Gongali Village School

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

Saturday, 13 December 2014


Edith Gvora High School Grand Opening
Gongali Village, Karatu, Tanzania

 December 11, 2014

Member of Parliament Hon Rev. Israel Natse on left;
District Executive Director Moses Mabula on right

the audience, many of whom will be future students at this school
The grand opening took place on 5 December, the day after I arrived at Karatu. Unlike previous openings of school buildings attended by only middle level politicos, this one was different; the Member of Parliament, Mr Israel Natse and the District Executive Director, Mr Moses Mabula arrived, demonstrating the significance of this project. And it was certainly that; phase 1 of a new high school with 4 classrooms, and administration building and a modern toilet building. On my part, I also invited two English holidayers I met on the plane , Mike Hughes and Peter Coleman, who had expressed a keen interest in experiencing the ceremonies. 

Alan's speech; Mathew translating
At my turn to speak after several standard political speeches, I thought I would start out with a simple opening greeting, the first line of their national cultural song; “Tanzania, Tanzania, nakupenda kwa moyo wote”. Surprisingly, as if to a cultural cue, all the seated kids in the audience stood up and sang the complete song. Not what I intended, but a delightful outcome. Following is an excerpt of my speech:

“You may be wondering so let me tell the story of how we chose the name of the school.  Edith Gvora is the wife of Mr Tony Gvora from Victoria, Canada. She passed away one year ago. Mr Gvora wanted to show not only his deep love for his wife Edith but his appreciation of her life of humanitarian work, so the result is this wonderful school named in memory of her. Next year you may be able to meet Mr Gvora when he comes to visit a class in progress. And we know that he will be very impressed not only with the quality of these buildings but the enthusiasm of the new students pursuing their educational dreams…”
boys and girls dance and singing

A group of boys and girls then treated us to very rhythmic singing. That  was followed by the customary “jump dance”, a circle of men and women jumping up and down to energetic drum-pounding by several women. The two English guests and I were invited to join in , and to this day, my efforts to match the changing beats of the jumping continue to amuse the locals.

We then did the official ribbon-cutting to boisterous cheers and whistles, toured the buildings and lastly, were interviewed by Tanzania’s Star TV. 

Star TV interview of Alan, Mathew and
District Executive Director Moses Mabula
The Administration Building
All four completed new buildings.
Two 2-classroom buildings in centre, Admin Bldg at left, Toilet Building at righ

Not enough applause can be given to builder Restus Ernest for the outstanding quality and successful scheduling of this project. The level of workmanship of every trade is unprecedented relative to our previous projects; smoother plastering, increased structural concrete and foundation work, better trusses, higher quality doors, windows, hardware, and even the choice of PVC gutters over the standard rustable metal ones. It has been a rarity in my 35 years of design and building to have witnessed such professionalism, problem-solving initiative, leadership and respect from sub trades. THANK YOU, RESTUS!!
I chatted with Mike and Peter after everyone left. Their beaming smiles said it all; an unforgettable and unprecedented experience for them.  Their 200 USD gift for the school was greatly appreciated. 

L to R; Peter Coleman, Alan, Mike Hughes,
Builder Restus Ernest
Regarding the project’s process, this phase one is only the start. The village and local government have so much to do. The erosion gully was one major problem and a local work crew managed to fill it in nicely, but much remains; landscaping, planting, electricity and water supply, and the problem of registration of the school without the required laboratory facilities. Everyone is very optimistic though, and willing to work hard to ensure success. For example, the District Education Officer is proposing to use one of the classrooms as an interim laboratory. We’ll have to see how that pans out.

December 20th is my visit to Qameyu Village for the opening of the three buildings there; the new Patricia Elizabeth Primary School. Restus is the builder for that one as well and he reports that it is 95% complete - an amazing feat considering he started it only six weeks ago in a difficulty accessible remote area. The next update will tell its story.

