Wednesday December 23: Our family enjoys visiting ZL4LF. Gasica arranged for each of us to meet groups of about 7 students. Each group had a senior student as facilitator who made sure that beginner, intermediate and advanced students all had the opportunity to interact with us. Then “Question Time” style we answered general questions. Ollie’s tattoos are a favourite talking point. Ellie, who's a primary school teacher, is impressed by the motivation of the students and their enthusiasm for speaking English with us.
Christmas Day, December 25: Khadija, one of our favourite teachers decides that she’d like to visit us in Jambiani and she texts to say that the most convenient day would be December 25! The lesson on timekeeping paid off. She arrived early with her niece and grand-daughter, known as “Little Khadija”. Christmas is non-existent in Zanzibar so they were unfamiliar with the trappings of the season. They loved Ollie’s Santa hat and gamely tried it on over their hijabs. Christmas cake from England was shared round and some was set aside to take home to share with the rest of the family. The cake box was a hit with Little Khadija and she was delighted with a sparkly cracker-shaped Christmas card. We sing “Jingle Bells” and paddle in the sea. Although big and little Khadija live near the sea, they had never paddled and declared that they were scared of the ocean.
We drove them home and were invited in to see the family’s 100 broiler chickens and 75 layers that supplement Khadija’s small teacher’s pay. Young broilers are bought from Dar es Salam. Khadija fattens them up in 6 weeks and then they are collected by a van from Stone Town.
Monday January 4: The first day of the new term and we set off to school in good spirits. But there’s no sign of the ultra-reliable Gasica and no answer from his phone. It turns out that he was overseeing the final phase of the construction of ZL4LF’s chicken farm, which will give the students work experience and make money to fund the school. Construction ends shortly and the chickens arrive by the end of the month. A student helps us find Gasica, who had become separated from his phone, a rare occurrence as he usually takes and makes calls non-stop whenever not teaching.
Gasica quickly changed into teaching clothes (a shirt and long trousers) and we set off to school. Over the Christmas break the road out of Fuoni is looking more and more like a war zone. The shops along the road that used to sell everything from bread and chickens to mobile phone top ups have been destroyed to make way for a new road. The dust is incredible and there are even more pot holes caused by the construction vehicles. How people can work in the heat is unimaginable.
The school is full of teachers and children, but the first week of term is all about cleaning rather than learning. Coral rocks lining the school path are being painted white and paper is burning on a smoky fire. The children are brandishing twig brushes, but they don’t make much difference to the dust. We have a long meeting with the teachers and it emerges that although they had spent a lot of time planning the schedule in December, they are still no clearer about which classes we will join. We present the list of students who have signed up for the voluntary class – some are from the secondary school opposite. One of their teachers is fetched and agrees to match our funding for lunch for the students who are staying after school for our classes rather than going home for lunch. The teachers suggest we return on Thursday when they will have a clearer picture of the timetable.
Tuesday January 5: At last! Caroline submits Gasica’s visa application to study TEFL and English for a month in the UK. An appointment is booked at the Visa office in Dar Es Salam for Friday January 15. Gasica is almost beside himself with excitement and declares he will buy new trousers for the occasion. We research options for computer purchase for the school and enter into dialogue with a supplier from Kenya and the One Laptop Per Child organisation. We also prepare a request for funding and submit to the Brighton and Hove Soiree Rotary Club. Fingers crossed.
Thursday January 7: Back to school and there is further discussion of the timetable and the arrangements for dinner. We have a plan for next week but after that it is likely to change. It transpires that the students in Form II are not in school – they are awaiting the results of the November examinations and no-one knows when they will be published. So no school for Form II!
The day ends on an incredibly positive note. The Stone Town Rotary club have just received $12,000 from an American Rotary Club for Gasica to buy a bus for ZL4LF. One of the girls from ZL4LF who went to the USA on a Rotary scholarship so impressed the club that they decided to raise funds for the vehicle. We call Gasica and in spite of the crackly phone line, we can tell that he is probably the happiest man in Zanzibar at that moment.