometimes not to remember certain places - actually, it's not the places I don't remember but their names!! I was always bad at names!! I even went to my last secondary school, Lumumba College (or King George School). Had long chats with students there and the head master. I was a bit sad to see the condition of the school and I talked to the head master about that. He said he doesn't have the money and he asked me to do him a favour by talking to the Education Minister. He gave me the minister's name and the phone number so I am going to ring her tomorrow. I haven't got any hope of anything coming out of that but, I thought, there is no harm in trying!! It used to the best secondary school during my days and apparently, talking to the students, it still is.

Today, I went to see my primary school. It was very pleasing to see that it has been kept, and turned into, even better state than it was in my days. Talked to the students there as well and they were talking highly of the school. Now it is secondary school with Forms 5 and 6 as well.

Other news:

Sadiq and Mohammed recently got married. Hope you enjoy the photo of them celebrating with Rob in traditional dress. Rob has also started his degree in Development studies and Swahili at SOAS in London.

Megan and Sadiq realized that they share their birthday! Here’s a recent post from Megan: Teaching Maths here at Unguja Ukku is an emotional rollercoaster. 😂 At the beginning utter despair, they don't understand the topic at all let alone enough for us to just revise it quickly. BUT once they understand and start getting the questions I think I'm more ecstatic than the children 🙈 I actually jump for joy 😂





Microfinance report (Rob)

Since arriving back in Zanzibar, I’ve been swept off my feet by the scale and amount of work we’ve had to do.  It’s been totally beyond any expectations I had, but all hugely rewarding and exciting. Aside from teaching 3 different classes, I’ve been helping Gasica advance plans to build a new school, expand the ZL4LF businesses and organise the finances.  This is on top of the work we’ve been doing in Unguja Ukuu with the students there in classes and the immersion camp (see other report). Whatever happens now, through my time at Uni and beyond, I know this is a project I will be involved in for life. I have so much love and energy to put into ZL4LF and I’m genuinely thrilled to be able to participate, I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to Gasica who has been a brother to me and to everyone here in Zanzibar and at home in the UK who have supported me.


Aside from all of this, one of the things I’m most proud of is the microfinance project. Over the past 6 months as some of you know we have had two projects running which both had failures and successes. It was a learning process for me and all the students and entrepreneurs involved and allowed me to work with Gasica and other leaders at ZL4LF to reassess the process and how it can be improved. Before elaborating on this I want to talk a little bit about the first two projects.

Team Kuku.  This was a project planned and carried out by ZL4LF students and senior members with experience working on the ZL4LF chicken farm. The plan was to create a source of income for them and their families to help fund their ambitions for the future that would be solely theirs. Having picked up expertise from time working the chicken farm, they wanted to put that knowledge to use into their own business, so that they could become more independent from the school.


The loan they received from us at Microfinance 4 Life paid for the feeders, food and drinkers for the chickens. They were loaned the chickens by the ZL4LF chicken with the amount to be repaid based on the worth of the chickens that were loaned. Initially the project was very successful, the chickens which were lent were layers and had already been matured to the right age for eggs, the sale of which started quickly and was easy due to the popularity of eggs in Zanzibar and their use in a classic East African dish, “Chips Mayai” (egg and chips in a sort of omelet, one of my staples for carbs and protein).

However, the chicken team soon encountered some problems. Zanzibar experienced particular heat and this particular breed of chicken were found to be quite vulnerable. Two of the chickens died in the intensity of the heat around March time. The next problem was that chicken food prices started to rise inZanzibar, eating away at the profit margins of the team. Finally, many of the chickens were falling ill, which meant their egg productivity was weak and inconsistent.  This, combined with the other challenges, meant that it was impossible to make a profit.

With all of these unforeseen circumstances, Team Kuku decided with Gasica and the rest of the ZL4LF that it was best to cut their losses. They sold the chickens and their equipment so that they could pay back the rest of the loan, a very noble gesture which has been very helpful in enabling us to grow the project in the next round of applications, it also allowed them to apply for a new loan this time around.

The failure of this project taught us a few lessons, the primary one being the need for constant and effective communication. The idea was that the teams were to write a report every month that would be sent to the donors and allow them to receive help with the problems they were facing. This didn’t happen and as a result, I hadn’t been aware of what was happening. This is why this time, going into the next round there has been a strong emphasis on communication. This has been one of the major lessons learnt for me, as a result after discussions with applicants, each team will have a “communicator” who will be responsible for monthly reports. There will also be small penalties for teams that fail to return their reports on time.

Girls 4 Life.  This team is a group of students from the Girls 4 Life club. This is the ZL4LF women’s group who run workshops and various programs to meet and discuss women's issues such as health, family and empowerment. They do fantastic work with women in the local community, passing on information that they learn and working to build a strong community of women in Fuoni.


