A meeting kind of day

This morning we had a meeting with HDIF, so needed to be ready to leave our accommodation by 9am. We were collected by a delightful man named Henry, who is the official driver for HDIF. I went down to reception to find him and was asked by reception if I was one of the University students being collected. It turned out Henry had received quite an interrogation about who he was and why he was there. It was reassuring to know our hotel was very conscious about who was coming into the hotel, and luckily Henry found it very amusing. We went outside to find a huge 4×4 waiting for us, after a month of rickshaw’s it was nice to drive in luxury and especially air con to the offices. Henry pointed out key areas of interest to us along the journey, it was hard to take it all in, Dar Es Salaam is such a contrast to Morogoro.

Upon arriving at HDIF we met David McGinty, Team Leader for HDIF, and proceeded to discuss with him about our time in Morogoro and our projects. He wanted to know about any preliminary findings that we might have, I had been expecting to find a gender element to mine but upon quick inspection poverty is the most prominent factor to technology access and usage. It was an incredibly interesting and insightful conversation. HDIF aims to promote sustainability, David explained this meant they did not have company commitments. If another business uses the same business plan and makes it work, that is the important part. This had me thinking about the sustainability of technology. Surely we should be focusing on improving what already exists, rather than trialling new projects would could result in more waste. We also talked about digital literacy and the principles of digital development. Myself and Runi had both been thinking about app designing with the user in mind, basing it on our own research. Runi thinking teachers were most important and myself thinking students. They reminded us that digital learning doesn’t just have one user. It’s the teacher, student, parent, headteacher etc. This reminded us of how complex digital initiatives for education really are.

HDIF works by receiving business plans for education, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) which they then assess as to whether a venture will be successful or not. This is the key difference between working with practitioners and researchers. Researchers need to have the proof that it will work, practitioners are aware that the evidence comes later. They were really interested to know how the project could be improved. Access to Shule Direct influenced schools had been our biggest problem. If access had been given before we arrived, there were several more schools we could have visited. However, we did explain that we were aware how difficult school research actually is in Tanzania. I would have liked to spend some more time in Tanzania and to research another area to compare access and response in other places. Did everyone had similar experiences to Morogoro or are there problems centred to that area?

I have really enjoyed getting hands on experience working for the HDIF grantees and seeing where the funding goes. Sustainability is always a huge concern, why fund something that won’t exist when the money goes? It seems that the grantees are hugely aware of this and are making changes as they go to try to ensure this happens. For instance, CSSC where having issues with the Studi Academy app so made key hardware changes. This is something that can’t happen if the grantees are being researched because the changes don’t allow for this. The companies have to be able to adapt to situations if they are going to thrive. It was amazing to be able to have this conversation and to feel that what we had found might be beneficial to both the schools but also the grantees.

We then decided to have a luxurious final day and went out to visit the slipway. This is a complex which has hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and market stalls. Our hotel advised us to visit here, as the whole place is enclosed it has a very safe feel to it. The view onto the sea was amazing and the whole place felt incredibly calm. After the chaos of Morogoro and Dar city centre it was amazing to just relax and explore. It was nice to sit and reflect on this whole month. It has had its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t have changed this for anything. We’ve had a very realistic research experience and getting to know Tanzania has been amazing. Leaving tomorrow is bitter sweet. I wish we had longer to explore and do more research. I hope this isn’t goodbye to Tanzania but see you soon. Karibu Tena Tanzania


Back to Dar

Well today has been the busiest day of our trip so far! Runi asked me to accompany her to the police station this morning to collect her police report. After experiencing a very uncooperative and intimidating policeman for the past few weeks, she called the Indian High Commission who called the police officer and magically the report was ready to collect. We still had to wait around 30 minutes in the police station for everything to be done. Everyone was very professional, and unsurprisingly the police officer in question was not present! Leaving with the very important piece of paper in our hands, we couldn’t help but discuss how ridiculous this whole situation had been to literally collect a piece of paper! Runi had been adamant she would go alone, but I was very glad when she asked me to accompany her. After the policeman’s previous antics, I didn’t think it would be safe for her to go alone.

