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.

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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:

https://www.facebook.com/BORABudoforareason/posts/283668165489006

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

https://www.facebook.com/BORABudoforareason/posts/283674492155040

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:

https://secure.thebiggive.org.uk/donation/to/66072/28839/brighton-and-hove-soiree-rotary-settlement-(zanzibar-learning-4-life-foundation)/new-school-in-zanzibar

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 😂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

March 18, 2017: A New Teacher (Ann)

The advanced students are on their way to Dar es Salaam and we can’t wait to hear about their adventures!  They’ve worked so hard to prepare for the Africa Open Schools Debate Championship.  The last day before they left, the team practiced in front of the rest of the Safari English Club. One of the debate topics is particularly relevant to Zanzibari students: This House Believes that the Use of Swahili as the primary language for Education in Tanzania will Enhance the Quality of Learning Content… this is one of the big challenges that students in deprived rural communities face – English language teaching is so poor that it limits what students can learn about other subjects, which have to be taught in English, in spite of the limitations of the teachers.  People from the village of Unguja Ukuu hardly ever visit the mainland – the students in the debate team are leaving the island for the first time.  It will also be the first time the students see sky scrapers and go on a ferry.  There’s some extra money in the budget for them to visit a few tourist attractions while they’re in the city.

We’re delighted that volunteer Chloe is back in Zanzibar and is accompanying the team to Dar es Salaam.  The parents of the girls in the debate team are happier that they have a female teacher with them.  Chloe is delighted to be back in Unguja Ukuu for the month of April – she’s impressed with the increasing confidence of the students and how hard they are working.

We now employ four local teachers, all of whom have been trained by Gasica at ZL4LF. Khamis is the latest recruit to join the Zanzibar Schools Project teaching English in Unguj Ukuu.  He’s been studying English for 5 years now and started in Form One as he knew he’d need English to pass his exams. He came to ZL4LF and met Gasica and other great English speakers which inspired him to work as hard as possible and follow his dream to become an English teacher himself. He now teaches beginners at ZL4LF and is guiding the Beginner 2 class at Unguja Ukuu through the fun and pitfalls of the English language.

Khamis understands what it’s like to be a beginner and was at first very shy at speaking English. He learnt a lot of his English through watching films and interviews, and by reading books.   He says that slowly his confidence increased.  He now takes the opportunity to converse with English speakers whenever he can and is keen to bring these techniques into the classroom at Unguja Ukuu. Khamis is a great teacher and is a natural with children.  “I love teaching at Safari English Club because I myself was given the opportunity to learn English for free and now it’s my time to give back to the community”. Khamis believes that learning English is for everyone, not just children and he welcomes young and old students alike. “I want to help the students at Unguja Ukuu learn English and have fun on the way!”

It's now the rainy season in Zanzibar.  But it doesn’t stop Gasica and the teachers reaching the village in the Rav 4…here they are navigating the rains to reach the village.  Gasica has just returned from the second part of his Management Course in Arusha that’s designed for Tanzanian headmasters.  He enjoys both the live training and the follow up personal study.  Highlights this time were learning more about motivating his team (we think he could teach that himself), achieving SMART objectives and communications.  As usual, Gasica has been busy sharing his new knowledge with the team at Zanzibar Learning 4 Life Foundation.

 

 

March 11, 2017: The Dhow Race (Ann)

Last year the village dhow race was one of the higlights of our visit to Zanzibar. So you can imagine how delighted we were when one of the Safari English Club students (who is a fisherman) asked us if we’d like to attend another race.  This would be in our honour!  We offered to pay the prize money and it was agreed thatWednesday’s tide would be favourable for a 3pm start.  School finishes at 1pm and we’d have time for a final meeting with the teachers, community leader and the school governor before the race.  Meanwhile the students could have lunch and walk to the beach.