End of Update. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


Construction Update - 12 November 2014

EDITH GVORA HIGH SCHOOL, Gongali Village – First Phase; 4 Classrooms, Administration Building, Toilet Building

PATRICIA ELIZABETH PRIMARY SCHOOL, Qameyu Village; 4 Classrooms, Administration Building

Hi All

Director Peter Daniels visited both sites from 21 – 28 October to inspect the halfway point of construction of both projects and provided the following information.

Our two current construction projects are well under way and the construction quality is excellent thanks to the skills of our builder, Mr Restus (Rusti) Ernest, a former teacher who decided his passion and abilities were more suited to construction. That is fortunate for us as we are now benefitting from his construction expertise as well as his knowledge of school needs.

Edith Gvora High School: Gongali Village

All buildings including the two 2-classroom buildings and the toilet building are approximately 70% complete, with wall plastering, ceiling construction and roofing underway. The administration building has offices for headmaster, vice head, and bursar, a staff room and storage and electrical rooms. The administration building will be the first point of access for the high school complex, when the new road access is completed.

Admin Building on left; 2 2-classroom buildings in centre,
toilet building on right
Administration building

The locals are also excited to be involved in the project; even good-spirited Mayor Peter Hayshi has spent many hours working on the concrete pours. The first teacher residence building, a village initiation project, is in the final stages. And local laborers are currently working on clearing the land for the new road.

roof framing in progress on the classroom buildings
concrete slab on roof of toilet building
will support  water tanks

loading roof trusses
ceiling framing

Local laborers are also filling in the large erosion gully between the buildings. Since machinery is being available, they are resorting to lots of manpower and simple hoes to hack away at and redistribute the hard-packed clay.     

filling in the erosion gully with hoes
wall plastering with cement

Patricia Elizabeth Primary School: Qameyu Village

Peter Daniels and project manager Mathew Sulle travelled the bone-rattling road to Qameyu Village west of Babati to witness good progress at this site as well. This phase of the project includes two 2-classroom buildings and an Administration building. Future phases will add the remaining 3 classrooms as well as the dining hall and library buildings.

Trenches have been dug, and reinforced concrete footings are being placed. Due to the upcoming rainy season and its effect on road conditions, Restus ensured all heavy materials were pre-delivered to the site. 
start of trench digging

finished trench

Mathew inspecting
trench footings

Peter and Mathew with District Education Officer (red)
and Councillors

Peter, Mathew with
Councillor Paul Margwe

And more good news; the local councilors advised additional land has been assigned to the school for future sports playing fields and teacher residences.

End of Update 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


1.  Edith Gvora High School Project - Gongali Village

2.  Patricia Elizabeth Primary School - Qameyu Village

3.  Electricity to Gongali (Aslini) Primary School

Hi All

Greetings from Africa (Tanzania)

Gongali Electricity

I just returned after three weeks in the Karatu District organizing the construction of the new High School project at Gongali and visiting the new Qameyu Village site for the first time. But first an update on the Gongali School Electrical supply project. The electrician, Sebastian Hilonga, completed the wiring of the classrooms and teacher residences, and I just received shockingly good news from Project Manager Mathew Sulle that Tanesco, the power company, has finally started their work to install the transformer and power poles. So excitement is building among the teacher families living there…

our Gongali Primary School transformer

…speaking of which, I decided that a Sunday picnic for the teacher families would be a timely event at Gongali Primary. For one thing, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the arrival of a 4th teacher family to the little community. Emmanuel Pariso, his wife Sophia and baby Gloria are delighted with their new home and friends. 

chalkboard art greeting at picnic day.
Note the portrait - they made me black. Yay!

