The necessary meeting to decide Karimu’s goals for Ufani Primary School took place this morning and early afternoon and went very well. We will try to raise money to build living quarters for two more teachers next year; we will add a holding tank for drinking water and also, for the new latrine, install sinks; for eight of the nine teachers who still need to take the “Foundation” course which underpins professional development, we will pay the majority of the cost with the teachers paying a small percentage; we will buy the seven hundred-plus textbooks needed to keep the curriculum current with changes mandated by the Tanzanian government; and, finally, we will pay to install a handful of solar panels.
I am no engineer, so the small cost of the solar panels startled me when I heard it at the meeting. In fact, each of these projects except for the teachers’ apartments will take relatively little money. Apparently we need well under one thousand dollars for the water tank and the sinks, a bit over thirteen hundred dollars for teacher education, less than three thousand dollars for the textbooks, and under two thousand dollars for the solar panels. Building teachers’ apartments at both Ufani and Ayalagaya Secondary School will pose much greater challenges, requiring a total in excess of forty thousand dollars.
We also have to find one or two thousand dollars—we don’t have the estimate yet—to provide another year of education for the handful of local special-needs children whose parents choose to send them to school. We began this program last year and, so far, it looks good: the number of families willing to send such children to school has increased from six last year to ten this year. Lorraine Flores, a Karimu Board member since last autumn who could not join the current trip, has a particular devotion to this project and its success will make her happy. But I know Lorraine will also point out that a long road ahead remains because we’re sure many more than ten special-needs children live in the area.
Dr. Susan Hughmanick climaxed the meeting with an explanation and demonstration of the StoveTec rocket stove that we had retrieved from our water specialist, Tiffany Wise-West. (To whom I owe an apology since Susan could have used the second rocket stove we had brought to Tanzania. At dinner this evening Tiffany, who needed to boil a lot of water today to conclude the testing of her samples, said she had struggled with a small metal charcoal stove lent to her by the village women who cook for us: “I could only use it if it had been lit for me, as I could never figure out how to get it to light properly! I much preferred the rocket stove for its ease and quickness of use.”) The success of Susan’s demonstration shocked me. We knew about the stove’s capabilities, having tested it not long ago in California. And we knew about Susan’s ability as a doctor to explain its advantages for the villagers’ health, not to mention for preventing deforestation and reducing the labor time needed to gather firewood, since it burns so little wood. Yet we expected resistance, nevertheless, due to the rocket stove’s novelty.
However, I think the trust which Karimu’s volunteers have earned among the villagers now inclines them to a favorable view of anything we suggest (which of course puts a big burden of responsibility on us to make only wise suggestions). To me, the village women looked interested and even excited as Susan quickly lit the stove and then stood over it for maybe five minutes while it grew hot enough for cooking. As Joas surveyed the village women gathered to watch Susan’s demonstration, he whispered to me that “There is no doubt they will want these stoves.”
Acquiring the stoves will impose another cost on Karimu unless a possible donor, one of Susan’s patients in California, comes through. But if Susan is right to argue that no other action of Karimu’s could save as many villagers’ lives, then we shall have to find the money for the stoves even if her donor backs out. The two stoves we brought to Tanzania came from China, although credit for the design goes to engineers at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Perhaps we won’t need to buy the stoves from China: one of the Aprovecho engineers, Nordica MacCarty, told me a couple of weeks ago that her team has also designed stoves for the UgaStove factory in Kampala, Uganda. I only hope the UgaStove design duplicates or closely resembles the design we have tested and that UgaStove’s cost rivals that of the Chinese-made stove—obviously we would prefer to keep the money spent on the stoves in East Africa, if not in Tanzania. Still, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves; though I trust Joas’ ability to read the reactions to the stove by the village women far more than I trust my own or Susan’s or Marianne’s, we want to hear from the women themselves.
As a sort of footnote to this three-hour meeting, Joas announced that he planned, in case Karimu declined to pay, to send Ufani School’s teachers on the first safari of their lives. Tanzania’s magnificent wild animal reserves have always attracted mainly Americans, Europeans, and Japanese since few Tanzanians can afford to hire four-by-fours and drivers. But the Ufani teachers deserve this reward for their students’ outstanding secondary school entrance exam results last September, best out of one hundred fifty primary schools in their district. Marianne and I agreed with Joas that Karimu ought to cover the cost of a one-day tour of Tarangire National Park, especially celebrated for its herds of elephants (and where last year our volunteers saw a lion dining on a recently killed zebra).
This opportunity means a lot to the teachers, so my characterization of it as a footnote says everything about the gap between the American economy and Tanzania’s: none of the teachers has ever visited a Tanzanian animal reserve, yet next month Karimu will send all nine on safari for a total of three hundred dollars.—Don Stoll