We then finished packing up all of our belongings, we were being collected by our taxi driver Juma at 9:30am. We rushed downstairs to say a quick to the hotel staff, Amabilis has been amazing and I am so incredibly sad to leave. We missed a few of the sisters but they have asked us to send all of our photos to their email address. Juma was dropping myself and Runi at the bus stop on our way back, before taking Mahjooba back to the hotel. We visited another government school today called Kingolwira Secondary School. It was around a 20-minute drive outside of Morogoro and was incredibly rural. The headmaster greeted us as we walked onto the site and showed us into his office. It was beautifully big with large sofas and a fan. There we also met with the academic master and the assistant academic master, Mr Mkinga, and head of Shule Direct/eLearning. From there we were organised with the groups we needed with incredible speed. I had six students to do a focus group with, Runi ended up with 17 teachers for her questionnaire and interviewed the headmaster and assistant academic master. I was also given a room of 50 students to conduct my questionnaire. Mr Mkinga stayed with me to help conduct it, meaning it was completed in 10 minutes. The level of organisation was astounding with our research taking such little time. The school was in exam period but we arrived at exactly the right time to conduct our study.

I have really enjoyed the variety of schools we have visited during our time here. I feel that I have a slightly better idea of the schooling options available and international funders. However, there are so many schools in Morogoro and it would have been amazing to visit them all, a month is not enough time! Myself and Runi them headed off on our journey to Dar Es Salaam. Juma organised for a member of Abood, the bus company, to take us to the ticket office and then show us where the bus was. Air condition and sets of tv’s showing Tanzanian comedies/dramas made the whole experience really novel. There was incredibly little leg room on the bus, I’m a tall girl, I need some leg room. Luckily the journey was only 4.5 hours so was more than manageable. When we arrived in Dar we only really knew we were there because everyone got off the bus. We were greeted by our taxi driver from the hotel, a really friendly man named Suleiman. It was a very hectic place, so very reassuring to be met by a friendly face. Dar is so much busier than Morogoro, obviously to be expected. Living in our Amabilis bubble has made me forget slightly what the real world is like. I am excited to explore the city, but we have been warned by our hotel we need to be hyper aware. Bag thefts are massive here, especially for women so we need to be careful.

Having grown up in the countryside that is where I feel more at ease, so never really felt unsafe in Morogoro. Obviously, we always followed the advice of not travelling later at night, lack of streetlights being one of the massive reasons for this. Therefore, cities have always made me feel slightly more uneasy. I would never let it stop me from exploring and enjoying myself. However, I am more aware of my surroundings and slightly more cautious. I guess it just shows how much our upbringings effect the way that we view the world!

Kung Fu Fighters

Myself, Runi and Mahjooba returned to KilaKala for 10am today to collect our survey responses. Mahjooba just wanted to have a look at the school, she had finished collecting her data the previous day. We met Mr Joseph, the IT teacher Runi had interviewed yesterday in the computer room. He returned with both our questionnaires; 50 students for me and 30 teachers for Runi. Some of the teachers hadn’t signed Runi’s consent form, so Mr Joseph took those questionnaires back round to ensure they all signed properly. He took our data collection very seriously, however, it felt very strange to be collecting questionnaires we had not distributed ourselves. Having had a quick read through the responses, the data is already looking really interesting and I’m excited to see what comes out of it.

We then proceeded to go into town for Mahjooba to get chitenge’s and data, Runi needed scarves and a phone voucher to get minutes. We also leave for Dar Es Salaam tomorrow, so I wanted to take the opportunity to have one last explore. I always forget just how chaotic Morogoro really is. You take your life into your hands every time you cross the road, running has become my technique. Mahjooba was after some very specific material so we wandered through quite a few shops, with some beautiful colours and patterns. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find what she was looking for, but I wish I could buy all the material. We wandered through a market down one of the side streets. Runi had found some scarves but the woman was trying to charge her 15,000 when they should be 9,000 at the most. She was unwilling to bargain so we walked away. Just because we are muzungus does not mean we haven’t worked out prices of things. We found a small supermarket and bought ourselves some pastry items for lunch. After a month of rice, chips, beans and vegetables, any sort of variety is incredibly welcome! I really will miss Morogoro, I love the chaos of it all and the friendliness of the people that you meet. The beautiful colours, especially from the women’s clothing. England is beginning to look quite drab in comparison!

A power cut this evening has led to some very funny night time entertainment. We returned to Mahjooba’s Kung Fu lessons, but as the photos demonstrate we kicked them up a notch. Runi practiced putting her leg onto Mahjooba’s shoulder and then doing some punches. This was then taken a step further by the two of them attempting to run and slid under my legs. Unsurprisingly this wasn’t successful but resulted in so much laughter. I have really enjoyed my evenings with these two and getting to know them.