The event snowballed and 18 boats from Unguja Ukuu and surrounding vilages took part.  The sailors decided that instead of awarding first, second and third prizes, the prize money would be divided equally between all the boat crews.  This seemed an excellent idea.  Arriving at the beach, we were greeted by a very loud sound system playing some energetic dance music.  Gasica and Sadiq entertained the students with some cool moves.  A lady passing by with firewood on her head stopped for a groove.  Then the white ladies took a turn on the dance floor. Caroline’s students took it in turn to dance with her. The boys executed amazing somersaults.  The girls posed in their burkinis and the rest of the village turned up to party.   Caroline blew the starter’s whistle and the Dhows sailed so far that they were nearly out of sight.  More people arrived and the beach was full! After an hour or so the Dhows raced back – the winner was escorted onto the beach by motor boats.  We presented soft drinks to the first, second and third boats and yet more photographs were taken!

The Dhow Race is an amazing experience. We don’t often come across music and dancing in Zanzibar.  Public music and dancing in the village seems to be reserved for weddings and other special events which is sad as the children love to dance. Daily life is pretty hard and pleasures are few and far between.  So when there’s fun to be had, it’s grasped with both hands.  And we’re so happy to be welcomed as part of any festivities.

We had two wrap up meetings with the teachers. They are so polite and took time to say how much they appreciated every improvement that we’ve been able to secure at the school with the support of the Rotary Clubs in Brighton and Stone Town.  The computer room has seen massive improvements and now has a tiled floor, 7 working laptops and the Kio Kits. 

There are English/Swahili dictionaries aplenty.  Everyone is excited about the debate team travelling to Dar. The girls who won scholarships to boarding school are a major motivation to the younger students. Gasica is keen to run a session with the teachers to encourage them to reflect on how they could improve their teaching practice to achieve more success with more students. He wants to brainstorm with the teachers to agree how best to support the students who have the potential to pass their Standard VI exams. The village leader exhorts the teachers to “work harder” but it’s really a question of “working smarter” and encouraging the teachers to try new approaches to teaching.  There’s some hope with the new science teacher, who speaks good English and is motivated to teach creatively.  The trainee teacher who we’ve got to know over the last few weeks has some innovative ideas.  But sadly lessons consists of writing copiously on the blackboard and students copying down notes without understanding what they mean.  We are setting up a structured “Standard VI” Life/study skills course which will help students prepare for their exams and give them a more equal footing with the students in Stone Town who have access to more opportunities. 

The final session with all the students was incredibly moving.  Many of them had written  letters for us to read on the plane saying how much Safari English Club means to them.   The letters are beautifully illustrated and many of them are folded into even more decorative envelopes. Lukman, who is the head boy and who has been at our classes since November 2015, included two photographs of himself – one that I’d taken of him last year, printed out on poor quality paper in black and white (the colour ink had run out) and one of him playing football.  They were clearly amongst his most treasured possessions and by giving back the photo he had from last year he was making a point about how important Safari English Club is to him and how he’d treasured the photograph of him.                                                                                                                                                                  Now we’re back home we can reflect on our second visit.  When we arrived in Zanzibar we saw amazing progress. The students’ English language skills have improved immensely – the beginners are now intermediate and the intermediates are advanced! Thanks to great teaching by Gasica, Chloe, Sadiq and Mohammed.  The more advanced students relish the fact that they can now talk communicate their hopes and frustrations to us and the younger students are brimming with confidence and enthusiasm.

Personal highlights of this visit to Zanzibar

ANN:  I loved running lessons that were inspired by classes I observed in the UK.  The Great Catapult experiment and the Tinga Tinga Art Class were just fantastic.  It marked a big shift from last year, when I thought we needed to “Teach English as a Foreign Language” now I think the children also need the opportunity to be creative and to develop analytical skills.  “Fun Mondays” were a highlight when students could watch Disney films or join me for Art and Craft sessions.  The students learn so much English when they are “doing” and they don’t realise they are “learning” too!  The arrival of the dictionaries was another highlight and it was great to see the younger children taking responsibility for their own learning and making their own mini dictionaries.