Girls 4 Life applied for a loan that would help them to start a business making and selling clothes. They already had a fabric supplier and a relative of one of the girls was able to provide a space for them to sell their clothes and other projects like handbags which are shipped in from Dar Es Salaam. The aim of this business is to provide funding for some of the projects that the girls run such as workshops and days out, but also to provide a source of income to girls who live in difficult financial situations. Some of them come from single-parent families which can be a very challenging place to be in Zanzibar for a variety of societal and financial reasons. This project is empowering for them as it allows them to have income to help support their families. So far they are doing a great job paying back their loan, about half of which has been repaid. To date they have not missed a payment. Once again, we did have some issues with lack of clear communication, and again this has influenced how we have decided to move forward with the next teams and why we are stressing the importance of monthly reports and communications.

Round Two: Moving Forward
On the 12 September 2017 the next 3 teams received their loans.  Three of the 5 applications were chosen due to a variety of factors. Firstly, none of these teams applied for more than 1,000,000 TSH (about £340). This means that we can offer opportunities to more groups and therefore stretch the benefits of this project further. Secondly, the teams were judged on the quality of their applications, meaning how well they answered the questions, how well their project was presented to us and how well they justified and argued that they deserved to receive a loan.

The final factor was how viable we judged their idea for a business to be. Mostly we opted to go with the businesses with simple concepts with less variables. We believe that for these businesses to be successful it is best for them to start with a small amount of capital and investment, then to create growth into more complex ideas and business models is down to them to reinvest their profits wisely. Some of the projects were very well thought out but seemed to be very complex and require a large amount of capital and work before they could start making profits which is worrying when these students do not usually have the financial security to back up such a project.

The New Teams
Team Kuku 2.0.
Team Kuku are back! Having successfully paid off their loan the previous time they have returned with a new business plan. This time the idea is to diversify their income.  They are purchasing chickens that already lay healthy eggs as well as expanding into trading meat birds. Last time mostly layer chickens were bought as chicks which meant that there was a period of waiting before they starting laying eggsDuring this time money was still being spent as they had to be fed, whether or not they were laying. This time the split between chicks, matured layers and meat birds means that there’ll always be a source of income to cover costs and when the market is good, money will come in faster. Meat birds can be a lucrative business around the time of holidays and festivals as everyone rushes to buy chicken and the price they can be sold for skyrockets. The team leader of Team Kuku is Abdulling.


Smart Shop. Smart shop is a team led by Mamodo and Fatma which aims to run a clothes selling business.  They cleverly cut out the rent and permits required for a shop (which is a key expense) by using social media to advertise and arrange sales. Through Instagram and Whatsapp they sell clothes from their houses and deliver direct to buyers. This is a fantastic example of how the mobile phone has revolutionised business in Tanzania and opened up new opportunities, and an excellent case of young people using these opportunities brilliantly. Thanks to this creativity, the amount of capital needed for the project was relatively low and we were able to reward them with the loan.

Coconut Suppliers. This team is led by Keyrah and Diso and aims to use their contacts in various areas around the island to sell coconuts and other spices. In Fuoni there are few coconuts and the prices fluctuate due to a lack of reliable wholesalers.  They plan to take advantage of this gap in the market and also to supply to traders in town.  There’s potential to explore deals with hotels and tourist-orientated businesses around the island.

Thank you!

Now that all these businesses have received their loans, we will be checking up on the teams as they establish themselves and look forward excitedly to their first reports in late October! We wish them all the best of luck, and would like to thank all of you for reading and for your ongoing support. This whole project would have been impossible without the money that was generously donated to us from friends all over the world, nor would it have been possible without the constant support from friends and family in the UK that I have received, the assistance of Arsheen from Daraja Foundation, Ann from Zanzibar Schools Project/Brighton and Hove Soiree Rotary Club and of course Gasica for opening all the doors and laying the grounds for this project with his continuously wonderful organisation ZL4LF.

Rob Lindfield; 14 September 2017

English Language Immersion Camp August 2017 (Rob)

This report focuses on the recent English Language Immersion Camp for 31 extremely excited Standard VI students which took place in Panga Chumvi.  The students, aged around 12, were from Zanzibar Schools Project in Unguja Ukuu and they had been selected for the course as they are taking their important Primary School leaving examinations in November.  The plan was two packed days of English language learning and activities in a beautiful location. Sun, sea, sand and singing were the order of the weekend! We’d like to extend a special thanks to Rebecca of Panga Chumvi in Matemwe (www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/1199293 in case you want to stay there) for providing the space for the camp and Coco’s Foundation (www.cocosfoundation.co.uk) for the funding. It truly was a hugely worthwhile project in advancing the English of the Standard VI students and the progress of certain pupils over the weekend was notable and very impressive!


