This summer, Girls Education International is launching a new girls scholarship program in Western Tanzania, in partnership with Project Wezesha. As the co-founder of Project Wezesha, I am very excited about this new program. Project Wezesha has been supporting 25+ students in secondary and post-secondary schools in the Kigoma region for 5 years. Now, through this collaboration with Girls Ed, we will be able to assist 30 additional girls as they pursue their secondary education in the region.
On July 4th, I arrived to Kigoma to launch the program. Our aim in the next two weeks is to identify 30 eligible girls in 5 incorporated villages (6 girls per village). The villages include: Mgaraganza, Kagongo, Kagalie, Kalalangabo and Mtanga. These five villages fall under the jurisdiction of the same village leadership. Three of these villages sit on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and families in these villages are primarily subsistence farmers and fishermen.
The diwani or chief of these villages, Patrick Maganga is thrilled about our continued support of students from this village. Locals are also very excited to increase girls’ education in the area. In a region where the average secondary classroom has about 5-6 girls per class of 90+ students, ensuring that girls have access to secondary education is critical and will hopefully have anticipated positive impacts on family planning, literacy rates, local development, and education around issues related to women’s health, HIV/AIDS, and the environment.
On Tuesday, July 9th our co-founder, Lucas Lameck and I visited four primary schools – two in Mgaraganza village and two in Kagongo. We delivered applications to the headmasters with details about our program. On Thursday we’ll return to the schools to collect completed applications for the girls and take their photos. Along with basic information on the applications, the girls respond to questions about their interests, submit a letter of support from a teacher and provide a report of their grades for this year so far. We will also be continuing to visit other primary schools in the other villages to select more girls until we have our new cohort of 30.
The school year in Tanzania begins in January, so this new cohort will begin secondary school as Form 1 level students in January at various schools in the region. Where a student goes to secondary school is determined by the government and is based on their national examination scores. There is a slight chance that some of the standard 7 girls who we accept into our program will not test high enough to continue into secondary school. At that time, we’ll see about finding other girls who might fill these spots or we will seek girls who are already established in secondary school who may lack financial support to continue. We feel hopeful that they will all succeed however, as the teachers are identifying those at the top of their classes to apply for the program.
Visiting the schools in the villages is an adventure and a workout in itself. Lucas and I walk for 2-3 hours per day from school to school in rural areas that are not reached by car. There are some motorcycle taxis that reach parts of the villages, but not all. (And Lucas isn’t a big fan of the boda boda. He doesn’t trust most drivers and in fact, this past Spring he was tossed from a boda boda, but fortunately he wasn’t harmed!) In particular, reaching the villages by the lake requires some energy as there is no transportation that reaches the village easily. We walk about an hour or more to a saddle in the foothills, then drop down the other side to the lake for another 40+ minutes. Then reverse the trip to get home later. The sun looms high and hot in the sky making our days seem even longer, but we have great exchanges along the way with the men, women and children we meet. I particularly like making the women laugh with my greetings in the local tribal language – Kiha. A simple “Mwakeye” (Good Morning) can get a group of women to woop like schoolgirls.
In the days that come, I’ll share more from our new program launch!
co-Founder, Project Wezesha
Board Member, Girls Education International
Read more about Project Wezesha and Rai Farrelly on the Project Wezesha blog