CAROLINE:  I particularly enjoyed working with the advanced group, most of whom were with us last year.  Teaching ‘work readiness’ which covered various skills relevant to the work place as well as a good smattering of English language was stimulating.  My favourite activity was the teamwork game that Gasica had learned on his management course.  Students had a great time and were very competitive.  The prize of 1000 TSH to the winners was well appreciated.  Mock interviews with guest interviewers gave valuable experience to students as well as exposing them to new faces from the outside world. Teaching the basic computing course where students got to grips with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint proved to be exciting as well.  Most of the students managed to type their CVs, written in the course of ‘work readiness’ into the computer.  A very satisfying result when you consider most of them had never used a keyboard before.  I was delighted to see the donated laptops put to good use.  English language training highlights included students reading aloud using material from the Kio Kits (loved by the students) and having their voices recorded and played back so they could hear how they sounded.  Exciting for all of us. The screening of ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ as a highlight and it was great to explore the subjects of culture, religion, gender, generation and personal ambition.  Much animated discussion in English ensued. 

March 4, 2017: One Dictionary per Child (Ann)

It’s hard to describe the excitement of one dictionary per child, but today we did! Children are so used to sharing that they never have exclusive use of anything.  That’s why the Kio Kits are so popular and now they have a rival – the dictionary! Thanks to My Book Buddy, we have some great books and LOTS of dictionaries.  Every student in my class could read a book, look up new words and add them to their personal dictionaries.  They can also look up other words they don’t know but come across in school. It helps so much when all the teaching is done in a foreign language and the teachers don’t always know what words mean. We have so many dictionaries that we gave 7 dictionaries to the teachers, one each for all the English teachers.  We all shared our bounty with Zanzibar Learning 4 Life Foundation.

There was a slight misunderstanding about how they were getting to Zanzibar from Dar es Salam.  They suddenly turned up at the port on Thursday morning when we were at school, miles away. Gasica made a few phone calls and they were safely collected. Later in the day we went to retrieve them from the live poultry section of the market and Gasica bought a live duck which he arranged to be delivered butchered and ready for supper!

Last year we saw the arrival of the TOMS shoes.  They are donated by the Dutch shoe company and the kids are all measured so they get the correct size. The TOMS team also give a lecture on foot hygiene.  There’s some debate about whether the donation is a good idea as it may reduce the need for locally made shoes. However, the reality is that many school children are barefoot or they wear Chinese plastic flip flops.  So TOMS shoes, with their robust plastic soles stack up well against the other options when you have to walk a long way to school each day.

One remarkable outcome from the visit to the Permaculture facility in Fumba is that the students want to start their own sustainable business, using the concept that Gasica has developed at Zanzibar Learning 4 Life Foundation.  One student has a large area of land and he’s thinking of how to irrigate it so that they can start farming.  We visited the site and it looks promising, as long as the water problem can be solved.

We found the UK penfriends scheme was proving difficult to run due to the turnover of students in the UK school.  So instead we’re going to collaborate on regular projects.  The first one was for the Zanzibari students to describe their daily routines.  The Beginners class was happy to take on the challenge and my rucksack is full of colourful illustrations for the English children.

On Tuesday we had some exciting news to share.  The Rotary Club of Zanzibar, Stone Town, has kindly agreed to sponsor two teams to travel to Dar es Salam to participate in the First Africa Open Schools Debate Championships that will be held in Dar es Salam in April. The event includes a day of training by a international expert.  The titles of the debates for the first round look fascinating; my favourite is “This house believes that the use of Swahili as the primary language for education in Tanzania will enhance the quality of education content.” All the advanced class want to participate, but there are only 5 places in the team.  So the class took matters into their own hands and self-selected their best English speakers, who coincidentally are the students who attend Safari English Club most regularly! The event will include teams from other countries and the students from the Safari English club are really looking forward to making new friends from around the world.  It will be the first time for all of them that they will leave the island.  Their teachers are equally excited that a team from Unguja Ukuu can take part in an international event.  Thank you to the Rotary club for making it possible.

