Abilene High School Class of 1961

“Going to class in Tanzania” by Karen Lusby Wiggins 5.20.06

Dear 1961 friends,
Please Read this African story to your Grandchildren.
Sometimes it is good to look through the window into a
third-world country to see how good you have it.

Hello Friends
I am Karen Wiggins, a retired teacher.  Before you
finish the school year, I would like to give you an
opportunity to let  your grandchildren have a taste of
what the children here in Tanzania experience in one
day.  Read this story to them.  Maybe your children
will feel sorry for what this child has or does not
have.  Tell them not to feel sorry for this child.
These children are very happy as they are now.  If you
would talk to your grandchildren about the wonderful
opportunity for education that the students  have in
the U.S. Tell them to try hard to do the best that
they can do.  They are so blessed.  If they want to
help with the library here, that is great. For
pictures  of this area go to the February 2006 issue
of National Geographic.  In the map on page 11 under
the U in Grumeti Game  Reserve is the town where I
live now.   We are planning to build a Library here in
Bunda, Tanzania, which is  my town now.  My U.S.
contact person to Get Books here is Marilyn Davis
Davis, Marilyn D. mddavis@uark.edu

Just Imagine
by Karen Wiggins

 Just Imagine that you are a child in Tanzania. It is
January and the weather is very hot.  It is summer
here in Tanzania.  You are very excited.  Your break
is over and the new year of school is beginning for
this year.  Now you are in  the last year of primary
school. That is like the 7th grade in the U.S.  Next
year you will be in Form 1 if you pass the test.  
You are just in elementary school, but you are sure
that you are smart enough to get in Form 1 next year.
It will be hard because you speak Swahili and the test
will be in English.  You have had English; however,
your English teacher does not know very much English.
They have taught you to count to ten in English, to
say, "Good morning, Madam.  How are you today? Madam".
 Your test will have the instructions in English and
will allow you to continue your education should you
pass the test.  You have never seen a book in English.
Your school does not have a library.  Your town does
not have a library.  You are not sad about that
because you have never even seen a library.  You have
not been able to practice reading in English, but
again you are not sad about this because you don't
know a library would help you.  You have never heard
English spoken correctly, but you just know that you
will be able to pass a test at the end of this year
because you will try hard.

The excitement is overwhelming.  School supplies for
you are a hoe, a pencil, a notebook, and a desk you
had  built for you by the carpenter down town.   He
makes many because so many children will need them.
All these things are required to go to school.  The
desk is made of hard African wood.  It is built so
that the bench is attached to the table top.  You are
thinking, "I know I can keep my notebook clean and
neat all year.  This is very important to me.  I will
not make any mistakes."

Sunday night before school starts, you make sure your
dad's bike is in proper working order to carry your
school supplies to school on your first day.  As you
pump up the tires now the bike will be ready.  You are
almost sure that your mom will have enough tomatoes to
sell for your  tuition.  Your family might have the
tuition by February.  If you don't have it  at that
time, you will have to drop out of school. Lucky for
you your Uncle brought your uniform for you just
yesterday.  Now you can start school because you have
to have a uniform. 

Your house is made of sun dried bricks and it has two
rooms, Baba and Mama's room and the living room. The
latrine and the kitchen are outside.  You do not have
electricity in your house so when the sun heads down
with a beautiful sunset at six o'clock, it is time to
play in the dark with neighborhood friends.    Now you
are very tired from the night play so your brothers
and sisters help you roll your bed out on the clean
dirt floor and snuggle in with you after many giggles
and laughs.  

It will be hard for you to go to sleep tonight.  New
starts are good and a little scary. You tell your mom,
"I will be so good this year that I will never have to
hoe the grounds for punishment.  The only time that I
will have to hoe will be when we all go out to hoe
during chai break." Your mom says, "You will have a
wonderful year, Mtoto. Lala Salama." You smile at her.
 You are so glad that you have a bed.  God has blessed
you and your family so much!  You thank God as you
think about tomorrow, you finally drop off to sleep to
the sound of wind softly blowing in the night and dogs
for miles around sending howling  messages that the
hyena's have come into town from the Serengetti. 

Your mom wakes you up early to the sound of many
happily singing birds.  It is time to get up and
without a hesitation, you pop up and roll your mat up
and stand it up behind the couch.  You rush outside to
collect water for the family for today.  The well is
really quite close.  It only takes thirty minutes to
collect the maji in a bucket from the well and hurry
back home with the bucket of water on your head.  This
time, three of your small sisters bring a small bucket
and follow you with buckets on their heads. As you
pass women and men on the way, you say to them what it
is the custom to say. "Shikamoo", This is a way to
honor the people older than you are. It means "May I
sit at your feet and learn from you."  A spark
twinkling in the deep eye of that elderly person comes
to life as they reply "Marahaba"  "Of course you may."

 Now you have water to wash your face, and brush your
teeth.  It is believed that If you drink water in the
morning, your stomach will hurt.  You do not even know
that that water is contaminated and that is why it
would hurt your stomach. You never have breakfast but
sometimes when you have enough coins to get a round
sweet biscuit that has been fried and taste somewhat
like a donut you get one to eat on the way.   You will
not stop today because you will be too busy trying to
get your things to school.  With the desk resting on
the handle bars and the hoe precariously placed on the
desk with the pencil and the book, you proudly mount
the bike, say tutuonana (See you later) to your young
brothers, sisters, mom and dad and head up the eroded
dirt road up to the school careful to not fall in a
deep wash or crevice and swerving out of the way of
one car and three piki piki (motorcycles).

