Our itinerary today took us on a long drive through the dusty tracks into the village of Rwamkoma. This is a village which already has a well established and successful link with St. John’s Church in Clifton in Brighouse. We had a wonderful opportunity to pause on our journey to see a new water pump in a village nearby. This was a very busy place, as lots of local people were gathered there, surrounded by plastic containers. How far they had walked in order to collect the water could only be guessed at, but they would also have to bear the weight of the full containers on their return journey. We all took advantage of the situation to have a go at the pump ourselves, much to the amusement of some of the locals! We continued on our way, our jeeps sending up clouds of choking orange dust, until the primary school came in sight.
Although the parish of Rwamkoma is linked with Clifton, the school had no link. Additionally, we learnt that the school had never received any visitors and so this was a very special day for us and for them. It was particularly important to Mr Bedford as a new link would be created with his school – St. John’s Primary Academy, Clifton.
As with all of our school visits, we were made extremely welcome. Desks were brought out and we sat together beneath the trees. The heat was intense, but we were so delighted to be there to see this brand new link form. The environment was stunning; trees stretched out across the landscape and the view of the hills and mountains was amazing. Arthur and Melina translated as the staff at the school introduced themselves in turn. Representatives of the church were also present and they all extended their friendship and love towards us; their delight at us being there was evident. It was then our turn to introduce ourselves.
Arthur explained the new link and that it would be based on communication and prayerful support between the two schools. Mr Bedford spoke to the group, thanking them for their welcome and offering greetings, friendship and love from St. John’s Primary Academy, also assuring them of the prayer support they would receive from his school. He also spoke of his joy at the formation of the link and that he wanted to see a strong and long lasting friendship develop. He went on to say that both schools had much to learn from each other and that all the children at both Rwamkoma and St. John’s Primary Academy would benefit from this new friendship. He then presented some gifts to the headteacher, which consisted of a specially made book of photographs from St. John’s, containing a letter from their principal, Mrs Lever. There were also exercise books, pens, pencils and balloons. The staff were delighted to receive them.
There followed an interesting discussion about the differences in education and discipline in the two countries. Perhaps the most memorable question was from a teacher at Rwamkoma, who asked if any of us would like to teach in Tanzania. When we asked if any of them would like to teach in England, most of the teachers raised their hands! This was a wonderful time, with people who enjoyed working in Rwamkoma.
It was time for us to meet the children. We separated and made our way through the classrooms. The children were overjoyed to see us and greeted us warmly. We learnt that the school had 1252 pupils and 9 teachers, who had all been placed here by the government. Shortly afterwards, the children poured from their classrooms and into the yard as we prepared to leave. Mr Bedford was surrounded by hundreds of pupils as he filmed them all waving. Clearly, this is going to be a very important link.
Following this, we journeyed on to the church to see the results of the support given by St. John’s Church. We saw the church and the new vicarage, with the new roof and floor tiles. We left, wishing we could have stayed longer at the wonderful school at Rwamkoma.
Our afternoon saw a return visit to BRAC (Buhemba Rural Agricultural Community). Cath and Gill had both visited previously, but it was a new experience for everyone else. As has happened everywhere, we were made hugely welcome and we shared a meal of rice, cabbage and beef.
We were told about the effect of the goat herd project for local farmers and we met the herd. Also, we heard about the project at BRAC. Bee hives (stinging bees!), production of sunflower oil, seed improvement and cattle farming are all component parts of BRAC. Sadly, the project supporting children who had been forced to work in the gold mines has closed due to lack of funding. However, the success story of BRAC is the development of a training system for farmers. This offers formal qualification which can ultimately lead to full blown university degrees. Those who get this far are snapped up to work for the government or NGOs (Non Government Organisations).
Locals farmers are supported by BRAC have learnt animal and land management resulting in vast increases in yields e.g. Goat milk production rising from 3-5 ltrs per day to 15-18 ltrs per day. Crop yields is also greatly increased. All this means that children can have books and uniforms and houses are being built. BRAC is truly changing lives and, at the same time, serving conservation issues in the locality. Beyond the Mara region, it is helping to create graduates with such specialised knowledge it is also serving areas across Tanzania.
Once back in Musoma some of our group got measured up and ordered traditional clothes in readiness for our cathedral service on Sunday. We then enjoyed a lovely meal together discussing another busy but enriching day in Tanzania.