We have lift off

Today we visited Kilakala Secondary School, this is a government school which works with Shule Direct. Due to a miscommunication, the day before myself and Runi ended up being around 1 and a half hours late! Luckily, the headmistress was very understanding once we explained our situation. We were directed to the Academic master and assistant academic master who would help us to conduct our research. The headmistress explained that because the school was preparing for exams getting access to the students would be difficult. Upon discussing it with the academic master, he agreed to hand my questionnaire out to students at the end of the school day. I showed him the questionnaire, explained it should only take around 10 minutes to complete which he was happy for the students to do. My focus groups could not be done, as students were preparing all day for exams they were unwilling to do the interviews as well. Frustrating but completely understandable, if I’d be studying all day the last thing I’d have wanted to do was to do an interview.

The school itself has 760 female students and just over 60 teachers. The school not only uses Shule Direct but is also part of another technological program in Africa which is helping to provide support with the use of technology in schools. Runi did an interview with the teacher who was in charge of both these programs. What was impressive was how new to teaching he was and the level of responsibility he had. Talking to him he was really knowledgeable about the technology available and the ways in which he would want it to be improved. It was great to see that talented teachers were being utilised and fostered. I think this provides a great role model for students because it demonstrates that knowledge and hard work do pay off. He explained that not all the teachers use technology in their classrooms but most of them do. 10 teachers have been specially trained in using this new program, so the school is really trying to incorporate technology into lessons. Students were allowed access to the computers after school had ended, it is a boarding school. In the private schools, we have visited this hasn’t been the case, so it is good to see that students are able to utilise these resources outside of class hours.

I have really enjoying seeing the contrast between the private and government schools. Firstly, the size difference, most of the private schools have had around 200-400 students, compared to the 700 in this school. I was incredibly impressed by the facilities and saw very few teachers just hanging around. All the teachers we saw were either in their classrooms teaching or were doing relevant work. Some of the research from previous modules has found that government school teachers are often not present in class but it is clearly not the case in this school. There also seemed to be a good level of communication between teaching staff and the administration. Teachers said that they felt they were listened to and that issues they had with the technology were dealt with appropriately. I am interested to visit another school that works with Shule Direct to see if they have similar experiences.

Down time

Two really quiet days, we are waiting to hear from the Shule Direct schools as to whether we can get access into them. These are government schools and they are currently going into exam season. Therefore, gaining access is much more difficult. Both Oscar and the co-ordinator in Dar Es Salaam are phoning the schools trying to get us access. After the long day on Saturday it has been really nice to rest and regroup. Gaining access to even one government school would be amazing, it would be such an interesting insight compared to the private schools we have visited. CSSC are some of the best schools in the country, so I would be interested to look inside a government school, at the provisions that have been made.

Hopefully I will have more to report over the coming days!

Giraffic Park

Today has honestly been the best day! We visited Mikumi National Park with Oscar, where a guide took us round in a huge 4×4 with canvas covering on the top, giving us amazing views of the park. It was around a 2-hour drive from Morogoro to Mikumi, we went to get breakfast first which turned into an adventure. Oscar saw a sign for Mikumi Resort which we decided to check out. Around 10 minutes later of driving through dirt tracks we arrived. They did not offer breakfast to non-guests but directed us to the Tan Swiss Lodge who do. There we met our guide and after a quick tea for us all we headed off. Paying to get into the park was a really lengthy process. We all had to give our names, nationalities and then waited an age before we could all start paying. Obviously, there is a great need to protect the park and therefore they need to know exactly who is in there.

Literally upon entering the park we encountered a group of elephants who were grazing alongside the road. We had to stay silent so that they would not spooked. It was incredible to be so close to them and for the elephants to be completely unfazed by us. Our guide gave us a few elephant facts. They live until they are around 70 years old, an elephant’s teeth regrow every 10 years. This happens six times over their life time, so when they turn 70 they will no longer grow a new set. Therefore, they end up dying of hunger if they are unable to access softer grass. We also saw some elephants without tusks, he explained that this is a genetic mutation in elephants where some of them are born without ivory. From a poaching perspective, it is good this mutation exists. Elephants without ivory cannot be killed for it. However, they use their tusks to fight during mating season, and for fighting in general. It also a shame that this could ever be viewed as a positive due to the devastation the ivory trade causes.

