Chumbageni School, Tanga, Tanzania.
We have a long established link with Chumbageni School in Tanga, Tanzania. Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, we held annual reciprocal exchanges alongside other local schools. Our last visits were in 2019, with our colleagues visiting us in June, and our return visit taking place in October.
Below you will find the blog from our last visit, as well as some photos and videos which will give you a greater understanding of our link.
Chumbageni teachers at Somers Park
2019- A blog of our visit
2019's visit to Chumbageni School in Tanga, Tanzania, took place between 18th and 25th October 2019. Mr Hansen and Miss Ward travelled over to work in the school. The daily blog of the visit can be found below:
This year, we were awarded awarded a British Council Connecting Classrooms grant to fund this partnership.
Travel – 18-20th October 2019
After a long journey via Doha and Kilimajaro airport, we touched down at Jules Nyere airport, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzenia, on Saturday evening. Flying over 5800 miles in total, the 21 staff from schools across Malvern and the surrounding villages, landed to the dry heat of Africa. Upon arrival at the brand new and much more efficient airport terminal, the temperature is 30 degrees Celsius, the sun is shining, although here are a few ominous clouds in the sky. The greatest warmth though, comes from the greeting we get from our colleagues from the schools in Tanga, who have travelled the 200 miles to meet us. A journey, which by coach will take us 7 hours on Sunday.
From experience, I was ready for the slow journey through Dar es Salaam. Dar Es Salaam is one of the fastest growing cities in the world; it is already the biggest and most populous Swahili speaking city in the world and its road network is developing rapidly. Even with this in mind though, it is not unusual to turn a corner and find a waist deep puddle from the recent rainfall, or simply a road which you or I would certainly deem impassable- not so for our coach! The infrastructure development her is vast and over the time of our partnership with Chumbageni, there has been an exponential growth in the proportion of tarmacked roads. Until 1996, Dar (Es Salaam) was the capital of Tanzania, until this role was transferred to Dodoma- Can you find Dodoma on a map?
How about a few more questions…
What is the Swahili translation of Dar Es Salaam? Why do you think this is a good name for a city?
Dar Es Salaam used to be called something different can you find out what it used to be called? What was the translation of this?
Roald Dahl, writer, lived in Dar es Salaam 1934–1939. In July 1934, Dahl joined the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in the United Kingdom, he was assigned first to Mombasa, Kenya, then to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Along with the only two other Shell employees in the entire territory, he lived in luxury in the Shell House outside Dar es Salaam, with a cook and personal servants. (Wikipedia)
How many Roald Dahl books can you name?
Saturday night delivered very heavy overnight rains, meaning that during our journey through Dar in the morning we witnessed the clear up and drying out of the tin covered houses and shacks. The journey was smooth, finishing off a 48 hours of travel to our final destination, Tanga, Tanzania.
After lovely food prepared for al the visitors by the Chumbageni staff, consisting of rice, meat stew, fried fish, fried chicken chips and curried peas, we have returned to our hotel to catch up on some sleep before we go into Chumbageni tomorrow.
Day 1- Chumbageni
Our first task of the day was to go to Tanga Council Offices to get the blessing for the visit from Khalifa Shemahonge, the City Education Officer who explained that he has responsibility for 105 schools in Tanga. Khalifa visited Malvern with the exchange in 2018 and is fully engrained and supportive of the programme. This year we have brought three new local schools into the partnership: Malvern Wells, The Chase and Upton Noble. The other schools represented are West Malvern St James C oF E; Malvern Parish; The Wyche; St Josephs; Hanley Castle High; Hanley Swan; Great Malvern and Somers Park. As we have mentioned on our newsletters, as a group of schools we successfully applied for a grant from the British Council which means, despite the funding challenges in education at the moment, means that we have been able to sustain the programme.
Following our visit to the council offices we then travelled a couple of minutes by car to Chumbageni, as we pulled up we heard singing from the classrooms. The children then came into the central courtyard and sang the national anthem to us. We were greeted officially by Halifa, the headteacher, before we both got to speak to the children.
