Dormitory Triumph!

A GIRL’S Dormitory!

The African Children’s Book Box Society, began its life as a literacy project inspired by Anne in 1991. Many years later, we have ‘put forth’ into many areas of need. Instead of a story by African authors for African children, this time I am telling a Tanzanian story by a Canadian author!

In 2015 Anne, Birgit and I sat with the Luhunga Secondary School, headmaster, Mr. Lalika, and the computer/English/geography teacher, Mr. FelixMhoka, while they told us that the parents, teachers and students desperately needed a girls ‘hostel'. Girls were vulnerable – 31 of them were staying in a dilapidated classroom with broken windows, crammed rickety bunks, peeling walls and broken cement floors.

They were using distant latrines, outdoor cooking fires and walking long distances to get buckets of water. Customarily for reasons of hygiene and scarcity of water, all girls must have closely shaved hair (most of the children in these pictures are girls). Accommodation was not safe and 9 girls had become pregnant during the term. Pregnancy is a great cause of shame and leads to immediate removal from school, no matter the circumstances. Parents were choosing tea picking as an alternative to school.

Using our kindergarten skills, we manipulated a drawing from a fellow society to come up with a preliminary dormitory plan. Once home in Canada, we called our new friend, Alan Roy, a retired Victoria architect. Alan, surprisingly, has built five schools in Tanzania (www.PrimarySchoolsForAfrica.com). Within three days Alan had completed incredible working drawings. There was a solar heating unit, a roof top water collection system, sewer, courtyard vegetable gardens and more. It seemed as if God had sent Mr. Alan Roy!!!

Alan, in turn, told us about Restus Sanka, a gifted contractor and carpenter (fundi) he worked with in Arusha. Restus is Tanzanian and had taken his teacher training in a nearby town of Mafinga. He knew local materials, costs and innovative ways to construct the finest building in Mufindi. Absolutely!

Together Restus and Alan researched and purchased a smokeless wood stove, from Nairobi, Kenya able to cook ugali (maize based porridge) for 60 at one time!

And then… we emailed all of you!!! Once again with incredible generosity, “kindness” funds came in.

Construction began. We heard from Luhunga secondary:

 “Hello how are you! i am doing well. Every thing is going well here in Mufindi especial in Luhunga Secondary school. student ,parents and teachers are very happy on the project of dormitory as is going to finish soon and the girls will be safe. 

~ Mr. FelixMhoka, teacher

We returned to Mufindi. Parents in the surrounding villages had heard about the dormitory. They came to visit and to see the progress for themselves. Now 50 girls were sleeping on mattresses around the perimeter of one more derelict classroom, as well 31 in the old bunks, 81 registered for next term!

Just after Valentines Day, the Fox NGO arranged a formal hand over ceremony. School board and government officials were in attendance. Long speeches were made. Pledges of bags of cement, corrugated roofing and even cash to repair the core building were promised. Villagers and students applauded. The poverty stricken area was stepping up to the best of its ability.

Chasaki, the fine Tanzanian artist, put the ‘icing on the cake’ or the ‘dance in the Mandizi-man (a sort of Tanzanian donut)’. He painted the required secondary school signs and then painted three inspirational murals on the dormitory walls.

“One day we sat down with girls and listening on the discussion they were doing on what picture do they want mr chasaki to draw at dormitory and also on the name of the dormitory most of the student they want the dormitory to be named (AFRICANBOOKBOX DORMITORY).” ~ Mr. FelixMhoka, teacher

Then …we were given the news…120 girls were registered for school! Yikes! It was double the expected 64. The information was greeted with total aplomb in Mufindi district, two girls in each of the beautiful strong new bunks with brand new mattresses and bedding. It would be just fine!

Our great friend Stephen Lewis, took the time to reassure us.

“I read Felix’s words about the Luhunga Secondary School and could scarce believe how lovely the letter was. And the dorm! Two to a bed! It’s perfect … perfectly African. Ruth: you and Anne have made such a contribution to those girls. Their lives have changed completely. They’ll now get through school and grow up to have engaging and productive lives. It doesn’t get better than that.”