While completing my research and fellowship in Tanzania, it was often hard to escape the feeling of being a “Mzungu” [white foreigner] in a place where I might not belong. Traveling can be difficult on its own, and when you add in language barriers, cultural differences, and a change in diet, it can seem even more disheartening. However, when I began to get into the project visits and meeting more people, I gradually became more comfortable being in a foreign place, interacting despite language barriers, and adapting to less-than comfortable situations. I concentrated on learning Swahili, developing an appreciation of the local food, adjusting to the way of life, being sensitive to cultural norms and courteous to all those around me. Respect in any culture is a great commodity and is certainly appreciated by the local Tanzania people.
As I met people throughout Arusha and Singida, I was humbled by the level of genuine congenial hospitality I was shown. The local Tanzanians reception was extremely respectful of my BCF fellowship partner and me. We were treated well by everyone we met, including strangers and passersby. The generous acts included receptions with refreshments, dinner invitations, gifts, and even offers of a place to stay for the evening. The incredible hospitality, generosity and sincere kindness shown to me made me much more relaxed in all aspects of this amazing journey.
As I visited different project sites that were facing larger challenges (e.g. children not being able to eat at school, insufficient access to water, lack of necessary technology), I felt a bit discouraged by the lack of infrastructure in different areas. I found myself brainstorming, thinking “how can this be fixed?” and “why isn’t someone doing more?” I soon realized that these were generational issues, defined by colonialism, general lack of infrastructure and issues of misappropriation, making it incredibly difficult to solve even when extra funding and support is given to an area.
I believe the chief threat to moving forward is a lack of educational resources for the growing population. While most of Africa (especially Tanzania) is urbanizing at a rapid rate, many individuals in rural areas do not have access to educational services due to lack of schools, teachers, and monetary resources. According to the Bureau of Management and the Office of the Chief Information Officer of Economic and Data Services for USAID (M/CIO-EADS), many East African countries populations are expected to double within the next thirty years, prompting certain questions: if we do not have enough teachers or resources now, what will we do when the population is doubled? The simple answer is to educate enough individuals now so that they can teach in the future, but because it is so hard to identify which communities are having a hard time building (and a plethora of other reasons), it appears to be is a near impossible problem to solve.
While surveying the different project sites, I noticed that some of the most effective projects were school construction and renovation projects. The building of classrooms, teacher housing, and donation of school materials such as desks and other furniture has created more space for students to thrive in an environment conducive to learning. At Oldadai Primary School, the headteacher said that because of the new classrooms constructed by Global Partners for Development, national exam pass rates increased from sixty-eight percent (68%) to ninety-one percent (91%) over the course of just a few years. At least one thing is clear: when students have more space to learn and grow, much better results are produced.
Unfortunately, good people across the globe are either born into or forced into situations that make it near impossible to adequately care for themselves and their families. Global Partners has a genuine interest in making things better for these families and takes on an active role in distributing the education and resources necessary to make community-driven development more attainable. These efforts make it so that large-scale problems can eventually be addressed and resolved at the domestic level. Overall, I feel that the partnerships between GPFD and local communities throughout East Africa has been very productive and effective. It is my hope to continue to broaden my background on issues such as these, so that I may become an agent of positive change in the international community. Because of my experience in Tanzania with Global Partners, I will continue to support those who uplift their communities whether it be through education, resource distribution, or through other forms of development assistance. I am inspired.