Day one in Kunzugu school yesterday. Among the many differences between Canadian and Tanzanian schools, I am surprised by the formality in the classroom. We did do some research on the Tanzanian education system before we left, but I don’t recall reading anything about teaching styles or classroom etiquette. I was fully unprepared for the delightfully well-behaved group of 14 – 18 years old that we met. Taking nothing away from the group of students that we met at Sazira school – they were also excellent, and admittedly part of me wondered if that was a fluke…
I thought that perhaps we would be seen as the “substitute teachers” and that attentiveness would drop. Perhaps students would be skeptical of us, maybe just due to the language barrier. Instead, we had the attention of the entire class for the duration of our time together. Despite a slow start, probably a little shyness on everyone’s part, students were politely raising their hand to answer a question, standing up to introduce themselves and quietly moving around the room in their assigned groups.
I can’t decide if it’s just been a while since I’ve been in school, whether this is a cultural and structural difference between school systems in different countries or whether the approach to education is taken a little bit more seriously here. Students in secondary school in Tanzania need to pay for their secondary school education, or rather, their parents do. I understand that it’s roughly 20,000 Tsh per semester with an added contribution for lunches, uniforms, etc. Perhaps this has an effect? The population in the catchment area for these schools is primarily farmers which could mean some difficulty coming up with the required money at the required time.
When I think about this some more, it occurs to me that these students are quite privileged as not all children in their age group will be able to attend secondary school. This makes me think of the years when I took school completely for granted. It was a nuisance at worst and a means to socialize at best. Not that we had enough time together for me to fully know, but I certainly felt as though the students yesterday were in the classroom to listen to us, not to chat with their friends or pretend they didn’t hear the question (that was my go-to back in the day).
So I’m really grateful. For a very good start in both schools and for the chance to make good on some undervalued years spent ducking teachers and avoiding homework.