Arrival and Beginning – Saturday 12th

On Saturday morning, Gasica and I took the ZL4LF bus to Unguja Ukuu and collected a thrilled and (mostly) very punctual group of students.  All the way to Panga Chumvi they were practically bouncing of the walls and singing songs! We arrived at 10am and unpacked. The students were split them into five teams of about 7, each team with a miniature cuddly mascot - lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys and giraffes.  Each group had a random mixture of students to encourage them talk to new people as well as shake up the ability levels.  

The line-up of teachers included Gasica, Gail, Damian, Carole, Megan, Gail and me. Damian and Carole are our visiting teachers from the UK, we were extremely lucky to be working with them and I personally was constantly amazed by their depth of teaching experience, skills and ability to bring out the best in children. They brought fantastic expertise to the weekend and we’d like to extend a big thank you to them for all their enthusiasm. The primary school required that we take two local teachers and it turned out they were very helpful in certain sessions with translating and I think they quite enjoyed some of the classes, and even learnt a few new things!


Teaching Sessions – Saturday 12th 10:30am – 4:30pm (with an hour for lunch)

 Five parallel sessions ran simultaneously and the students rotated on a carousel system. Each teacher had a different focus for their session and there were a broad range of activities. Helped by my good friend Geraldine the Giraffe, I worked with the students on phonics, particularly sounds that Swahili speakers struggle with. They had to feed Geraldine with fish (I’m aware of the biological inaccuracy) that had words with the corresponding sounds on them. This was hilarious and the students were told Geraldine spoke no Swahili (again she would probably speak Swahili as opposed to English but we won’t dwell on that), so they had to address her in English only. I felt that students came away from these sessions with a better understanding of tricky English sounds and some new vocabulary. They definitely left with smiles on their faces after interacting with Geraldine, however again not sure if this was at my expense or not! Either way, it was a lot of fun for all of us.

Damian’s worked with the students to create sock puppets – the results were impressive! The puppets were used to practice conversation skills and Damian did a fantastic job getting the students involved and captivated. I think activities like this are always wonderful because we get to see a creative side to the children that they don’t often get to develop and enjoy during their regular school hours with the local teachers.

Carole’s group worked on role playing and drama. They planned and performed a role play about flying on a plane, a big dream for many of them! They had a great time pretending to be pilots and passengers and practiced conversational and formal English as well as travel vocabulary. The students particularly loved the pilot’s hat and sunglasses! The Giraffe team’s role play was so good that they had a public performance at the end of the weekend!

Gail lives in the immediate area and volunteers at Safari English Club every week. On Saturday she led the students on a treasure hunt all over the Panga Chumvi site, with prizes of fruit for the students who completed the trail. The treasure hunt allowed her to weave in vocabulary focused on directions and distances, which is something students often struggle with. They seemed to love a learning activity on their feet and it allowed them to use some of their boundless energy!

Gasica led a class sitting on the veranda of one of the beautiful bungalows. His class focused on the present continuous tense which is important for the Standard IV exams. Megan roamed around and took most of these pictures of the students in action!

Swimming, Dinner and Singing at the end of the day

At the end of the day, the tide had come in and the time was right for swimming! The students had been looking forward to this all day and they were chattering and very energetic as they lined up to receive their new goggles which they were overjoyed about! We’d like to give a special thanks for goggles to our American friend Julia Pangan and Brighton Swimming School (www.pool2pier.com). They really make a difference when teaching swimming in the sea. The students loved them and many were still wearing goggles all through dinner and songs afterwards! It was my first time seeing Zanzibari girls swimming in burkinis and I was stunned by the enormous difference it makes to their confidence and comfort in the water (and on the beach too!) When I was here last year I saw they had a hard time trying to keep themselves covered in clothes that are completely inadequate for swimming. The girls were able to jump and splash completely freely and really loved their time in the water.  We were very lucky that both Damian and Megan are both qualified swimming teachers. They were very knowledgeable on water safety and used this knowledge to ensure everyone was safe and happy. They were also able to teach some swimming skills. Damian oversaw some hilarious races between the boys (including some outrageous cheating!) and a race between Haroun (one of the older students) and me.  He’d spent all day challenging me to this race at every opportunity. Damian was also able to give some of the racers advice on their technique and swimming styles. Meanwhile, Megan and Carole were singing songs and jumping over waves and generally being joyful and making the most of the beautiful surroundings. For me it was a really special time and one of my highlights of the weekend.

