August 10: At a meeting of villagers to discuss water we hear from the Executive Officer (or Mayor) for Dareda Kati Village, Christopher Awebosta. Christopher argues that if Karimu intends to build a clean-water system with a tap at Ufani Primary School, the tank should be installed high on the escarpment overlooking the school. Then pipes can run from the tank to several different taps so that not everyone will have to walk all the way to Ufani School for water.
We had already heard—for example, from a young man named Yusufu Ramadani who works mainly as a laborer but sometimes as a replacement teacher at Ufani, and currently as one of our translators—that even absolutely pure water could not attract those villagers who, like Yusufu and his family, live far from the school. (People in the village are accustomed to making tough decisions about how hard they will work in order to avoid illness. Yesterday Yasenta and Léoncé suggested that boiling their family’s drinking water is a chore they are not willing to perform; without a modern stove fed by gas or electricity, after all, boiling water becomes a grind.)
In the near term, unfortunately, Karimu might have a hard time raising the money to run more than one pipe from the water tank that we plan. Maybe we can add more pipes in the future, but for now the villagers might have to satisfy themselves with the knowledge that at least some of them, especially the children and teachers of Ufani School, will get sick less often.
At the end of the meeting the men’s group and the women’s group, separately, each expressed their gratitude for the six hundred and forty mosquito nets that Karimu delivered last year, asserting that many fewer villagers have suffered from malaria than in the past.
August 11: Peggy Seltz has joined us on this visit to Tanzania, as she did two years ago. Peggy made the award-winning film, Until We Meet Again: Building a School in Tanzania, about Karimu’s work and is shooting more footage now. This morning she films students in Standard VII, the highest level of primary school, as they read aloud the letters they have written to middle-school students in Santa Cruz, California.
One student after another declares his or her wish to become a teacher. I suppose this is partly because Ufani Primary School’s teachers make excellent role models. But the children’s rural isolation—evident also in their nearly unanimous choice of ugali, or cornmeal mush, as their favorite food—exposes them to few career possibilities other than teacher. Nevertheless, four or five out of thirty-eight children say they want to become doctors and one girl startles us by saying she would like to be a pilot.
(Eight days later, four Cal State-Long Beach theater students and I will wait for hours and hours to fly out of Mt. Kilimanjaro International Airport. One of the students, Olivia Trevino—in fact, a recent graduate—observes that the children cannot grasp the possibility of “dreaming of a different life.” Olivia, a gifted novice director, points out that none of the children she met at Ayalagaya Secondary School wishes to be, or even understands what it could mean to be, a director or actor or sculptor or writer. “It’s such hard work to satisfy the necessities of life,” she says, “that they have no time left to dream.”)
These are the children of subsistence farmers. Not a single child out of the thirty-eight confesses an aspiration to farming.—Don Stoll