We then saw giraffes, which are my favourite animals ever! There are two types of giraffe; maasai and reticulate. It is the shape of their spots which differentiate the two. Giraffes also come in slightly different shades, this is similar to humans in which it is caused by the melatonin in the skin. The maasai giraffes are named after the masaai tribe because the two cohabitated the same lands. The maasai are said to be so tall that they are like giraffe. They also have no competitors for their vegetation because of the height in which they eat, most other animals are unable to eat it. You can differentiate between males and females based on their horns, males have hair whilst females do not. The males also use their necks and horns to fight during mating season. Outside of this they are some of the most peaceful animals, which is why they are the national animal of Tanzania.

You will often find Zebra and Wilder beast vegetating together this is because the Wilderbeast have the noses to sniff out the fresh grass and the best places to graze. However, they are often referred to as ‘zero brain’ because they have no memory and will put themselves into dangerous situations. The zebra has a good brain and can therefore, remember the places they should not visit and have visited before. The wilderbeast eat first because they need the fresh, softer grass. Then the zebra eats because they can eat from the root. They are able to keep watch out for predators whilst the other eats.

I could talk for probably another 1,000 words on all the facts we learnt. However, I will just list some of the other animals that we saw; crocodiles, hippos, water buffalo, impala, warthogs (pumba), baboons and many more. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the lions, the groups in the morning had only managed to spot one. This meant is was really unlikely we would find any snoozing under the trees. We got back to our hotel at around 8:30pm, driving around at night was dangerous with motorbikes having little/no lights and flying out from everywhere, people wandering into the road. Luckily Oscar is a very good driver, so we all made it safely back after our wonderful day out.


The Problem with visiting schools

Oscar came to visit us at the hotel at around 2pm, after a quiet morning it was especially nice to see a friendly face. He caught us up on Shule Direct explaining we now had permission from Shule to go into the schools. Oscar now just needed to contact the schools to confirm the dates/times we would be going. The plan is to go into two schools on both Monday and Tuesday, so four in total over the two days. If this is possible it means I can collect at least 200 questionnaires over two days! Shule Direct schools have been much harder to get into because they are government schools. Therefore, permission is normally required from the Head of Education locally before you can visit them. However, because we are out here with HDIF and researching Shule Direct we are allowed to visit under their permission. It is all very confusing but I am excited that we will be able to see the difference between government and private schools.

Me, Runi and Mahjooba went into town after the meeting to get some money out. Myself and Runi needed money for our last week and we have to pay the hotel in cash. The first ATM was having signalling problems. A bank teller explained this was a quite common occurrence, which I can only imagine how frustrating that must be. The bank across the road gave Mahjooba her money and then they closed the ATM for servicing. It seemed that we weren’t going to have a lucky afternoon, so decided to head back to the hotel and try again either tomorrow or on Monday. We have a very early start tomorrow, we head off for safari at 5:30am so sleep is definitely needed!

The Gender Problem

Today we visited the other VETA college which is in Morogoro itself. Myself and Runi are unable to collect data from these colleges but we decided to go and look at the campus anyway. The other two had been spending a lot of time at VETA Kihonda with Sophie and Frank wanted us to all come see his college. The campus itself is truly beautiful, set at the bottom of the mountains with well-maintained buildings. It is much busier than the Kihonda campus, with far more cars on site than staff. Frank explained that the public is able to use their library and people often hire out the seminar rooms. This explains why the site at face value appears to be kept clean, if the public are also using it, the campus needs to be well presented. However, the further we went in the more rubbish we did begin to find, there was a shortage of bins around so people obviously just dumped their rubbish expecting someone else would pick up later.

Mahjooba was collecting data for her dissertation on gender equality in Tanzania and needed the female students and teachers to complete her questionnaire. This lead to a really interesting insight into the shortage of female teaching staff and shortage. Frank explained that it was getting better. When he went to school there were no girls in his computer class, however, the numbers are now beginning to rise. We met a female electronics teacher who explained that currently she teaches mostly boys but is hoping to start seeing more girls. I think it is really important to have female’s in these sorts of roles to provide role models for girls. If a subject is heavily male dominated, a lack of female teachers could be really putting girls off. It is good to see that female participation is on the rise, I think it would be naïve to expect it to change drastically. However, what is clear is that more females need to be visible in male dominated subjects, in order to encourage involvement.