In the evening we had a lovely Zanzibari meal of curry and rice with the obligatory spinach. The students devoured their food after a long and busy day, but unlike many British children they even happily wolfed down their spinach! Then there was fruit and ice cream afterwards. Then we sang, initially classics from Chloe’s time here such as the much loved and very well remembered “Ricky Bamboo” song and my personal favourite the “O Ma Ley” song. Megan led to begin with and the students loved the British childhood songs many of which brought back strong memories for me.  Of these songs, my favourite was the appropriately adapted “Old MacDonald had a Safari Park”… after a while the students took over, the boys showing off their dance moves and competing as usual. The girls made up songs and ran around planning and scheming their newest releases with much giggling.  The boys argued over who was the best and came up with Swahili rap lyrics which were hilarious. The spirit and level of energy of the evening was amazing, the only difficult bit was getting the students to calm down. They could’ve carried on all night if they’d been allowed to!

Early Morning Swim – Sunday 13th

We had an early start on Sunday which was incredibly worthwhile. I felt absolutely blessed to start the day swimming with some of the students, just as the sun was just rising.  The way it cut through the clouds was absolutely stunning. Starting the day with exercise really gave me a boost of energy, especially in such a beautiful setting. This was also a great chance for the students who didn’t swim the previous day to get in the water and use their new goggles.

Breakfast and Taste Testing – Sunday 13th

Breakfast consisted of delicious pancakes, local tea and coffee. While we were eating, Gail encouraged groups of students to take part in her “Taste testing challenge”. She had brought an array of foods for sampling which had diverse and distinguishable flavours that the students could learn to describe. I loved this activity - it was a really clever way to allow the students to associate vocabulary with memories and I think the students had a great laugh. For example, she had Marmite to teach students to describe savoury tastes, the students found Marmite absolutely hilarious and the old saying proved to be false, they quite overwhelmingly hated it!

Teaching Sessions – Sunday 13th

Once again, we had five sessions running all day.  This time around my lesson focused on two elements which were based around preparing the students for the Standard IV exam. First, we talked about the best ways to link sentences and choosing between different connectives, mainly “and” and “but”. Then we looked at telling the time in English and the difference between digital and analogue clocks and how to convert between the two. My lesson was less fun than the previous day, but the students were attentive and a couple of the groups floored me with the progress they made through the lesson and also their progression over the weekend as a whole. Gasica again led an exam-focused English lesson, continuing with the previous day’s topic of the continuous past tense.

Damian’s groups used my Bluetooth speaker to listen to classical music, and take an imaginary journey which they had to describe using all their senses. This was a creative writing activity and really pushed the students to dig deep for descriptive vocabulary. As well as this, it gave them some new words for explaining feelings and sensations. I feel it’s really helpful for the students to be creative with their English language skills and it helps to cement learning. The activity also had a focus on the past tense which is something that students can have difficulty with and is vital for the exam.

Carole led an activity on letter writing, which again is again a common feature in the Standard IV English Exam.  The students learnt about how a letter is structured, where the various features should go and most importantly about the style of language used; formal English. We hope that these sorts of activities will allow the students feel ready and increase their confidence when it comes to the day of the exam.

Megan led a conversation activity using the sock puppets that the students had created the previous day. This was a great way to get the students talking to each other and I think was especially helpful for those who can be shy and lack confidence. They were able to speak through a character which gave the conversation a large element of fun and reduced and pressure the students might feel. We agreed there was a significant improvement in the confidence speaking and listening of most children.

 Awards and Performance

 Before the closing ceremony, we watched the Giraffe group’s exemplary role play of flying a plane to London.  They  were deemed to be the best group on account of their confidence, progress.  Stickers and certificates (somewhat painstakingly) rolled and wrapped in ribbon were presented. Gasica made the reading of the names into a silly game where he jumbled up the pronunciations and the students struggled to work out who was who, giggling and chatting. There was a real spring in the step of the students as they received their certificates, and it was rightfully deserved. I was so chuffed to see them feeling proud of themselves, because they honestly had worked so hard, been very dedicated all weekend and made great progress. But most importantly, they had an amazing time, as did we!


Once again, a huge thanks to everyone who took part, supported and helped to organize the event.

July 17, 2017: Rob arrives in Zanzibar

My name is Rob Lindfield, I’m 18 years old and I’m currently living and working in Zanzibar for ZL4LF and the Zanzibar Schools Project. I’ve just finished my A-Levels at Varndean College in Brighton, and I’m hoping to start studying Swahili and International Development at SOAS in September. My first three weeks here have been hectic, chaotic and a lot of fun! My role here is teaching English and French at ZL4LF as well as English twice a week at Unguja Ukuu. In addition to this, I am a co-founder of the microfinance project which I am managing, and I am working closely with Gasica helping him with office work such as replying to emails and attending meetings which I find very exciting. I also discuss future plans about the organisation and plans for Gasica’s new school and help to organise this.