Caroline and Gasica ran the final “Work Readiness” module and certificates were awarded to the students who completed the course and who are now able to use the computer as well.  The students want more time to improve their computer skills and it’s a challenge to share 4 laptops between 15 students.  However, 3 more laptops have been repaired and will enter circulation next week.  Haroun has now been entrusted fairly managing a system for one laptop to go out on loan.  There’s much more to be said about our last couple of days at school, but we’re saving those stories for next week!

February 25, 2017: Preventing Child Marriage (Ann)

Promptly at 1.30pm on Monday afternoon Safari English Club gathered to enjoy photos of themselves at Fumba Town Services and having their first swimming lesson in Stone Town.  The boys must have gulped down their lunches in 10 minutes flat as they rushed to claim front seats! We discussed impressions of the visit and what information was relayed back to their families.  They’ve really embraced permaculture concepts such as improving the soil and not burning waste.  Their favourite things at the site were the soil, the plants, the flowers, the rocks, the chickens, the kitchen and, most interestingly, the toilets! The students loved making thank you posters on the theme of “The Environment”...for some reason tennis players in short skirts featured in three of the montages.  Inevitably there was much amusement when one student found the photos of a naked tribe featured in “The National Geographic”!

 The advanced students put together more detailed presentations on Permaculture and several students are interested in how to irrigate a plot of land that one of them owns. They each had the opportunity to give a short talk on three things they had learned from the visit to Fumba and at least one way in which they intended to change their lives inspired by the permaculture project. Composting and improving soil quality were topics that resonate with young people from this rural community.

Teamwork is important in working life and isn’t something that students experience at school.  It’s this week’s topic in “Work Readiness” and Gasica had a fun activity that he’d learnt on the Arusha Management Course to illustrate the concept. Students were divided into two teams.  The object of the game was to turn playing cards over in a particular sequence, running from one end of the room to the other to accomplish it.  All communication had to be in English!  Use of Kiswahili resulted in instant disqualification.  Competition was hot, to say the least.  There were three rounds, between which the teams were encouraged to do a post mortem and come up with improvements.  The team which lost the first round improverd quite dramatically and won the third.  More to this than ‘third time lucky’.   Just to make it really interesting, Gasica offered the equivalent of 75p to each member of the winning team.  The conclusion:  you need a plan, a strategy and good communication to win. And nothing works as well as a good incentive!

The week ended with a talk by  representatives of the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA). The group aims to empower women and children by providing legal aid services, lobbying on policy matters and awareness-raising.  We invited them to speak, but weren’t really sure what they’d talk about.  It turned out to be an inspired choice.  The topic was child marriage and how to prevent it.  Tanzania has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world. 37% of girls in Tanzania are married before they turn 18 and in rural areas girls can be forced to get married as young as 11 years old.  The marriage generates an income for a poor family through a dowry which is then used by the boys in the family to secure a wife.  There is also a practice known as Nyumba ntobu which involves an older, wealthier woman paying a bride price for a young girl to become her wife. A man is then chosen to impregnate the girl and any children who are born belong to the older woman. When girls have to leave school due to failing their exams then they are particularly vulnerable to early marriage. The students were fascinated by the talk and they took copious notes about the causes and prevention of underage marriage. The headmaster, who is not usually known for his dynamism, wandered over to find out what was going on and said that this is a great topic for the students to learn about.  He dusted off the visitors’ book and got the contact details of ZAFELA so they may be back in Unguja Ukuu soon! 

Thursday was also notable as the day when lots of books arrived!  The new school text books financed by the Milele Foundation, arrived in an open air truck.  It was just lucky that it wasn’t a rainy day.  Students were seconded to unload the truck and we look forward to seeing the new resources in the classroom. 