This evening Mahjooba taught myself and Runi some Kung- Fu moves. We started by putting our legs onto the top bar of the balcony rails (disclaimer: this was done on the bottom floor). I am literally the least flexible person so was really impressed that I was even able to do this. We had to leave it there for as long as possible, Mahjooba explained this would show how high we are able to kick. Please enjoy the below video showing Mahjooba demonstrated her round leg kick on Runi. This was one of the funniest evenings and just highlighted how important this placement has been not just on gaining invaluable skills for later jobs but also on forming new friendships that otherwise might not have materialised.


The Aspiration Game

A successful day today, after conversing with Oscar he explained last night it would be unlikely we would be able to visit the schools today. So, he gave Runi the number for Mr Florian of KSS, so we could ask about conducting our mini projects there. After attempting to WhatsApp message and call, we were unsuccessful. Deciding not to let this deter us we got ourselves ready with everything we would need to conduct the sessions and headed down to the school. We went to the reception to ask to speak to him, our hope was at the very least we could arrange a day and a time that we could both return to conduct the sessions. He wasn’t in the college so we headed to the secondary school where the receptionist went off to find him. After explaining what our projects were and what we wanted to do, he went straight off to speak to two teachers to see if he we could use their classes after break. This was really unexpected and so welcoming after the slow start to our week. 30 minutes later myself and Runi were presented with a Form 5 and a Form 6 class to conduct our separate sessions.

I worked with the Form 5 class and was exploring aspirations and expectations with them. I had to adapt my session as the class wasn’t very forthcoming with engaging in the starter of my session which involved class participation. It would begin with a conversation about skills, what people were good at etc. So, we went quickly into the activity, the students were in groups of two or three, all had a sheet of paper and instead I got them to discuss each stage. What did they want to do in the future? What exactly did their future job look like? Where they in Tanzania or elsewhere? What skills did they need to get there? Did they need to go to University, where and how would they get there? The overwhelming thing that came out was that these students are aware of exactly what they want to be. At 24 years old and being a master’s students, I still clam up whenever somebody asks what I want to be when I graduate. I think part of this relates to the situations in which we come from. I come from a place where there is no pressure to know yet, it is something I have time to think about and work out, to an extent! Most of these students will be aware of how hard they have to work to get to where they want to be, and I am incredibly inspired by their dedication and passion.


A bug’s life

Rain season has officially begun, two days of downpour means that the weather has significantly cooled but the mosquitos are out in force. It now feels very reassuring to be taking anti-malarials, although I’m aware there are some strains they do not protect you from, as an added protection. In the evening’s my room and all of us has the stench of bug spray as we dose ourselves to stop us from getting bitten. The hotel has even sprayed our rooms to get rid of any bugs living in there. It isn’t just the mosquitos you have to worry about! So many little, bitey bugs around!

We have been told of two extra CSSC schools we can go in and visit, we are just waiting for them to confirm with Oscar now. This makes making any other plans really difficult because we do not know when they will want us in to visit. We have been using these days to go into town and explore. On Monday, we went to an Indian restaurant called Red Chilli, which we had been advised did really good food. It is safe to say we were not disappointed, the food was incredible and made a nice change from our diet of rice/chips, vegetables and beans. The restaurant is almost hidden, opposite the council offices. Me and Runi walked straight past it and then had to retrace our steps. After stuffing ourselves with delicious food we went to the shops to grab some water and food supplies. A 6L bottle of water is 3,000 shillings which can then last a few days. This is appeasing the environmentalist in me, which cries every time I have to buy another plastic bottle of water. Especially when I am aware that all rubbish is burnt here, adding to my environmental woes.

I also decided to take the opportunity to get some of my work done, there are parts of assessment for the placement module that can be completed whilst we are out here, so I decided to begin getting some of that organised. I also started to write up my first focus group transcription. This was a long and laborious process which I am not looking forward to completing the rest of my transcriptions for. If there is anyone out there, willing to write them up for me, for no payment, I would be eternally grateful.

Whilst the process out here of getting into schools has been slow, this is something that I expected. Field research rarely goes completely to plan and I think that is the most important lesson we are learning out here. We also have the added restriction of only being able to visit those schools which have received funding from HDIF grantees due to recent changes in the rules surrounding research in Tanzania. We have visited a range of interesting schools so far and hopefully we will gain access to more!