Also, teacher Boniface is now married and has just returned from a honeymoon. A small man with a huge grin, he proudly introduced his tall shy bride Irene. Headmaster Mark Mollel and wife Sarah attended the wedding in Arusha, a well–deserved holiday for them.
picnic day at Gongali
 Mathew and I and his two visiting daughters, Lissa and Maureen, showed up with food, drink and volleyballs and we spent the hot sunny afternoon munching on pizza and chasing errant volleyballs to the delight of parents and children alike.

a gift for PSFA from the community

This Gongali School community is growing. With the advent of Director Mark Burrowes electricity project, Mayor Peter Hayshi is planning the relocation of his office here. On one of my visits with him, we walked the site and he pointed out the location of a new church to be built there soon. And to my surprise, he proclaimed a 2-acre plot next to it as a gift to PSFA to build an office/accommodation building. Hey, we’ll seriously consider it; a great opportunity for drop in visitors to support our cause as well as saving on accommodation expenses during our work here.

Edith Gvora High School

We are so fortunate to have solved the biggest problem of any project – the selection of a good builder. Restus (Rusti) Ernest is a former teacher but his passion was building. His resume is a great benefit to our work. His English is great, he’s computer savvy, and to top it off, he’s smart and excellent with construction.

The project is fast-tracked for completion before Christmas this year. Construction didn’t start until I arrived, as I needed to assure the proper siting of the buildings. I came with freshly drawn plans for the minimum four buildings required for registration of the school name. As usual the costing came in high, but through discussions with Restus, some redesigning (with hand drawing, as I didn’t dare bring a computer this time around as mine was stolen from my room during my last visit in April/May) and some additional generosity from our donor Tony Gvora, we finally arrived at a construction cost. 

they mix the concrete on the ground

digging trenches for the footings

teacher residences at the high school site

the erosion gully

foundation wall trenches 

concrete brick foundation walls

surveying the classroom buildings

I also sent a design package to the top gun in the region, Mr Moses Mabula, the District Executive Officer, who on a previous occasion requested monthly progress reports of our work. And fortunately, his staff accepted my suggested changes to the government plans that we were given to follow. For example, I improved the Administration building layout by having indoor rather than exterior access to washrooms. (I couldn’t imagine staff running to outside doors in the middle of their heavy rainy season.)

To date, Restus has built the floor slabs of the two two-classroom buildings and is doing the foundations for the Administration and Toilet buildings. The walls weren’t up yet, but I did my usual carpentry part of roof framing. How, you ask?? Well, I decided that the trusses should be built with a little better engineering than ones on previous projects. So I asked the B&B hotel if I could build on a nice level grass area outside my room, and they allowed it. 
building roof trusses
my load of truss timber

the finished sample trusses (made with Steve Miller tools)

I built three sample trusses, one for each building. I enjoyed figuring out a strong design that doubled up on the bottom chord members to allow alignment in a straight plane; it used more timber, but will also be more durable.

During my last visit, I drafted an agreement whereby the construction would be a partnership between Primary Schools for Africa (PSFA), the Gongali Village Government (GVG) and the regional government, the Karatu District Council Office (KDCO). PSFA will design and construct the buildings and GVG and KDCO will be responsible for site services, ie, electricity, water, sewage, rainwater collection, roads and paths and landscaping. Two important issues that they needed to address by the end of this construction phase were the provision of water and septic systems and filling a large erosion gully running between our new buildings.

L to R. Restus at far left, Mayor Hayshi centre in blue,
DED Moses Mabula in brown suit, Alan, Engineer Julius Kaaya 
A little anxious about their ability, I met with all parties at the site to ensure they do their part and fortunately it seems they are very motivated. Mayor Peter Hayshi had some village funds, so he decided to have the community get into the spirit by building a teacher residence to start with. Walls are up and roof framing is about to start. DED Moses Mabula, a tall charismatic politician, as a show of commitment, strongly directed his accompanying staff to remediate the existing erosion gully between our buildings. Great! This will get done, but I’m still a little worried that the water and septic will be delayed as funds are not yet available.

the Gongali Model Co celebrating
the new high school construction
The good news about water though, is that the Korean connections of Askwar Hilonga and his Gongali Model Co. have funded the drilling of a borehole about a kilometer downhill from the school site. It will take a lot more funds, however, to get the water up to a new water tank. Our Director Mark Burrowes, a local Victoria mechanical engineer, has agreed to design the pump system for it.

