#1: Selina

There is a time to laugh and a time to be serious,” says Selina as she reflects on her life as a secondary school student. In January 2015, Selina experienced first-hand the challenge faced by many young girls in rural Tanzania: poverty.

In the fall of 2014, Selina attended TEMBO’s Primary and Secondary Success (PASS) program where she studied English, Math and sciences in preparation for secondary school. But when she returned home, her parents told her that they had no money to purchase a uniform or pack the necessary supplies for school. Selina admits that she was angry when she saw others go to school. “I cried so hard,” she says. For one year, she stayed home helping her family on the farm. “My mother and father are both farmers, and my mother was sick and could not work. I helped my family, but I was always thinking about how I could go to school. I pleaded with my brother to help, but he told me not to talk about that because there was no money.”

For one year, she continued to think, never giving up. In early 2016, she approached a local teacher in her village. He suggested she write a letter to TEMBO. Waiting for a reply was very hard for Selina: “What can I do? What can I do?”, she thought. Finally, she heard from the Director of TEMBO (Tanzania) that she had been selected for sponsorship. Selina smiles and says, “My heart was so happy”.

Today, Selina is in Form 4 at Engarinaibor Secondary School just weeks away from writing the Tanzanian National Exams. If successful, she will have the opportunity to continue her studies at the advanced level.

Selina can still recall arriving at school: “When I put on my uniform, I thought I was so big, but when I got to school, there were so many people bigger than me. I was so much shorter than others.” Selina’s small frame has never deterred her from her dream: she is a determined and focused student who keeps her head down and her goal foremost in her mind. Selina hopes to be a doctor someday and with her love of sciences, she believes she can make it. She knows that she must focus on studying for the exams. “My family cannot afford to bring me home during the school break, so I stay here at TEMBO. I like the hostel. I feel like I am at home and I am with my friends. It is a good place to study and a good place to sleep.”

When asked about challenges at school, she laughs and replies without hesitating, “A thief! Someone stole my underwear and soap. You have to be very careful and keep an eye on your soap while you shower.” Today, she is happy that she still has the 3 pairs of underwear she started with at the beginning of the year!

#2: Sarah

In 2013, Sarah was given the “Spirit Award” at PASS (TEMBO’s academic enrichment program) for her enthusiasm for life and the spark of joy she brought to the program. Now, six years later, Sarah continues to radiate confidence and enthusiasm as she shares stories about her current college studies.

Currently, Sarah is in the second year of a three-year community development program at the Local Government Training Institute in Dodoma.  She enthusiastically tells the TEMBO staff, “I have to get to class early if I want get the front seat.”  She is very proud of the good grades that she has been receiving in her communication and sociology classes, and she believes that by living in the college hostel “I will have more time to learn and study.”

As part of her college program, Sarah must complete a field study component at the end of each year. Sarah selected a placement at the local ward office where she applied her learning to community conflicts. She was able to develop a deeper understanding of marital conflicts, the need to address early marriage for girls and how to mobilize women to help them understand and deal with personal issues. During a recent school holiday, “I went back to the ward office to volunteer to just learn more.”

When asked about her dream, Sarah replies, “I hope to someday work for an NGO in Tanzania. I have to be strong to realize my dream and I have to be patient. But I think, someday, my dream will come true.”

#3: Adela

Adela is 13.  She walks along the path talking about school, math class, her new friends and more. When asked who inspired her to get an education, she turns and looks directly at you and replies, “My grandmother”.  There is no doubt.

When Adela was young, her family situation was challenging and her grandmother, Dorothea, decided to move Adela and her two younger brothers from West Kilimanjaro to Longido, to come and live with her in her small two-room house.