February 18, 2017: Visit to Permaculture in Fumba Town (Ann)

It’s festival time in Zanzibar!  In addtion to the amazing music festival, Sauti Za Busara, it’s been a great time in Unguju Ukuu.  More exam results have been published and 6 girls from Safari English Club have passed their Form II examinations which are taken in English.  These girls are 15-16 years old.  If they didn’t pass the exams, they would have to leave school.  Before the results were announced they looked like moody teenagers anywhere.  Now they’ve passed, they can’t stop smiling!  They ditch the old blue and yellow school uniform and are priviledged to wear these sophisticated black and white numbers.  The girls asked for hard-backed manuscript books as a celebratory present – we were happy to oblige and Gail Arnesson from the Rotary Club of Zanzibar, Stone Town, presented the prizes.

Gail helped with two classes - she told the advanced class the story of the local boy who was selected to become a Dive Master.  She focused on the skills he learnt and the qualities he needs to be successful in his career.  The talk helped to reinforce discussions from the “Work Readiness” course.  Gail also rana mock interview for Haroun who missed last week’s interviews with visitor Leanne.  We were delighted that Gail got the opportunity to use the Kio Kits with the Intermediate class as the Rotary Club in Stone Town, Zanzibar, played such a bit part in helping us get the Kio Kits.  The students so love using the Kio Kits, either as a group exercise or for individual work.

Work readiness has completed the first part which focused on how to find a job, so now it’s time to think about working successfully.  So far we’ve covered induction, trial periods, polcies and procedures.  Next week, we’ll discuss working relationships, teamwork and customer care.  Certificates will be given to those who successfully complete the course.  Computer classes have moved on to using Powerpoint.  It will be interesting to see what sorts of presentations the students produce! 

This month the outing was to Fumba Town Services to learn about Permaculture.  In Zanzibar there are many environmental problems, not least of which includes burning rubbish and inappropriate planting techniques.  Our idea was to start the week with preparing the younger students for the visit and we’d developed a simple presentation on the cycle of life and environmental topics to be followed by measuring the biodiversity of the school gardens...but then it rained.  It rained too hard to be able to go outside and measure.  Plan B was to watch a film on African wildlife.  But it rained so hard that there was a power cut!  There wasn’t really a Plan C, so we reverted to Plan A, but without the illustrative slides!  Fortunately Tuesday was much better and we were able to go out into the gardens.  The idea of creating a grid system using string didn’t really work and we couldn’t agree how many butterflies had been spotted. But we did conclude that there was a lot of different life in the gardens and that everyone was excited about visiting Fumba!

Three buses were needed to take the 90+ students to Fumba Town Services.  Now we have 4 classes enrolled, the logistics for outings are more comploated and more expensive! The students were divided into groups of 8, each with an otlder student in charge.  They were named after an animal, which mostly worked except that the warthogs decided that they’d rather be crocodiles and no-one wanted to be kangaroos! The students loved meeting the apprentices and took a keen interest in how to develop a rich soil through composting and particularly enjoyed the recycling area.  They were hands on in mixing the soil and learning what to feed chickens to keep them healthy. Many of the students took  notes and we’re looking forward to Monday when we find out what they told their families about the visit. 

Everyone loves going in the sea but we still don’t have many swimmers as the students haven’t had formal lessons.  Ali, who is a great swimming teacher, bravely agreed to take on the challenge of teaching 90 the principles of breathing in water, gliding and leg kicks.  By the end of the session most had got the hang of the basic pionts that will help them to swim.  We’re going to talk to Ali about further help with swimming instruction over the next few weeks. We hope you enjoy the photos of fabulous Fumba Town Services and the swimming lessons on the next page!

By the way, the kids are still very excited about the goggles that were sent over from the UK by Amber.  This week some of them penned some gorgeous “Thank you” letters.