A worrisome issue arose on my last day in Karatu. Prime Minister Kikwete and his Ministry of Education has just decreed that all high schools must build laboratories to increase the breadth of science learning. For us, it now means we need to have a laboratory building constructed before we can register the school, which will jeopardize the donors naming of the school. The village or ourselves do not have the additional $50,000 – $100,000 CDN extra that it would cost. We will see how this develops over the next few months. Mayor Peter Hayshi was understandably angry and so was I, to now have the rules change at this late stage, but he assures me that he will resolve it somehow.

Patricia Elizabeth Primary School

Mathew and I went on safari, not to see animals, but to scope out the new primary school to be built that is funded by donor Ted Woodcock to memorialize his late wife Patricia Elizabeth. Our destination was the tiny village of Qameyu located west of Babati Town, a 3 hour drive from Karatu to Babati and then a bone-rattling 2 hour drive from Babati to the village on extremely rough and dusty roads.

Qameyu kids

We were greeted at the village office by the senior VIP and Project Manager, Ward Councillor  Paulo Margwe, the District Education Co-ordinator Mary Modaha and several other local political staff, who then led us to the site which to my delight, was large and FLAT, (a plus for building). I was surprised because it seemed to be the only level site in this hilly community. Unlike most village schools, there is lots of room for a good sports field for soccer. We walked around the perimeter of this wonderful nine acre property, with me sketching and pacing the distances, to eventually agree on the location of the buildings. We’ll do the seven classrooms, they’ll do the outhouse-style toilets. If future funds allow, they would like a kitchen/dining hall and teacher residences.

fog screen at Qameyu site (captures early morning dew water
 - 10 litres per day) - an NGO projec
gift of 200 lbs of potatoes
 (I gave my share to a local family in Karatu)

official welcome by local kids
who will be the first ones for the school

the sign makes it official - there will be a new school here

the school site - nice and flat
mapping out the building locations

After passionate speeches (Mathew translating the Swahili ones) in front of a crowd of some smiling and some bewildered village elders, parents and children, we were presented with a gift of two hundred pounds of potatoes and our vehicle “walked” off the site surrounded by a group of colourfully dressed women chanting and adorning the car with plants and flowers. It was an amazing experience – a first actually.

chanting women "walking"
our vehicle from the site

And now, back to the hotel where...

...we ate Carlos for dinner

The stay at the hotel this time was more enjoyable than previous ones. Security had been tightened up since my room was broken into last trip. But it was high season with a lot more tourists staying here, as well as new NGO's with their various projects projects. The highlight was meeting a lively group of young Germans who had been on a whirlwind tour of Lutheran church facilities. It was the birthday of their director Wolfgang and to acknowledge his work in Tanzania, the local church gave him a goat which the group named Carlos. Carlos was a bit of a problem for sensitive Wolfgang; he was not comfortable with Carlos' supposed demise of being served of dinner. To add to that, Kerrie Robertson, a long term hotel guest working here with an NGO developing programs for HIV infected village women, took a liking to Carlos. And she would have daily visits to ease his loneliness while tied up at a tree near her room. So Carlos was spared…at least while the Germans were there. But on the day after they left, the staff inherited the gift and with the least bit of hesitation, decided to treat the remaining guests with the popular Tanzanian delicacy of roast goat. After a few mouthfuls during that evening meal I gagged when someone whispered…"That was Carlos". It was strange and somewhat sad to have eaten something with a name, but more so for Kerrie to have lost a friend as quickly as she had found one.

So now its back to Canada to continue with fundraising to help with the Gongali laboratory building as well as our other school projects that need us to continue with their building program. We are getting busy, but I’m lovin’ it!