Mr Sheiza, the deputy head who visited us in June, then took us around the school into the classrooms to meet the remainder of the teachers and the children. With the exception of the Nursery classroom (which takes children from age 4 or 5) all classes are laid out exactly the same, rows of benches with a thin desk top to lean on. Average class sizes are 70, however this is small for a Tanzanian class- many of the schools in the partnership have link schools with class sizes of well over 100 children. Maintaining small class sizes has been a priority for Halifa in his time as headteacher at Chumbageni, a role he has held since 2006.
The uji project is going really well at the school- the routines of cooking the warm, sweet porridge and serving to hundreds of children are established and it is clear that the children really enjoy this part of the day. Your kind donations are making sure that all children are getting at least one nutritious meal a day. As has happened in previous years, we got the chance to serve the uji, this is a wonderful chance to interact with the children as we practise our limited Swahili vocabulary. Jambo- hello; asante (sana)- thank you (very much); waheri- good bye.
Next was into the city to experience shopping- walking past an armed guard, who was holding an antique rifle, we negotiated the process of getting a sim card to enable us to access the internet in Tanzania. Although my phone SIM card works in Tanzania, the charges are very high- I do know of a Headteacher who rather foolishly messaged a photograph to his family last year, only to be charged £45 for the data it used… I wonder who would be daft enough to do that!!!
We also visited the market to collect some fabric for the sewing machinists. We paid 25,000 Tanzanian Shillings for 5 meters of fabric. The exchange rate is approximately 3,000 Tanzanian shillings to the pound- how much did the fabric cost us in pounds and pence?
The currency of Tanzanian Shillings cannot be obtained out of the country, meaning you have to get your money once you are here. I exchanged £80 of my own money, how many shillings did I get? Another rather interesting fact, is although their currency deals with large numbers, the highest denomination of note in circulation is only 10,000 shillings, meaning you end up carrying rather a lot of notes. How many 10,000 shilling notes did I get when I exchanged my £80? What is the fewest number of notes you use to make up £80 in the uk?
Our next part of the day was a real treat. On Twitter, Miss Ward has put a few videos of the presentation the children did for us, lovely singing and very energetic dancing (and yes… we did have to join in too- my dad dancing was rather embarrassing for all involved!).
For our evening meal tonight, we are off to Halifa’s house, where we will meet his family and friends.
Day 2 Chumbageni and the British Council
The day started in the normal way with breakfast at the hotel and collection at 8am to get into the school to see the children’s morning songs and assembly- which incidentally is held outdoors- no school hall at Chumbageni. Our breakfast consists of a choice of fresh fruit: pineapple, watermelon, and papaya, as well as chapatti and toast. There is always the option of eggs too; they are readily available across the city and often form a staple mid-morning snack at the schools for the teachers too. This morning, we had a great experience on the way onto school- our ride in to Chumbageni was in a bajaja, a three wheeled mini taxi. I think Miss Ward and I have got the bug (the ride is hair-raising, loud and very authentic!) and costs TSH10000 (approx £3.50) to get across the city to the school. We also caught a bajaja to the conference later in the day. Notable as we drove through the city is the prevalence of multinational companies such as Coca Cola, Pepsi and Fanta, whose advertising is everywhere.
Arriving at Chumbageni, we were welcomed into a Standard 1 lesson. Miss Ward stepped up to the black board with a piece of chalk and a pointy stick in hand and did a confident job of developing the children’s counting to 15. Really interesting for us was to see the similarities of the children’s development and learning with that in the UK: 13 was referred to as ‘three-teen’ and 15 as ‘five-teen’. As a sign of respect, children always stand when teachers enter the classroom and today I learnt the Swahili for sit down- ‘kaeni chini’. The Kiswahili language is very phonetic, so if you try to read it as it is written it will almost always work!
Around Chumbageni School there are constant reminders of the partnership, with murals depicting the Somers Park name. In return I have been proud to share the photographs of the large canvases we have around Somers Park celebrating the link from our end, with the teachers at Chumbageni.
