The scenery is changing as Efraem – a safari driver, translator and friend – and I leave the main dirt road and start the long climb to the top of the hill on the rutted path. Our vehicle is filled with Maasai elders from Endupoto Primary School. We are in the land of huge baobab trees and Maasai bomas. The sky is blue; it’s hot, dry and dusty with no hint of the long rains we are praying will come soon. Behind us is an ancient Land Rover filled with 20 students followed by a tractor hauling all their possessions including their mattresses and food for their first year at Oljoro Ward 5 Secondary School.
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My expectations are high. We are taking our first graduates from Endupoto Primary School who passed the National Exam to a school the government has selected for them. All I know about Oljoro Ward 5 Secondary School is that it was built three years ago.
Expectations are a crazy thing in Tanzania, and I should know better as I’ve been working here since 1993. We pull up to the school in a cloud of dust to find five smartly dressed male teachers waiting for us. I’m impressed! This doesn’t last long. After paying for the watchman, cooker and various other fees for each student for the year, we ask to see the textbooks, inquire about the source of water, and then are led on a tour of the campus. Soon we discover there are only four classrooms, two unfinished laboratories for chemistry, physics and biology, no water, no electricity, no dorms or beds for the students and a very small selection of textbooks.
Thank goodness for WhatsApp on my iPhone. I can reach Karen Royce in Greenwich, CT to give her the news.
“Hello, Karen. This is Cheryl. You would not believe what is in store for us now!” With wise counsel and understanding from Karen, a plan is hatched.
Our success at Endupoto from the very beginning has been the cooperation of the Maasai elders planting the trees, providing labor and moving rocks for the foundation of the classrooms. Maybe we can mobilize this new village of Maasai?
On our second trip to Oljoro, our vehicle is filled with more Maasai elders and, this time, a Tanzanian contractor. I’ve asked the Headmaster of Oljoro to invite the Maasai elders from this new village to the school for a meeting. I’m happily surprised to find about fifty elders waiting for us in a classroom. The Maasai elders from Endupoto explain how they have worked with us since 2008 to make Endupoto one of the best primary schools in Tanzania. The words I hear are cooperation, no lying, and don’t ever think of asking Mama Cheryl for money. They agree if we move ahead to build the dorms and a 20,000 liter rainwater harvesting tank, they will bring in the rocks and provide the labor for digging the foundation.
Four days pass. The contractor has drawn the plans, the stakes have been set in the ground for the dorms, and a member of our October safari (when we attended the first graduation at Endupoto) has reached out to Karen with an offer to fund the two dorms. Thank you to the Schaus family! During this time, Efraem and I have purchased new textbooks for nine subjects, solar lights, some school supplies and have a local Tanzanian worker design and build a mock up for us to approve of a triple bunk bed.
The time has arrived for our third and last trip to Oljoro before I depart and return home. Efraem and I both agree we have no expectations. We are just hopeful there will be a small pile of rocks for the foundation. As our vehicle comes to a halt before the school, we hear singing coming from one of the classrooms. These shy, new students from Endupoto have integrated with the other two classes in a welcoming song. They are all moving and singing to the sound of the drumming from upside down plastic buckets. However, our attention is really on the 500 plus Maasai hauling rocks to both dorms located some distance apart. To my surprise, a long line of women singing and carrying rocks on their heads and in their arms join the men. Efraem can’t believe it and neither can I! I can hardly wait to call Karen and give her the news. WE ARE GOING TO WORK TOGETHER WITH THE MAASAI AND THE TEACHERS TO MAKE OLJORO ONE OF THE BEST SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN TANZANIA.
PS: The results are in for all Standard 7 students in Tanzania that took the National Exam in September 2016. Endupoto Primary School placed first in the Ward out of six schools and 10th out of 75 schools in the District.
St. Michael’s Anglican Church, the pastor’s house and rainwater harvesting tank, which were built on a plot near Endupoto in four weeks, are fully operational. St. Michael’s has a Sunday School class of 72 Maasai boys and girls.
The Nursery School classroom is under construction and should be finished by February thanks to the generous donation from Pat and John Baity, who were part of the October safari as well.