Gongali Village School

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

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