Tanga city is a very relaxed place- the apparent absence of road laws is unnoticeable as people are patient and safe in their driving. To put it into context, the city has recently had its first set of traffic lights installed and when a train approaches a level crossing there are no barriers, it simply sounds it horn loudly and people move out of the way to the side of the tracks. There are bicycles everywhere, often with a pillion passenger sat on a luggage rack on the back, and thousands of motorbikes, however people are very understanding and I suppose, laid back in their approach to driving. I have been informed that motor bike (piki-piki or bada-bada) and cycle pillion passengers are normally there because they are hired for a taxi service. The more common form of taxi though is the ‘dala dala’, a small minibus, where seatbelts are certainly not required and seats are very definitely optional… tin of sardines springs to mind! These cost 400TSH however far you travel- an extremely cheap way to get around the city!
Everywhere we have been we have received a positive response, but I think the thing I notice the most is the colour everywhere. The women wear the most fantastic, bright, vibrant clothing all of the time- they are always dressed beautifully. The market stalls are filled to the brim with fresh fruit, clothing, fabric, paintings and carvings. It really is a sight to behold. I have been in Tanga for only a couple of days and realise why I fell in love with the place when I first arrived here two years ago. The city feels safe; the people are overwhelmingly generous and friendly and we are welcomed everywhere we go.
The British Council conference today was an excellent experience. The first time anything like this has happened during our visit, we had senior representatives from British Council Tanzania and a Connecting Classrooms representative from the British Council UK. We undertook training, celebrated experiences and focused on the difference it makes to the children in our schools, on both sides of the world.
Out to one of our hosts for supper again this evening- we’re looking forward to it.
Day 3- Chumbageni
Today has been the hottest day yet. The hot African sunshine is constant with little or no breeze to take the edge off it- coming in in low thirties. Even our hosts are commenting that it is ‘very very hot’. This does mean it is a pretty sweaty time in school though! Classrooms are open with no doors, and the windows are not glazed, just having wire mesh or metal bars to prevent people getting in. When there is a breeze, this comes through the classroom windows, keeping it slightly cooler normally. None of the school building have air conditioning, although in a couple of the rooms, there are ceiling fans. The cost of running air-conditioning would be far too expensive, however we did visit the bank today and it was properly arctic in there! They were certainly making the most of the luxury of air-conditioning.
We had the absolute pleasure of observing teaching and learning in three lessons this morning; just taking the time to watch and learn about the strategies used and learning behaviour is an incredibly valuable part of the visit. You would be correct to think that physical resources are at a premium here- no computers in the classroom and certainly no interactive whiteboard with internet access. Instead the classrooms are equipped with blackboards (ask your parents about these!) and the teachers use chalk to write up questions and prompts on them. In the youngest classrooms the walls are alive with resources such as number lines, sounds, the alphabet and pictures of everyday objects. We observed these being used with a big pointy stick and children chanting and responding to develop language and knowledge. Miss Ward was really impressed with the way that the teacher used the wall posters and also the way the children engaged so positively with resources, despite them being rather weathered and dog-eared. They simply don’t have the finances to replace even the A2 sheets of coloured paper with pictures on- the culture is to re-use and recycle- something we can learn a lot from.
One of the most interesting aspects of the learning, is that although there is a fair amount of rote learning, the children are regularly encouraged to break into song- songs about their culture, how grateful they are for their environment, songs about friendship and wildlife, and a cheeky song about keeping secret sugar cane eating from your father! ALL of the children join in with enthusiasm and huge smiles
One of our highlights was the lesson we observed in Standard 4, an English lesson taught by a very capable and charismatic teacher who taught with impeccable accuracy. The children were totally engaged and proud of their work. The pride that children show in their work is consistent and wide-spread: their handwriting is neat and the time they take to lay their work out is demonstrated through the outcomes they produce. This is a great comparison with the work we produce at Somers Park, where our children work really hard to keep their work neat and tidy.