Dorothea is now retired, and while she can recall easily her own educational experience, she speaks meekly about her achievements. Many years ago, Dorothea went to secondary school, a challenge for girls of her generation, but she was lucky: her parents wanted her to have an education. Soon after completing school, she did  a year of military service that was compulsory for students at that time. A year later, she went on to college where she studied to become a teacher. She was then appointed by the government to teach at Engikaret Primary School for 5 years. During those five years, she married and had two children, but her husband soon ran away to marry another wife. As a single parent, Dorothea moved to Longido where she continued to teach at the primary school for another 25 years. When life got difficult for her daughter, Dorothea helped out by taking care  of 3 of her 5 grandchildren including Adela and her two younger brothers. For the past seven years, Adela has lived with her on the property of Longido Primary School. Adela speaks fondly of life with her grandmother, “I really liked primary school. I liked to read and I liked to learn with my grandmother. We sat at the table and she helped me with my homework.”

Adela continues to love learning and reading.  As a PASS student in fall 2018, she loved going to the library where she could borrow books on the topics she was studying with the local Tanzanian teachers. Adela told the teachers, “My grandmothers says that PASS is a gift, that education is a gift and I must use it wisely.” In January 2019, Adela was selected to attend Form 1 at Longido Secondary School. It was a special day when she walked off to school in her red sweater and green skirt, with her grandmother at her side, smiling and carrying Adela’s trunk.

#4: Esupat

“I live in Kimikouwa in a traditional Maasai boma with my mother, grandmother and my six brothers and sisters. Many girls in our community are forced into early marriage. People ask me if my father has a husband for me, but I say ‘NO!’  I am very stubborn about my education.”

Esupat, age 19, recently completed four years of study at Ketumbeine Secondary School where she was Head Girl. Since graduating in November, she has been keeping herself busy while waiting for the exam results, a nerve wracking waiting period for students in Tanzania. Her first job was in a small store where she helped to sell flour, rice and maize. More recently, Esupat worked as a tour guide in a remote village. Here she had the opportunity to share information about the Maasai culture including issues facing young girls. For Esupat, “This opportunity was really fun and I liked talking about our culture. I am proud to be Maasai.”

In addition to helping tourists, Esupat also spends time mentoring her immediate family. Her cousin, Leah, is now in Form 1 and sponsored by TEMBO. Esupat talks to Leah about school life, about studying and the need to focus on your dreams. “It is very important to study hard and to focus on mathematics,” she tells Leah.

And yes, Esupat will most likely need her mathematics as she heads off to study supply management in September at a college in Mbeya, Tanzania.

#5: Noorkorianga

“My family supports education and wanted me to go to secondary school. My father went to secondary school and my mother completed primary school.”

But when it came time for Noorkorianga to register for secondary school, the family had no money. Longido District experiences periods of severe drought and the fall of 2016 had been an exceptionally dry year. Noorkorinaga’s father was willing to sell a goat to help provide for his daughter, but the price of a goat at the market in January 2017 was very low.

Sitting at home in their boma (traditional Maasai home), Noorkorianga knew that they had a problem.  “My father felt shame that he could only give me a few things”, recalls Noorkorianga. With the little money he had from the sale of a goat, “My father had bought me a trunk, a pink sheet, a bar of soap and a black skirt.”  They both knew that this was not all that she needed and that without the necessary items, she could not go to school.

Together, they came to Longido looking for support and talked to the staff at TEMBO Trust. Fortunately,  Noorkorianga could be added to the list of sponsored students and she was able to join the other students at Tinga Tinga Secondary School, with a full trunk. Looking back on the first few days and weeks at school, Noorkorianga says, “I did not like it at all! The environment was not good and we had problems with water. It was hard to study because we had to share one book with many other girls.”

Today, however, things are much different at school and she smiles as she talks about what she now has including three years of education. “I now have fun at school. I play sports and I enjoy the talent shows and the English debates.” While school life has become more interesting, she is worried about what life will be like when she goes home. “The men will see that I am big, and I am ready to get married.” But, for now, she pushes all that away and focuses on the book she has in her hands. “I have what I need for now and that is OK.”