Saverian (in the blue shirt) and his cousin both live in Bushasha village, where we are building our first school. When our founder, Michael Banobi, visited Tanzania in 2015 and took this photo, neither of these boys had ever attended school. Their parents couldn’t afford the fees charged by the existing local government school for things like uniforms, test papers, and security. During that visit, Saverian clung to Michael like a shadow. “Take me along with you to America,” he said, “so I can go to school!”
Michael took the photo at the top of this post during the same trip, in the middle of the school day. He was surprised and disturbed to see so many children out of school. The purpose of his visit was to assess the village’s educational needs. This was one of several indications that the existing educational system is not working for many children in the village.
Tanzanians in general place a high value on education, and the Wahaya tribe of northwest Tanzania, where Bushasha is located, have traditionally had a reputation for being especially “learned.” But more recently, in villages like Bushasha, schools struggle with large numbers of students and shortages of teachers and resources, so student performance is often low. Few students make it to secondary school (roughly 19% in rural areas of the country as a whole in 2010 according to an Education Policy and Data Center report), and even fewer successfully complete secondary school. Seeing little value in the type of education provided at the local school, some parents conclude that the money required for incidental school fees could be better spent on necessities, and their child’s time could be better spent helping out at home.
The school we are planning in Bushasha village will require no fees of any sort, although we will encourage a contribution toward the cost of educating their children from families who can afford to pay. We intend to provide the kind of education that parents will see as valuable, an education that is both academic and practical, and that will prepare children for a positive and productive future.