Getting settled and graduation (not mine): My first week was mostly spent getting settled, meeting lots of people and travelling around the island having fun and working on my Swahili which has been coming on really fast! When I arrived here it was during Eid celebrations at the end of Ramadan, which meant everyone was dressed to the nines and in a very festive mood. There was a lot of dancing, singing and a big party in the park just outside of Stone Town. During this time I rediscovered (for better or for worse) the vuvuzela; a relic from the South Africa world cup. Gasica took me on my first day on a trip to a spice farm (pictured below) and I spent the rest of that week meeting family and friends, as well as planning for the graduation!

Saturday 1 July: we went with a huge group of students to Fumba beach, the site of the famous Safari Blue day trips, to take part in a clean-up operation. This felt like a really worthwhile environmental project, structured as a competition we all were challenged to fill our sacks as much as possible, with the winners receiving prizes. All three winning students were from ZL4LF. We then received generous portions of pilaw and soft drinks and laughed about the day’s events.

Thursday 6 July: we had the ZL4LF and Daraja Foundation Graduation Ceremony. This generated a huge buzz in the local community and the students were bouncing off the walls. We even had TV cameras and a local news team! Mohammed and I were the MCs, I introduced and commentated for those who couldn’t speak Swahili. Gasica and Arsheen explained how they met and started to work together, they were very entertaining but their love for their work and for these projects really shined through. Some previous ZL4LF students spoke about their stories which had several people in tears. I personally found this deeply emotional.

 At times I think I can lose sight of the extent of tragedy that some of these young people have endured. I was profoundly moved and freshly motivated by the stories of students like Khamis Waya, Zahra and Keyrah to name a few. Then we had words from a few of ZL4LF’s partner organisations such as Zanlink, Zanzibar Palace Hotel, Safari Blue and the Rotary Club (both of these were represented by Eleanor in impeccable Swahinglish - a Swahili and English mixture). After this there was a DJ and everyone stayed and danced and celebrated late into the night.

My work at ZL4LF: I’ve been working closely with Gasica, helping him reply to emails, talking about ideas and trying to help him keep this amazing project moving forward. I’m genuinely thrilled to be involved here, I feel it is a genuinely sustainable institution which provides real long term benefits to the community, not just through education but through business and employment opportunities. I am the Founder and Orchestrator of the Microfinance project which aims to allow hardworking students to pursue ambitions and their entrepreneurial spirit through small interest-free loans. With the assistance of Gasica at ZL4LF, Ann from ZSP and Arsheen from Daraja Foundation I designed the application process.  With help from Varndean College Students, I raised the funds to allow students to start their own businesses. This has been very successful and there will be a much more detailed report on microfinance in the immediate future, detailing successes, failures and future plans; short-term and long-term.

Last week I started teaching. I’ve been consistently amazed by the level of English spoken by the students in the advanced class at ZL4LF. We had some really tough lessons tackling the conditional tense and some hilarious ones discussing the various accents and dialects of the English language. The improvement in some students’ English has been astonishing and I love being with this class because the levels are high enough for us to be able to really dig into inferred meanings and colloquialisms which is really enjoyable. French lessons have been coming along well with a small group of very enthusiastic students who have been studying independently so teaching them has been surprisingly easy and fun.

Unguja Ukuu: As we’ve been so busy with graduation, we’ve only visited Unguja Ukuu and the school twice over the last couple of weeks.  Teaching officially started again this week and on Wednesday I’ll start teaching there again. When I’ve visited over the last couple of weeks it has been wonderful to see so many familiar faces and briefly listen to the improvement in the level of English spoken by the students. I was amazed that they all remembered me from last year, and we had a hilarious time with the students briefly flipping the script and examining my Swahili speaking ability. They were satisfied when I proved I could sing a song by Diamond Platinumz (Tanzania’s biggest and most well-loved singer), and everyone had a giggle! Still not sure if they were laughing at my Swahili, my singing or both…

Thank you…for taking the time to read this update, it’s lovely to know that people are interested in what we’re all doing here. If you have any questions at any time, even strange ones about life in Zanzibar, please feel free to email me at zanzibarl4lf@gmail.com - which is essentially my email address for the next 3 months.

June 8, 2017: Time for the Children (Ann)

We’re delighted to announce a new venture between the International School of Zanzibar (ISZ) and ZL4LF. Fifteen children from ZL4LF now attend regular martial arts classes at the ISZ’s sports grounds. The children, both boys and girls, are aged from 5 to 13 years old. Classes take place three times a week and are conducted by Vadim Dormidontov, ISZ's Physical Education Teacher.  The children love the classes and wanted to keep going, even during Ramadan when many activities take a break. Vadim, who originates from Russia, has a Master’s degree in Sports Medicine and is a well-qualified sports teacher.  In addition he had the honour of represented Russia in Karate in 2002-3.  For more information about Vadim and his initiatives in Zanzibar please visit http://yoga-warrior.ru/en. Due to Vadim’s efforts and the help of others, in 2014, Tanzania was incorporated by Japan and obtained official affiliation of WSKF (World Shito-ryu Karate Federation). Three Tanzanian practitioners successfully passed their exams and were awarded 1st Dan black belts Shito-Ryu Sito-Kay.

