Yes, I'm back in Tanzania. My international travel story, complete with mechanical delays of 4+ hours in Atlanta, missed flight in Amsterdam and the Nairobi airport at midnight is, thankfully, now like a bad dream. The good news is that I have another story about what you make possible for Tanzanian children.....
When I met 15-year-old Gifti nearly 3 years ago, her life was a testament to resilience. Gifti is the child of her widowed mother's first marriage, unwelcomed in the home of her stepfather, and was receiving no school or other support from family. She was living with a neighbor and attending secondary school when permitted by the headmistress- because her school fees were 6 months overdue. During the months Gifti was banned from school, she would meet friends on their way home to copy homework assignments so that she could do them on her own. What did Gifti and her mother ask of us? To pay her back school fees. That's all.
Pamoja Project decided to make Gifti's future support conditional upon her performance on the next Tanzanian national examination. After only 3 months back in school, Gifti scored in the top 10% of her class. Here was a kid who was personally motivated beyond anything we had seen in a long time, and we were hooked.
Since Gifti will be finishing secondary school in a few months, Olais and I visited her to talk about her future. She really wants to be a secondary school teacher, she told us. But we all knew the course to do so would take 4 years, including the tenuous first 2 years during which failure would leave her without future prospects. Olais introduced the idea that if she entered teacher's college in January 2017, in 2 years she could be finished with school and be immediately employed as a primary school teacher. And in Tanzania, after you have spent 3 years as a teacher, you can return to college while continuing to receive your government paycheck.
Gifti appeared to think about this idea for a few minutes. Then came an awkward cultural moment. I asked Olais to translate the following for me. I said, "I know you have had a hard life up to now. And if you had a job soon and could support yourself, you could free yourself from needing to marry just to have food. A woman with her own money can make choices about her life. If after teaching for a few years you still want to be a secondary school teacher, you can follow that dream." Gifti's mother silently nodded.
An average Tanzanian man would not normally counsel financial independence for a young woman, but Olais took a leap of faith and told Gifti what was true- he wanted her to follow the path that would benefit her most- conventions be damned.
As we left, Olais made plans with Gifti to enter her into the preparatory course for final exams so that she gets into a great teacher's college in January. We have complete confidence in her success.
And that, my friends, is how you and Pamoja Project are changing the life trajectory of Tanzanian youth, one child at a time.