 

February 11, 2017: Exam Success! (Ann)

We set up after-school English language club in Unguja Ukuu because no student from the Primary School had ever passed their Standard VI exams, which they take around the age of 12.  The students take the majority of their exams in English even though Swahili is their native language and the school teachers don’t know enough English to be able to teach. With the help of some excellent teaching by Gasica and Chloe, we can now share the most amazing news. Two girls, Akama and Bahati, passed their exams with such great marks that they have been awarded scholarships to boarding schools on the Tanzanian mainland, where the education will be significantly better than they could experience in Zanzibar. For girls, boarding school is particularly important as it prevents getting pressurised into early marriage or child minding.   

The local teachers arranged an impromptu meeting to thank us for helping the girls pass their exams.  Apparently one day the girls heard that they’d passed their exams and the next day someone from the education ministry took them to Dar es Salam.  It is the first time they’ve been to the mainland, so a big adventure.  Sadly there was no time to say goodbye to their friends and teachers and they’ve been allocated to different schools. We’re hoping that their favourite teacher, Chloe, who played such an important part in their success, can visit them while she’s on the mainland and take them a gift on our behalf. The students in Safari English Club are very motivated by the success of the girls – it shows them what can be achieved by hard work and determination!

We were delighted to be invited to the launch of new text books and teachers’ books for Standard I to IV.  Currently the students don’t have text books and the books their teachers have are full of inaccuracies.  The new books were commissioned by the Milele Foundation and were expertly edited by the Oxford University Press. There are 200,000 books waiting to be distributed to schools around the island. The roll out may be challenging as the teachers will be asked to teach in a way they aren’t familiar with and don’t feel comfortable with.  Zanzibar Schools Project teacher Mohammed attended the launch and is ready to coach the teachers in Unguja Ukuu when the books reach the village.

The Work Readiness course continues to prove very popular with students and is on target to finish in early March.  Current topics include writing CVs, letters of application that win jobs  and interview skills.  In computer skills training the students are also learning how to format CVs and letters of application on the laptops that we’ve brought over from the UK. 

This week Leanne Winterton, avisitor from the UK, kindly ran mock interviews so that students experienced being asked questions by someone they don’t know. Leanne was impressed by the way the students handled the interviews – it’s not the cultural norm to talk about your personal qualities here!  Many thanks Leanne for searching interviews conducted in a facilitative style! Now we’re focusing on spoken English with students reading personal statements from their CVs into a recording device and having the opportunity to hear their own voice, for the first time!  We hope to improve pronunciation and diction. 

The lower intermediates love using dictionaries – it gives them a sporting chance to understand me!  While they’re learning the English, I update my Swahili/English notebook for future quizzes.  Then they have great fun correcting my pronunciation.  It feels like we’re on a learning journey together. At the training course I heard the idea of asking each child to start a personal dictionary.  Duly equipped with 26 small address books (helpfully the letters of the alphabet are cut into the pages), I shared the plan.  Nobody cared that the front of the notebooks said “Addresses” not “Dictionary”, the important thing was that they would each have their own book. There was much excitment and I was thanked by a rendition of the alphabet song and “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”!  My class has a reputation for being the noisiest, but on Thursday it was the quietest – the students went through various exercise books and used the dictionary to create their own books.

We love having our UK friends involved in what we’re doing.  Thank you Sheelagh Dunk for the origami-inspired fortune tellers (you must remember them from the school playground!) After following various folding instructions the students were able to tell each other their fortunes.  Much laughter when they got the fortunes “You will get married” and “You will have four children”.

Amber, a Suffolk teenager raised money to buy goggles on ebay and sent them out to us.  We’re hoping to arrange swimming lessons soon.  There’s widespread fear of the sea here, few people can swim and there are many drownings when fishing boats capsize. Students can only swim when we’re present so it’s always a great occasion. The goggles from the UK made it extra special.  Hope you enjoy the photos on the next page!

If you want to see the really good photos taken by Richard Harris, our friend and professional photographer, please visit http://www.bigbamboo.photo/zanzibar-zsp for the photos of the students and http://www.bigbamboo.photo/zanzibar for the Zanzibar gallery. Thank you Amber and Richard!

February 3, 2017: The Great Catapult Experiment (Ann)

The great catapult experiment....it’s quite simple...students learn about Medieval catapults and construct their own catapults using a ping pong ball as a missile. The lesson plan says students measure how far their projectile travels and modify their designs accordingly. Results are recorded,  conclusions are drawn and the activity is written up as a scientific experiment.  What could possibly go wrong? I got the idea from observing a lesson at a UK primary school.  The English students happily engaged with the experiement and I wanted their Zanzibar counterparts to have the same opportunity.  You’d never have this type of lesson here due to lack of resources, large class sizes and the tradtion of rote learning rather than experience-based learning.

Methodology
You’re probably not surprised to learn that there are quite a few differences between running this in the UK and in Zanzibar!  In the UK there  were 2 adults and 30 children in one room grouped around tables designed for team working. In Unguju Ukuu there were 75 students and 2 adults spread over 2 classrooms where the wooden desks are so heavy you can’t move them.  It turned out there was only one responsible adult as Sadiq was more interested in building his own catapult than supervising a class.  Our friend Richard Harris was darting around, but he was focused on taking these beautiful photos rather than getting involved in the experiment. Meanwhile Gasica and Caroline were powering through “Work Readiness” training (part 3) and just occasionally stopping by to find out what all the noise was about.  Due to a limited amount of equipment (10 coloured sticks, 1 ping pong ball, 3 elastic bands, sticky tape and a pair of scissors per team), we divided the students into groups of 5 or 6.  With the benefit of hindsight, smaller groups would have been better. We attempted to get equal numbers of older and younger students in each team. For cultural reasons boys and girls are always separated.  They sit in different areas of the classroom and never work together.  There’s always lots ofspirited competition between the boys and the girls and yes Sadiq and I did crank up the male/female competitiveness shamelessly.

Results:  Ping pong balls proved to be quite a novelty; 3 of 11 balls didn’t survive the class.  Much English was used in trying to elicit more equipment from me, but we stuck to the rules and it was only 3 elastic bands, even if they broke.A girls team completed the challenge first.  A good half an hour before any other team.  Their ping pong ball also traveled the furthest – 6.9 metres!  Seven of 11 groups successfully made catapults in the time allocated.  All 4 boys teams made successful catapults, but only 5 girls teams made successful catapults (but everyone claimed they would have done if they’d had more time). 

Conclusions: The highspot was a chaotic and ruthlessly competitive finale.  It was taken over by the boys and their triumphant war dances.  Teacher Sadiq proudly fired his catapult and did the wildest war dance. The winning girls team declined to participate in the finale and preferred to rest on their laurels for completing the task so quickly. One boy said it made him as happy as he feels after a piece of cake. 

And the differences between teaching this class in the UK and in Zanzibar? Well the catapults looked much the same. Initially the Zanzibari students were perpelexed by the lack of direction, but they soon formed cohesive teams to complete the exercise and sent out spies to see what other teams were doing. The novelty of the experiment combined with exotic ping pong balls made this the highlight of the week for everyone. As they do in life, the Zanzibar students find extraordinary delight in very little.  Richard and I couldn’t stop smiling. The next day everyone settled back onto their hard wooden benches and wrote up the experiment learning quite a bit of English along the way.  As a reward for hard work they loved reliving the great catapult experiment by watching Richard’s fabulous photos on TV.

Sorry Caroline and Gasica that the experiment has left no time for the great work that they’ve been doing, but they can make up for lack of air time next week!

 

January 28, 2017: Work readniess begins (Ann)

The week started with the second module of “Work Readiness” for the advanced class.  The first session generated much enthusiasm due to the amount of English learned as well as to the practical significance of the topic.  This week’s class was concerned with skills, qualities, attitudes, experience and qualifications.  Students were asked to speak to the class about their skills and qualities, their job aspirations, and what training they would need to gain the skills needed.  The demand is for two work readiness sessions next week!  Logisctically it’s a bit of a challenge as we need an extra teacher to cover the intermediate class so that both Caroline and Gasica can run “Work Readiness”.  Gasica is already planning to run the course at ZL4LF.

As part of the planning for the trip, Caroline had packed the DVD ‘Bend it like Beckham’. It proved to be an inspired choice as the majority of the class love football. The film stimulated animated discussion around gender, culture, generation, friendship and aspiration. They were surprised to learn that there’s a big English-speaking Indian population in the UK. The Sikh wedding scene along with the clubbing scene were the cause of much laughter.  It proved a brilliant teaching aid for our 14-18 year olds – we find that if the subject matter really grabs the students it overcomes any reticence to express themselves in English.

Currently we have 4 working laptops  at the school.  In addition there are 3 in the sick bay, waiting for the local computer expert to work some magic.  (Likewise the printer is resting up!)  Regardless, computer lessons are very popular with the advanced class.   Computer skills, along with English language proficiency, are seen as being essential to improve one’s life prospects.  So, large groups huddle round the laptops and Caroline works hard to ensure that everyone has a fair turn and that the quicker students support the rest of the class. Most students have no experience with a keyboard let alone a computer. We have them working in Microsoft Word, writing reviews of ‘Bend it Like Beckham’, which they watched on the previous day.  We also looked at adding pictures and graphics to documents.  Hopefully, we will have the INTERNET here one day soon!

Due to the failings of the educational system in Zanzibar, Gasica left school with few opportunities.  He’s self-taught but relishes learning especially as part of a group. So you can imagine how excited he was to be invited by The Goodall Foundation to join a conference in Arusha for Tanzanian head teachers on the topics of leadership and effective management. So he’s been on the mainland for the last 4 days, the only delegate from Zanzibar.  We’re pleased to report that support from Brighton and Hove Soiree Rotary club enabled him to attend and that the course was a huge success.  There was a bit of re-packing at the airport to make room for the obligatory Zanzibar spice selection pack/exotic Christmas decoration.

We had a couple of phone calls from Gascia to check that we were all on track without him. English language teaching in Unguja Ukuu didn’t stop just because Gasica was off the island. He arranged for Khamis to cover his class for the week. There was an official handover meeting and Khamis was left with instructions to ensure the intermediate class mastered at least 20 impressive adjectives and the present simple tense by the time Gasica returns!  Khamis proved an inspiration to the students – he’s just left school and is waiting for his results, but we think his English is excellent.  He’s also learning German at Zanibar Learning 4 Life Foundation and after just a week of lessons with German volunteers he can chat awary in German.  He really enjoyed using the Kio Kits and the class enjoyed reading a story aloud to him.

On Friday we picked up Gasica from the airport, still buzzing with ideas from the course. He has a structured plan of follow up to the course which includes goal setting and mentoring by one of the Tanzanian trainers.  There are two more residential parts to the course, one in March and one in May.  He particularly enjoyed the focus on teamwork and looking at working smarter.  Gasica says that some people in Tanzania believe they can’t succeeed and have the excuse “this is Africa” but the course gave out a clear message that there’s no excuse for not being successful. Gasica is keen to introduce “reflective practice” into his life and will be thinking about what he’s going to do different every year.  Although considering the many achievements and changes he’s made in his life, we think he’s a natural reflective thinker!

Gasica can’t wait to hold a meeting with the team at ZL4LF to share what he’s learnt on the course.  He’s also going to have a meeting with his community to present the developments at Zanzibar L4LF.  There’s some exciting news on the chicken farm front too – the recent visit from the CoCo Foundation and Food 4 Africa has led togenerous funding for a new dormitory, a store, a new batch of chickens and food!

So, all in all, a great week in Tanzania!