Vadim is assisted by Amran who is a local karate instructor who has a black belt. The pair of teachers say, “We can hardly overestimate the happiness and our deep satisfaction from seeing smiling children’s faces and hearing their laughter when they’re rolling, jogging, skipping and the seriousness of their faces’ expressions when they’re trying to tackle intricate martial arts movements and remembering complex Japanese names of the stances and techniques. The children are already mastering their coordination, gaining strength and flexibility. They’re learning Judo falls, Sumo wrestling, Aikido arm locks and Karate kicks and punches. Great start, impressive efforts with already noticeable results and, what is most important for us – fantastic and touching emotional feedback.”

We would all like to thank ISZ for providing its ample sport facilities, Vadim for covering the transportation cost and local instructor allowance as well as Gasica and ZL4L Foundation for facilitating the whole process! The group is currently looking for finance opportunities to purchase sports outfits for kids, so please reach out to Vadim at dormi.dom@yandex.ru and Katya tihomirkat@mail.ru if you’d like to take part in that process. And for the future?  Vadim says that his dream is to take a team of Zanzibari children to compete in Japan!

We would all like to thank ISZ for providing its ample sport facilities, Vadim for covering the transportation cost and local instructor allowance as well as Gasica and ZL4L Foundation for facilitating the whole process! The group is currently looking for finance opportunities to purchase sports outfits for kids, so please reach out to Vadim at dormi.dom@yandex.ru and Katya tihomirkat@mail.ru if you’d like to take part in that process. And for the future?  Vadim says that his dream is to take a team of Zanzibari children to compete in Japan!

Meanwhile, we’re delighted to report that Gasica has been asked to make a presentation at the final session of the Tanzanian Headmasters’ Management Course  (being run bythe Goodall Foundation, Brighton). His topic is building sustainable businesses and working successfully with partner organisations.  Thank you to Brighton and Hove Soiree Rotary Club for generously sponsoring Gasica’s participation in the event.

Back in Brighton we’ve just finished “Time for the Children” photographic exhibition at the city’s Jubilee Library.  The launch party was very well attended and we enjoyed meeting the new mayor.  The evocative photographs of the children of Unguja Ukuu were taken by the award-winning film-maker and photographer Richard Harris.  If you would like to buy any of the images that were in the exhibition they are available for £75.  Please see the Zanzibar Schools Project Gallery atwww.bigbamboo.photo. Back in Brighton our exciting ‘Time for the Children’ photography exhibition at the city’s Jubilee Library has come to an end. The launch party was well attended and we enjoyed meeting the new Lady Mayor.  The evocative images of the children of Unguja Ukuu were taken by the award-winning film-maker and photographer, Richard Harris.  If you would like to buy any of these images they are still available for £75 each (limited editions of five). More images, (priced from £35 depending on size) can be seen on Richard’s website at www.bigbamboo.photo/zanzibar-zsp.

May 16, 2017: Sad news of Patima (Ann)

We’re sorry but this is a really sad update from Zanzibar.  We want to share the story of Patima Shamhuni Ussi, the wife of Mohamed, one of the excellent English language teachers who works with us to inspire the children at the Safari English Club.   Patima and Mohamed are both 28 years old and they have a beautiful and bright boy who is just 17 months old, named Maher which means skilful, able, experienced, clever, genius. We met Patima in January when she and Mohamed visited our apartment for dinner.  Thanks to Mohamed’s teaching, she understood a lot of our English even if she was a bit shy at first about speaking to us and we enjoyed getting to know her.

Earlier this month Patima gave birth to a baby girl, called Maitham, at her parents home. Initially she was in good health and Mohamed bought her a chicken from Gasica’s chicken farm which she enjoyed eating. But a few days after the birth, she became very ill.  Patima’s parents rented a car to take her to Mnazi Mmoja, the main hospital on the island which is located in Stone Town.  She was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and after 7 days she sadly died, leaving two young children and Mohamed. 

The days when Patima was in hospital were traumatic.  The doctors didn’t seem to know what they were doing and just kept asking Mohamed for more money for drugs for Patima.  Apart from Mohamed and Patima’s mother who was staying at the hospital during the whole of her stay at the hospital, no-one else was allowed to visit her in hospital.  The doctors refused to let Mohamed see Patima’s medical notes. Mohamed is happy for us to share the story so that we can give an idea of the scale of problems that Zanzibar faces, not only in education, but in healthcare too.  The Rotary Club in Zanzibar has a joint focus on health and educational initiatives.  Apart from generous sponsorship of educational activities, they have raised considerable sums for HIPZ (Health Improvement Project Zanzibar www.hipz.org.uk) which is working to improve two cottage hospitals on the island.