After school today, we were taken to the Amboni Caves: a local tourist attraction where tourists can venture inside caves formed in the Jurassic period- the caves have some striking natural formations and we were treated to an interesting and charismatic talk by a volunteer tour guide, Sero. Our tour guide's English was exceptional, and by the end of our visit, we had found out that this volunteer, was a PHD graduate, who was fluent in nine languages- amazing. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t set foot in the caves- they were in flood due to the heavy rainfall last week. We did have a really interesting moment though and a first for me… Upon arrival at the stunning locality about 20 minutes from Tanga we had to finish our journey along the river, which was fast moving and deep as a result of the recent rain, by foot because part of the road had been washed away. Miss Ward asked the Chumbageni headteacher, Halifa, if we needed to be worried about crocodiles, it was a relief when he dismissed this quickly and told us that there were no crocodiles in this area. However, 10 minutes later Sero asked us to look at the river bank no more than 20 meters from where we were standing, where lightly camouflaged, was a crocodile relaxing in the sun…
Day 4- Kisosora School, Martinshamba, Chumbageni and the stationery shop!
What fun it was to video link with classes in Somers Park and Malvern Vale today- question and answer sessions and reciprocal songs were really successful and something we will be trying again with other classes on Friday. When we are out here communication between the UK and Tanzania is an important part of the visit, in order to promote engagement and educate our children as global citizens. Each day, the classes have been stopping at 2:45pm for ‘Tanga Time’ to review the blog and ask Miss Ward questions on Twitter- the questions have been brilliant and we hope that our responses have been informative.
Our first stop this morning was to Kisosora Primary School, who will link with Malvern Vale Primary School as the school grows. An inclusive school, they are proud that they are the only school locally who include children with special needs and disabilities- the norm is that schools have a separate room for children who have individual needs. Upon arrival, we were presented to the staff before being fed a huge plateful of samosas- although delicious it was less than an hour since breakfast! They were keen to offer us a special and warm welcome and took us around their classrooms with pride- they had even planned to show us a demonstration football match including their disabled students, however the heavens properly opened and we were caught in some very heavy African rainfall. We got to say hello to and chat with the children who were supposed to play football though. The environment at Kisosora is really well maintained- classroom have good displays and the garden areas are well looked after and fruitful. The headteacher, Frank, visited Somers Park in 2015 when he was previously a teacher at Chumbageni- he has high expectations and is very forward thinking.
The day progressed with a visit to Martinshamba Primary School, the school which is linked with Great Malvern School. Over the last couple of years, funding for a new school fence has been obtained through kind donations from Malvern Rotary Club- we were able to see the latest stage of this work being completed- adding security and safety for the pupils. The fencing at Chumbageni School was installed about ten years ago, again through sponsorship obtained as a result of this link. Sadly, there are sections which have perished as a result of the harsh weather conditions meaning that people use the site as a thoroughfare and something I feel is really important to repair. Having done some research, obtaining very loose quotes, I believe this work can be completed for less than £1000- perhaps we will be able to find a local Malvern business who would want to contribute to such a worthwhile project. To put the costs into context- a 12m x 2m length of chain link fencing wire costs 100,000TSH- just over £30.
When school had finished this afternoon, we visited the stationers to spend the funds you sent in to buy pencils. The shop was small and consisted of a counter and a waiting area. An interesting fact we learnt today, was that the government has a set price for all stationery bought by schools which has to be honoured by all shops. Why do you think this may be necessary? Since my last visit, the school now encourages children to write in blue biro from Standard 3 upwards, so our purchasing included lots of pencils and blue biros. We also included some paper. The one item we purchased for the teachers to use is chalk… this is like gold dust in the schools! The giant box we brought last year for 60,000 TSH (about £20) lasted nine months. At Chumbageni this is kept under lock and key in Halifa’s office and teachers come before a lesson to collect two sticks of chalk. Can you imagine the challenges of teaching children without being able to write on the board, especially without worksheets, workbooks or photocopies? I spoke to Halifa about the funds they receive from the government for resources for school. This is done on a by pupil basis and for Chumbageni this amounts to 36,000TSH for a three-month period… £12, plus additional 12,000TSH for admin resources… £4. This really puts into the context the value of the donations you made to the box of pencils appeal- the £50 in contributions is more money than the school receives for this purpose from the government per year. We purchased, pencils, pens and exercise books for the poorest children, more chalk, and having seen how well they were used in the lessons we watched, we also purchased 40 A1 sheets of paper, which the teachers will use for learning resources and displays for the classroom walls.