End of Update 


Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Hi All


Gongali Primary School Classroom 5,6,7 Project

Opening Celebrations

This is the final update from the April/May visit to Tanzania.

the greeting; new building at right, with balloons
The opening of this classroom building was significant; it completed all 7 classrooms for this site and is the first of our 3 school sites to do so. The children attending this school are up to Standard 4 level with 3 more years to go till graduation. That means that 2017 will be a momentous occasion that I am looking forward to ; the first graduation class from our first school project. How amazing will that be!

the official ribbon-cutting. L to R: Head Teacher Mark Mollel, Mayor Hayshi, District Education Officer Honorati Bayo, Alan Roy, Builder Fabian Amman, Teacher Sarah Mollel, New Teacher (name?)

Mayor Hayshi arranged a wonderful musical welcome for the “Canadian contingent”. As we approached the site, the pupils were all lined up singing beautifully for us. The freshly painted new building in the background looked great. It was festively adorned with strings of balloons. Joining Mathew and me were two touring groups. One is from Victoria, BC; Peter Daniels (one of our Directors), his girlfriend Olga Gill, and friend Cathleen Hart. The other is from Ontario; John and Judy Lutes and 7 other family and relatives. We toured the classrooms and residences, cut the ceremonial ribbon and proceeded to the Dining Hall for speeches and gift exchanges.

the Canadian contingent, with the Tanzanian hosts 
 The Canadian guests were treated to being “robed” – a tradition for all visitors, as a way of inviting them into the village fold as honorary guests. The highlight is, as always, the sports gifts donated by the travelers to the children; soccer and volleyballs, volleyball nets, skipping ropes and even a whole bunch of balloons. No sooner had the kids received the balls did they run out to the field to test them out. And the adults were very qick to join in the fun. What a wonderful sight to see them, , kicking the ball around with no particular strategy or rules, just happy to be cavorting and frolicking in wild abandon.
Andrew and the kids with the new soccer ball

Mark and his outdoor class

Our Glenwood Elementary Connection

Peter and Olga brought a package of letters from our Canadian counterpart, Glenwood Elementary, Maple Ridge, BC and I had earlier passed them out to the teachers. But I waited until the opening ceremonies to hand the special gift from Glenwood to the kids and teachers; hand-crafted bracelets. Wonderfully appreciated as they proudly wore them. Thank you, James White and Glenwood Elementary. At the end of the day Head Teacher Mark Mollel gave me the return package of letters from the Gongali kids for their Glenwood counterparts. I know the Glenwood class will be very excited again to receive them.

Cathleen's donation of a soccer ball and skipping ropes
Our Accessible Education Association (AEA) Connection

AEA's donation of books
AEA is a new small Canadian NGO that is joining our cause by raising funds to provide books for our schools in Tanzania. The Gongali Village Primary School is one of their first projects and they have already donated approximately $360.00 for the first installment of books. We lined the kids up for a photo as they proudly displayed these valuable tools for their education. This is a first for them and they are very pleased; to have new books and to not have to be so many sharing a book.

Classroom sponsored by BC Ferries 

Soccer balls donation

Classroom sponsored by Don Park in memory
of his father Flight Lieutenant W. G. Park
Classroom sponsored by
 San Han and Alicia Lee of Victoria 

Electricity Project - Gongali Primary School

The electricity project has started. We finally arranged an agreement with the local utility company, Tanesco, to connect to a nearby power line. By the time I left back for Canada, the electrical contractor Sebastian Hamanjida had already started wiring the buildings in anticipation of the power connection. This is such a monumental event for the school; to have electricity that gets them out of the dark, to further their education, and enjoy evening activities in the teacher’s home. We are aiming to have it there by early August this year, hopefully in time to kick off their computer training classes then. Computers donated by the Gongali Model organization have been stored on site for 2 years now, waiting…

John and Judy Lutes
Peter Daniels and Olga Gill

The Edit Gvora High School Project - Gongali 

Work continues in the planning stages with our latest project, the new high school. Before I left for Canada I visited the site with the District Civil Engineer and our potential builder and reviewed some of the site grading and preparation issues. At home, I will be preparing drawings for pricing in the near future.

I will probably be returning to Tanzania in August to kick off the construction of the first 2 classrom buildings, each one having 2 classrooms and a small office for the Teachers.

End of Update