In the UK we have almost forgotten the dangers of childbirth.  Efficient doctors, regular checkups and effective drugs mean that most problems are resolved before they become life threatening.  The majority of maternal deaths in Zanzibar occur during childbirth and the time immediately after birth. The main causes of maternal death include haemorrhage, pregnancy-induced hypertension, obstructed labour, infection and unsafe abortion. Death rates for mothers is estimated at 2,900 per 100,000 live births (29 per 1000) compared with 10 out of 100,000 in the UK! Infant mortality in Zanzibar is 54 per 1,000 live births whereas in the UK it’s 3.7 deaths per 1,000. In Zanzibar 50% of all babies are delivered at home with unskilled attendants. (Data from WHO).

It’s hard to imagine what trepidation a woman must feel when approaching childbirth and the risks of death are so high. Fortunately Maitham is doing well and is being looked after by Mohamed’s mother.  Mohamed lives with his family so he can help with looking after the children. 

In Zanzibar funerals take place rapidly after death.  More women than men attend the funeral of a woman.  While we were in Zanzibar a woman from the neighbourhood died.  From our apartment we looked at the gathering of women that started early in the morning of the funeral. Women led the religious readings before the body was taken to the mosque and then on to the cemetary.  Our thoughts are with Mohamed as he completes his university studies and adjusts to life without Patima.

May 7, 2017: Swimming (Ann)

We’re so impressed at the determination of the community in Unguja Ukuu to help improve the lives of their own community. Five of the strongest swimmers from the village are learning how to teach water safety and swimming skills. They are being trained by a group from Nungwi who are supported by the RNLI.  Although Zanzibar has the most beautiful beaches, there is a high incidence of drowning.  Hence the RNLI’s initiative to help prevent more deaths from drowning.  There’s quite a bit of theory as well as practical sessions and the RNLI has developed a great book that has been developed to help teachers understand the specific conditions around the island. Training started with a lesson and test in Kendwa to ensure each swimmer could swim for 200 meters.  Our volunteer, Chloe spoke to one of the trainers who told her that he was motivated to teach swimming after a boat sailing from Zanzibar to Pemba ran into trouble and many people died from not knowing how to swim.

Chloe has now returned to England after an amazing year in Africa and spending 10 months running the Safari English Club.  She’s achieved so much, giving the children more confidence in speaking English as well as enthusiasm to try activities they have never dreamed of! Before she left Zanzibar she ran a final outing (safari) to Kendwa.  The students said they had never been anywhere so beautiful before.  They swam, played games and even had a boat trip – all the while practicing English, of course!

For much of April the students were on school holidays…but not the students in Safari English Club!  They had an intensive day of English with Chloe and the teachers from Safari English Club.  There was plenty of time for students to stand up in front of their peers and gain valuable experience in talking to the group.  And there were more stories about the debate in Dar for Haroun to relate and a birthday to celebrate.

The students staged a farewell talent show for Chloe in her last week on the island. The range of skills on display included acrobatics, dances, comedy sketches, singing, poems, speeches, magic tricks and a fire show. And the teachers did a rap!

Meanwhile, Gasica has attended the third part of the Headmasters’ Management Course in Arusha, sponsored by the Brighton and Hove Rotary Club and the Goodall Foundation, also from Brighton.  One of the main benefits of participating in the course is that he’s now part of a supportive and active network of professionals across Tanzania.  He says he’s benefitted so much from learning from his peers.  This time the focus was on learning about having a growing mindset (rather than a fixed mindset) as well as about working effectively with donors (and sponsors). As ever, he’s returned to Zanzibar keen to share what he’s learnt with the teachers at ZL4LF.

April 17, 2017: The debate in Dar (Ann and Chloe)

So the two debate teams have returned to Zanzibar!  Five of the advanced students from Safari English Club and a team from Zanzibar Learning 4 Life Foundation along with teachers Chloe, Sadiq and Mohammed went to Dar es Salaam for the Africa Open Schools Debate Championship.  It’s hard to describe how excited they were – they’ve never left the island of Zanzibar and were really looking forward to seeing a big city on the mainland.  As well as being excited, they were nervous too. They were representing their village and the island.  Everyone had practiced hard, but they knew that they’d have a tough job as the competition would be native English speakers or Tanzanians who have a much better English education than they do. 

