As a Foundation we have had extraordinary luck in finding and working with amazing schools. Whether they are subsidized private schools (for village kids) like Kenya Fluorspar or the top performing academic schools (such as Precious Blood) or the underdog slum school that soars (Anwa Academy).
I think we have found another such school for our project in Tanzania, called Mwendakulima Secondary School, in Kahama. Mwendakulima was built only 4 years ago by Barrick (gold mining company) and yet it is already the top performing school in the district. It is mixed boys and girls, and a lot of the students come from very tough backgrounds (Barrick pays the tuition for half of the students that attend the school). And yet, when you walk into the school, it is like a breath of fresh air. Everything is tidy and organized. Every surface has been cleaned – like Precious Blood, it is the students who clean the school. Each student has a duty, and a bucket.
With Kiswahili being the official language in Tanzania, even the students that manage to make it through high school have trouble securing employment because English is a necessity (for english Canadian readers, this would like French for us. We all have to take it at school, but most of us graduate not being able to take a job in French because we are nowhere near fluent enough). Mwendakulima is addressing this by enforcing English at all times – posting signs on doors and walls as reminders.
The Principal, Dayana Kuboja, is focused, enthusiastic, smart, and on the ball. A critical lesson we learnt last year was that if the leadership of the Principal is not strong, the possibility of the library program being a success is greatly diminished. It has now become one of our primary requisites.
We also found that although they have a structure in place for the library, there are no books or furniture – which is a perfect point of intervention for us. Now we will begin the planning phase – and I will learn how to set up libraries in a new country!