Health and Education
Health and Education in Mara
‘Elimu ni Ufunguo wa Maisha’ (Education is the Key to Life)
This Swahili proverb is on the lips of every student and every parent in Tanzania. Our link has involved schools from the very beginning, and parishioners from here have played a significant role in throwing open the door to life for thousands of young people in Tanzania.
When the newly-established Diocese of Mara started asking people in the villages what they most wanted from the church, ‘Educate our children’ was often top of the list. The villagers of Issenye, 60 miles away from the nearest tap or electricity socket, had already gone some way to realising that goal by building a head teacher’s house in the grounds of a derelict primary school. All they wanted was for a head teacher to turn up and create a secondary school for their children.
Mara’s first bishop, Gershom Nyaronga, saw an opportunity for the church to serve the community in this significant way and, when a team from Wakefield came looking for ways to express the newly-formed link, he approached team member Bill Jones, who had previous experience of teaching in Tanzania. Within weeks Bill and his wife, Maureen, had left Christ the King and were on their way to Issenye. That was in 1989, and the full story of how the project grew and later developed a rural health centre thanks to Maureen’s nursing skills is told in ‘School for the Serengeti’, published in 2007 and available from the church.
Grass Cutting Cows
When Maureen & Bill last revisited the school they built at Issenye, in Mara’s Serengeti District, they found 20 new members helping to keep the grounds looking spic and span. The school’s herd of Zebu cattle not only cut the grass, however. They also provide milk for the school’s 475 boarders, produce gas for the school kitchen’s biogas unit and finally make the supreme sacrifice of providing beef for school dinners. Thanks to the specialised services of a contented looking bull, they also contrive to produce offspring who go to market, with the resulting profit bolstering the school’s income. All in all, they are probably the school’s most productive members of staff.
Isseco Health Centre
Issenye is several hours journey from a hospital, so when people discovered that Maureen was a nurse/midwife, her services quickly became widely sought after. She responded by holding weekly bush clinics in different locations. As the demand grew, however, she resolved to build a small rural health centre based at the school which would serve students, staff and villagers.
The centre has grown over the years and now has a maternity ward, two general wards, a laboratory, and a reproductive health centre, manned by a doctor, laboratory technician and two nurses. It works in collaboration with the Tanzanian government’s own health services and provides free immunisation for children as well as general health care for everyone within a wide area. Christ the King continues to support the Health Centre with fund-raising activities to help fund its development and expansion.
The Church in Tanzania has the courage to go against the grain of cultural tradition when those traditions conflict with fundamental Christian beliefs about equality under God.
This huge billboard proclaims that ‘They are all your children – why do you discriminate against your girls?’ It refers to the reluctance of some families to give their daughters the same educational opportunities as their sons.
Such attitudes (not unknown in our own society until comparatively recent times) are changing and the Church is active in promoting such a change. Our link school at Issenye has always had a higher than average proportion of girl students and Christ the King parishioners have been active in supporting those whose personal circumstances made it difficult for them to continue.
Children in Tanzania start school aged seven. They attend primary school for seven years, after which many have completed their education unless they are lucky enough to get (and afford) a place at secondary school. After that, an even luckier few may go on to college or university.
As in Britain, however, many parents see the advantage of preparing their children for school at an earlier age and these youngsters are enjoying their time at Issenye’s Nursery School where they learn to read and write and even to speak a few words of English. They are also very interested in visitors with a camera.
Ironwoman Claire Helps Safe House
Our extraordinary ‘Ironwoman’, Claire Berry, (Née Carden) is pictured here being cheered along by daughters Elleanor and Bethanie during her 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle ride and 26.2 mile run – all done in one day! The two very proud young ladies told us what a hard job it had been for their mum and how she had just kept going because she had said she would! They said that all their friends were impressed with her achievement – as we are. They were also glad that she had done it in support of the Safe House in Tanzania which rescues girls in danger of being subjected to FGM. ‘We want all girls to be safe,’ they said. Claire was well supported on the way, and also by those of us who stayed at home but reached into our wallets, with the result that she raised the magnificent sum of £850 and counting, which is now on its way to our link Diocese of Mara in Tanzania, earmarked for the Safe House.
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