August 2: The arrests that Daniel Amma and some of the other Ufani School teachers had feared did not happen today. They hope that with the month-long winter break from school about to start, (we are south of the Equator), President Jakaya Kikwete’s temper will cool and he will reach an accommodation with the teachers union. In Daniel’s efforts to shore up support for the strike by his more anxious colleagues, who have talked about returning immediately to their classrooms, he argues that Kikwete cannot possibly jail every teacher in the country, which would mean turning loose killers, rapists, and thieves.
Over lunch, one of the nervous teachers had remarked that our volunteers should make a point of staying at the school all day: “The police will not arrest us because they are afraid of mzungus”—that is, white people. Since it wasn’t clear whether he was joking, I looked at Daniel.
“It is a matter of law, so we will be arrested if this is what Kikwete orders.” He smiled. “But they will be less harsh.”
A palpable calm spread across the afternoon as the scheduled school day drifted toward its end without police turning up in the village. We sensed that a moment of crisis had passed. This permitted a visit to the home of Flaviana, who heads a group of local HIV patients. Karimu (www.karimufoundation.org) made a small grant to them several months ago, and Flaviana proudly displayed the new, ventilated, concrete chicken coop that the money bought. It will soon be stocked with laying hens.
Flaviana’s group believes that the chickens can generate enough profits to pay for necessities which the patients must often do without, including transportation to the public health clinic. Although they receive antiretroviral medicine free of charge from the clinic, courtesy of the Tanzanian central government, traveling for miles on foot there and back is a hardship. It is a hardship even in the best of times, which is to say in those months, like the present one, when it does not rain. I have only been to the village during Tanzania’s dry wintertime; I try to avoid thinking about what life for the villagers must be like in the monsoon months of March, April, and May, when the red-dirt footpaths become torrents of mud and the bridge linking Flaviana’s side of the village to the clinic side is often underwater.
We also found time to call on Catherine Boay Buxay, Headmistress of Ayalagaya Secondary School. Catherine’s immediate concern was the renovation of three classrooms by local builders and Karimu volunteers, but her dreams for the future include a computer lab with Internet access for her teachers and students.
The Internet seems a long way off for a school that still does not have electricity. However, power lines now run along the other side of a dirt road that skirts Ayalagaya. Bringing them to the school is likely to cost only a little over $2,000, while installing a fully adequate solar energy system ought to cost no more than $3,000. (Daniel Amma and his wife, who live across that dirt road from the school, are considering the same options, albeit cautiously because of the current tensions between President Kikwete and the teachers union. Solar energy will of course be cheaper in the long run, despite costing them more up front.) So, like any good leader, Catherine is looking ambitiously ahead to her next move.