Everyone loved the ferry journey and approaching the city skyline of Dar was a thrill. The organisers met the team at the port and took them to the Feza Boys Boarding school.  The event was scheduled for the school holiday so the school dorms were available for the debators. The first day consisted of training for the students and the teachers. It turned out that apart from the Zanzibar students, the other competitors were all from private schools.  There was a massive difference not only in English-speaking ability, but also in their training to be analytical, form arguments, knowledge of current affairs and ability to use smart phones/the Internet to find the information they needed to win a debate. On the first day, the Zanzibari students become worried about their ability to participate. However, Mohammed, Sadiq and Chloe had a big pep talk with the students and explained that they were in Dar to enjoy taking part and enjoy the experience.  Winning isn’t everything, especially when you’re not playing on a level field and you’re the newest to speaking English.

The conversation paid off and the students relaxed and had fun.  The format is based on the UK parliament system with a PM, Deputy PM and whip. Each team talks for a total of 28 minutes and has a specific role they have to fulfil in order to score high points. There were also two impromptu debates where the kids only have 30 minutes to prepare a debate on a surprise subject. As adjudicators the teachers were not able to help their teams at all with this, even though they tried to (a tiny bit...) They were hard! One was "This house believes Donald Trump is a one term President" – quite a challenge for the kids from Zanzibar who don't even know who Donald Trump is!

It’s fair to say that it was mind-blowing for them to see a school with so many facilities.  Haroun said that he couldn’t imagine failing an exam if you have all that support. Everything was different.  In Zanzibar there are heavy wooden desks, in Dar there were chairs, individual tables, windows and lots of glass!

When they completed their registration forms they had to list dietary requirements.  They mostly listed chicken and rice.  They couldn’t have imagined that they would have three big meals a day.  They’ve never eaten like that before! The chairs, classrooms, glass buildings... Everything was such a new thing for them. Although Safari English Club lost every debate and were last overall we’re so proud that they kept at it and didn't let it affect them. And their behaviour was impeccable! While other teams cried and complained when they lost, our students remained positive and kept taking the opportunity to learn all that they could. They really are very special young people. One evening they went to the cinema and the shopping mall. It was amazing! They loved taking a lift to the 10th floor and going up and down on an escalator! Everyone was so happy. And on the last day they went to the zoo and met some big African animals.

The results of this massive adventure? They all LOVED the Dar experience and we think the students got a lot from it. It’s given them even more drive and they’re eager to try again another time. The want to have regular debates at Safari English Club and see it as a good way to improve their English and thinking skills. And they made friends with some lovely kids from around Tanzania. Our teachers are now qualified debate adjudicators and know what you have to do to win!  The teachers had their own training and had to judge the debates. We’re happy to report that Chloe won the prize for best new adjudicator!

But better than us telling you what the students got from it, please read the report below from Haroun (aged 17) who is from the village of Unguja Ukuu and has been at Safari English Club for 14 months now. The interview is with teacher Chloe and is unedited.

How did it feel to spend so much time at Feza International School?  It felt great because I met with different friends and got experience to talk in front of people. I got a chance to improve my English as there they talk English at all times. The conditions are good there, and the teachers are good. There I would learn so much more. In a school like that I would get a real chance to learn. My efforts would be turned into good results for sure. There are different kinds of playgrounds… Football pitch, netball and basketball, swimming pool. I would also get time to play. That's what I want.

The food I also liked because it was delicious. It's important to eat 3 meals a day. If people want to really learn they need breakfast, lunch and dinner. If people want to learn the mind can be constant and concentrated if you have eaten.

How did it feel to lose each round of the debating? I felt good. The 1st time we lost it was like training. There were many things I didn't know. When I fell down I learnt many things – that is good. Each round we lost, I got more and my confidence increased. I knew better what I was saying and I could follow the debate rules and got used to talking in front of people.

What were the best things about going to Dar? The attitude of the people from there. Their respect is very good. I made friends from Arusha – we went into their dorm room to discuss about debating. That was good. I liked the debating system they used.

I liked the bedrooms. I slept in a very good condition. I slept with a pillow and could choose to sleep on the bottom or top bunk bed.  I liked our teachers Sadiq, Chloe and Mohammed very much. When we fell down they made us feel good. When we failed they told us not to worry and to enjoy and learn everything. That was good. Sometimes when I failed I worried about what my teachers would think, but when I met them they made me feel good again.

I loved the cinema – just to arrive in Milimani city was amazing and the cinema was very exciting. We watched a film called Life. It was about how people can live, how they create things and can force problems and then how to overcome the problems. I loved Bahari zoo because I saw many animals I have never seen before… Lions, zebras, giraffes, snakes, monkeys.

Anything else you'd like to say?  I want to say thank you to everyone who helped us go to Dar. It was my first time in Dar and when I arrived there I got delicious food and I have never eaten like that. I lived there for 5 days and I didn't expect in my heart I would live like that. And I can say I learnt more than more from there. You helped me to learn so much from there and now I have the experience which means I can speak in front of many people and it has helped me to think. Sometimes we only had 30 minutes to plan a topic which means I had to change the way my mind works. It was very good.