You are there and it is 7:30. It is time for morning
parade. All of you line up in classes and sing the
songs about Tanzania  and one song about your school
outside by the flag pole.  Some had to walk their desk
up the mountain to the school.  Some did not have a
desk at all yet.  You are very lucky to have yours on
the first day. Having only a few if any books in a
class room, the chalk boards are used until you can
hardly see the chalk  on the board.  One of the rooms
has ceilings so distorted by the rain leaks that the
bat droppings are so thick that they fall like rain on
your teacher as she writes on the chalk board.  Miss
Mary is an American who has volunteered to teach here
for a few years.  She really does not like to teach
with bat droppings falling on her.  She has asked you
to try to kill the bats after school.  You know you
can do that for her. So you say to her, "Madam, I will
do that for you." 

At saa sita (the sixth hour of the day or 12:00 noon)
it is the time for chai.  (This is the way they kept
time in the Bible) Chai means the same as your lunch
time.  No one brought their lunch.  They are too poor.
 The school doesn't have a cafeteria and there are no
cooks to let you eat at school.  At Chai time, you
will go out with your bottle of water and your hoe.
This is your break for the day so you sit in the shade
of a tree with some friends and drink your maji.  It
tastes so good and now you have the energy to hoe the
weeds.  It has been a while since children have been
to school so you say to a friend, " We all have much
work to do.  Let's make this place wonderful.  It is
up to us because this is our school and we should take
pride that this is our school and we should keep the
dirt clean and swept.  My dad always says, ' Clean
dirt— See snake.'"  All of the children in the
school grounds laugh and sing and giggle as they work
for the hour of Chai. 

Back to class now.  It is quiet again and the children
will learn. Most of the time in the class you are
listening to the teacher teach and copying from the
board into your notebook.  Some times the children
have math problems that they must work in the faded
blue  book.  You hate that part because you make
mistakes and you do not want any mistakes in your
book. As the teacher grades your work she will write
things in your book.  You say, "That just messed up my
book, Madam."  You just try hard. You look around the
class room and see no bulletin boards or beautiful
pictures or colorful posters.  You see no curtains, no
books, no puzzles, no games, no maps, no globe, no
listening center, no T.V. no computer, no rugs or
carpet, no speaker, no bathroom, no chairs or tables.
The floor is cement, the walls are cement, the windows
have no screens and no way to close them.  They have
bars in each window to keep people out at night.  When
it rains on the metal roof you can hardly hear your
teacher as she teaches.  None of these things bother
you because you have never known anything else. You do
not even know things might be better or easier or more
comfortable. You did not wish for a hot lunch.  You
did not care that you will have nothing to eat until
you go home to eat at 4:00 because this is how it has
always been in Tanzania. None of the other schools do
anything differently.  Cement floors are good. Some
schools have dirt floors and no electricity for

It is 3:00 and time for afternoon Parade at the flag
pole.  It has been a good day for you and your
friends. Singing the songs and everyone ready to walk
home, one of the teachers walks over to Omari and
hollers and slaps him very hard on his face in front
of the whole school.  It seems that he walked away
from her at Chai when she called him.  You don't mind
being hit in the class, but with all the school
watching you.. That is just bad.  You know that Omari
had his feelings hurt more than the slap.

Today you will ride your bike home without desk or hoe
, but first you need to rid your classroom of bats for
Madam Mary.  Your teacher is a volunteer teacher from
Texas.  She does not want to watch or see you kill the
bats yet, she has tried everything by asking the
administration about the problem even last term, yet
nothing has happened to fix the problem. As Miss Mary
walked to her home that is just beyond the flag pole,
she is talking to a crowd of children that are
following her home along with, dogs, chickens,
roosters and one goat.  One little girl offers to
collect her water.  "Asante" says Miss Mary and gives
her a bucket.

Now some friends have gathered to watch you do the
killing of the bats.  You find a long sharp stick and
start poking into the open ceiling. Bats start
swooping around the room.  With a large rock you start
the killing as your friends start running around the
room to help you catch them.  Madam Mary will be
proud. Maybe she will not sneeze so much.  You know
you must go home now and get more bats later. 

The bike goes much faster down the road this time
partly because it is down hill and partly because you
have no desk and no hoe to make the balance more
difficult.  You have enjoyed having the bike today.
This will be the only day you will have it.  Your
father will be using the bike taking goods to other
villages for the market. Your dad makes about a dollar
a day.  On Tuesday he goes to Bunda with sticks loaded
on the back sticking out 3 feet on each side of the
bike to sell.  On Wednesday, he carries cassava root
to sell at the market just outside of Bunda.  Your
mama's garden is doing well because of the rains. By
Wednesday the tomatoes might be ready to take to the
Musoma market.

You are home now and Mama has some hot ugali ready for
you to eat with beans.  Ugali looks like mashed
potatoes and it is made of flour and water mixed and
cooked.  You take a bowl and fill it with beans and a
big hunk of ugali.  When you sit on a rock outside
your house next to where your mom has been squatting
over the fire to make sure you get your only meal for
the day, you pinch off a wad of ugali and roll it in
your one and only hand that you eat with.  With this
right hand rolling the ugali into a ball, you use this
ball to pick up some beans and you begin to eat with
your fingers.  Mmmmmm, you are so satisfied.  God is
so good to you and your family. You have to stop and
give a prayer of thanks before you continue eating.
You say,"Mama, First days are wonderful.  I hope I get
to finish this year at school."

Just imagine!
Swahili vowels have one sound.   A is a short a
e is a long a.  I is a long e. O is a long o and  U is
a long u

Baba- Father
Mtoto- child
Lala Salama- Good night
maji- water
Shikamu- May I sit at your feet and learn (This has no
english word )
Marahaba- Of course you may. I acknowledge your
Tutonana- See you later
piki piki-motorcycles
Ugali-stiff porridge
sa sita- 12:00
Chai- tea
Asante-Thank you.


Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: