African Killer Bees

Here in the southern highlands of Tanzania where tea flourishes there are smidgeons of the indigenous forest left.  Giant dark green ‘broccoli’ groves tower over shaded roads. There are silvery gum trees, brilliant flame trees and foreign purple jacaranda  surrounded by the introduced, thirsty, quick growing Eucalyptus. Wild life has almost been wiped out. BUT there are glorious birds. Anne spotted a one lone vervet monkey running across our driveway and of course there are the puff adder snakes! Yet always the yin yang, we are often woken by determined black and white pied crows who peck so hard on the window that they have made permanent marks in the glass. And now THE BEES! For two years they have lived at the end of our deck at the Protea volunteer house.  They buzzed away softly and made loads of honey, visible when we peeled back the decking. Within the last two days we noticed heavy buzzing near the middle of the deck. There is a wooden pole supporting both the deck and the roof overhang. Thousands of busy buzzing scary bees have been circling and keeping us inside.  Various members of the NGO have come to visit. and offer sympathy. Otak came in a tuque and jacket. I supplied surgical gloves. A green plastic potato bag became a fitted head mask.  We cut eyeholes! Out he ventured with 3 cans of something like Raid, thousands of carcasses rained on the deck..Otak received two painful stings. But today the bees are back, more visits from fresh NGO personnel.  Are they African killer bees? Probably not but they are winning! I will keep you posted.

Yesterday Geoff Fox, Geoff Knight, Anne, Ruth and Birgit made a trip to visit Luhunga Secondary school. We had a meeting with the headmaster Mr.Lalika , Mr Nyenza and one more colleague. The teachers are desperate for a girls dormitory. Currently 31 girls cram into one empty  unused classroom. Large metal boxes and old suitcases are stacked up against the wall containing all their possessions. Creaky flimsy bunk beds make up the rest of the furniture. Three girls to each bunk, latines are outside, pails of water are collected from the stream and carried back balanced on their heads. The desire for a dormitory is an important attempt to keep girls safe. Nine teen-age girls became pregnant last year while living on their own in small rented huts at the edge of the village.

AND… Great news, The African  Children’s Book Bos Society has a donor! For this project!! They have designated $75,000  Canadian for a girl’s dormitory. This is wonderful.  The headmaster explained that the majority of the parents in the area are illiterate and encouraging them to find funds for secondary school has been difficult especially when their daughters are unprotected.

Each year I think I have stared poverty in the face and there will be no new surprises. Wrong! This morning we ventured out to visit a Cheka Cheya, kindergarten in Kikonge, an area we have never visited before. It was a long bumpy ride to a two room house the villagers had donated to become a kindergarten. Both teachers had tiny babes strapped to their backs. 40 four year old children squeezed into the tiny space. There were no desks, just one bench and two stools.

Children worked happily on the cement floor. Some carefully drew chalk rectangles on the cracked surface. Small squares within were filled with cardboard letters in alphabetical order. Children crowded side by side calmly focusing on their individual tasks.

I had wooden figures from the old folk story ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I also have masks of the characters coaxed out of Chasaki, our visiting Tanzanian artist. Rapt attention was its own reward. Children laughed and giggled as their friends held masks up to their faces and Big Billy Goat Gruff hurled the villain troll into the stream.

Anne told the delightful story of Abigail, a giraffe in need of counting shills. She had all the characters cut out of felt and then built the story on a on a dark blue felt board. More enraptured children!

It is such a privilege being welcomed into classrooms full of young children dressed in tatters and yet everyone making do with extraordinary “bits” to educate. We met a headmistress teaching 95 grade ones (standard one) all at once, everyday. I think of her constantly when I plan lessons and when I tend to burst out with pedagogical advice.

It seems easy to take so much for granted in our North American world!!!

Ruth