Gongali Village School

Gongali Village School
children at the Gongali Village School, built by Primary Schools for Africa in Nov/Dec 2010

Monday, 28 October 2013

UPDATE – 16 OCTOBER 2013 AYALABE VILLAGE SCHOOL – New Classroom 1, 2 Building

Hi All

Greetings from Africa (Tanzania)

The Ayalabe School Opening - First Two Classrooms

Back Row (L to R),  Dorcey, Virginia, Maureen, Suzanne,
Tour Operator Claud Goi and Ginny.
Front Row (L to R) Project Mgr Mathew Sulle, Alan and Greg
On 26th September, I anxiously waited at Kilimanjaro International Airport for the arrival of my wife Maureen and 5 of our friends from Canada.  I was with tour operator Claud Goi and our Project Manager Mathew Sulle, his wife Rose and daughters Lissa and little Maureen. This has been a long anticipated meeting for both Maureens. Little Maureen was named after my wife, and for the past three years, my Maureen has been sending presents and viewing photos of her namesake, but the moment has now arrived to meet in person. The exciting thing about this now is that Maureen did not know her namesake would be at the airport, so when she came through the exit doors and saw her cute little wide-eyed face, she burst into tears. It was an absolutely wonderful moment for both of them, and for the whole group, all of them in Africa for the first time.

Maureen and Maureen

Despite the weariness of 2 – 10 hour flights, the hour-long 4-wheel drive trip to our hotel in Arusha was filled with animated discussion of the adventures to come; the Ayalabe school opening, the safaris, the Zanzibar holiday, and generally the experience of Tanzania, its colourful culture and wonderfully friendly people.

Friday, 27 September. The group rested, or at least tried to, at the Outpost lodge, but was too excited to be there. So Claud taxied everyone to Arusha’s busy city-centre marketplace to experience the incredibly varied and colorful stalls of local vendors.  Later in the afternoon, we invited Mathew’s girls for a swim and snacks at the lodge’s pool; a rare treat for them.

On Saturday morning, after the 3-hour drive across the Maasai plains, we arrived at the Gongali school for a drop-in visit only, at least that was the intention, but Mayor Peter Hayshi would have none of that. No, all the plugs were pulled out. Peter, along with 50 – 60 villagers; pupils, men and women, joyously greeted us in their traditional way; overwhelming us with singing, dancing and offering plants that symbolized healthy future crop harvests. 

Villagers greeting us at Gongali
Maureen taken into the dance at Gongali 

After a tour through the teacher residences classrooms, we were invited to speeches and exchanges of gifts in the dining hall. The highlight for the village was our donation of a few soccer balls.

Suzanne donated her daughter's
ball to the school
celebrating a soccer ball donation

Within minutes after that, the men and children rushed out to the fields to indulge their neglected skills. Opportunities to play sports in the community are few and far between.

adults playing
children playing

Sunday 29 September 2013. The big day has arrived; the official opening of the new school at Ayalabe, where we are starting with a 2 classroom building. The celebration was a repeat of the previous day’s greeting at Gongali, only several times bigger, with more local villagers, students, and VIP’s.

the greeting crowd
Our land cruisers were blocked a hundred meters short of the site’s entrance by over 100 villagers chanting and “warble-whooping” (it’s the best I can do to describe the high-pitched tongue rolling sound the women make) as we approached along the dusty clay dirt road. We were enthusiastically hugged and given the same plant offerings, and then led to the new 2-classroom building, all freshly painted and looking quite resplendent. 

Adjacent was the canopied area for speeches and entertainment, but first we were required to experience the traditional initiation ceremony inside one of the classrooms. 

classroom initiation chant and prayer
An elder cheer-led about 80 – 90 crammed villagers with repeated chants that filled the room with a powerful resonance, and that was followed by each one of us having to drink “busaa”, a fermented maize concoction, from a large wooden bowl. The reactions from most of us were respectful, albeit somewhat comical.

drinking "busaa"

Outside in the canopied area, we were entertained with students from local schools warmly welcoming us with sweetly sung melodies. One was “jazzed” up (the students needing, I suppose, to break from tradition), but the highlight of course was the Tanzanian jump-dance. Unlike ones I experienced on previous celebrations, this one was choreographed extremely well.

Tanzanian traditional jump-dance
students singing for us

The impassioned speech from District Chairman Lazaro Titus, again, as in previous addresses, emphasized the need for kids to go to school, for parents to allow that, and for the community to support this project. As I mentioned in previous updates, this is a joint venture by Primary Schools For Africa Society and the Karatu District. The celebration ended with our donation of soccer balls and each one of us being “robed” in colourful maasai blankets to induct us into the community.

the head table speeches

The whole affair was an unprecedented and richly rewarding cultural adventure for the visiting Canadians, and for me, it was even more of a treat to listen to their reactions; “emotionally overwhelming”, “unforgettable experience", "a warm beautiful culture”, “such friendliness”, “joyful and colourful beyond expectations”, to describe a few. I previously experienced 8 or 9 of these celebrations, and I was still in awe of the strength of the community spirit in these small struggling villages and their understanding of the importance of education.

It’s impossible to relate the powerful effect of this experience to others back home; one simply has to come here to experience it first-hand. For me, and I’m sure for the others that have visited these schools and villages, it has been a life-changing experience. And after each building is complete I always return to Canada with renewed energy to promote and fund-raise for the next one (or two).   

So this is the start of yet another 8-building school project that we are now committed to completing in a reasonable time frame. The first two-classroom building is complete, the District is in the process of building the remaining two 2-classroom buildings opposite ours, and we are tasked with the funding and construction of the next phase of our responsibility – the Teacher Residences. We hope to start construction of the first Teacher Residence building in November, yes, next month.

Thank you so much to all the supporters who have generously donated funds for this building. The children of Africa bless you. Please continue to support.

End of Update 

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