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Dear Marcia and Artsednet,
I'm not sure I will be able to answer all of your questions in this
post today but I will try again later. The generator is not working
fully and my time on the computer may be limited. Power cuts have
increased to four days a week and sometimes it's turned off a fifth
day without warning.
All students, whether attending Tanzanian public or private local
schools, or private English-speaking schools, wear a generic uniform
of white short sleeved shirt and dark blue shorts, skirts or pants.
Students sew the logo of their school on their shirt if they are from
private schools. Muslim girls after 2nd or 3rd grade also wear head
scarves and long sleeved shirts, never shorts and usually long
full-length skirts or pants. A family sending a student to a local
public school must be able to afford the uniform, pay for their own
books and provide writing materials, a cost which keeps many children
from attending school. When the full-time pay for local University
professors is about $60/month, you can imagine how difficult it is to
send someone to even public school when local books, papers and
pencils because they are imported, have a 45% duty on them, making
them nearly twice as expensive as we would pay for a comparable item
in the U.S. Now with the power rationing, all fuel is being conserved
to run generators, increasing the already high cost of bringing in and
transporting goods to the country.
The local diet consists of ugali, a cornmeal mush, rice and "spinach"
to which beans and a sauce with bits of meat if the latter two items can be
afforded, are added. Vegetables are available in the markets but are
not generally part of the local fare except for occasionally
potatoes. Students here at IST begin school at 7:10 a.m. The first
play break is at 9:15 for 20 minutes and many students eat snacks of
sandwiches, sweets, chips, and sodas in canteens. There is a canteen
on campus that sells little pizzas and baked goods as well. Students
generally also eat snacks at the 10:55 break and go home for lunch at
12:00 if they are in kindergarten, 12:30 if they are in grades 1-5
and at 1:00 pm if they are in grades 6-12. By 1 p.m. it is generally
too hot to think, let alone breathe unless you have a fully operative
air conditioner, which I can say is only in the computer lab at the moment.
Hot, of course, is a relative term. It is generally 80-90 degrees in
temperature here, but the humidity increases steadily from the 50%
that it is now, to 90%. There are two rainy seasons, short rains and
long rains. In the long rains, I will need to wear boots up the
calves to school as the standing water is 6-8" deep, covering the
playfield. Fortunately I live on the third floor of a building so
that I don't have to come home to find that snakes have taken refuge
in my flat, as is the case in lower apartments and the school.
For people who have money, you can purchase meat, cheese,
vegetables, some prepared foods, some frozen foods, and as of
last month, a variety of US junk foods found in US supermarkets
to supplement the local baked goods available now.
As one macaroon costs 1/2 a day's wages, these baked goods are
purchased only by people who are paid with foreign salaries or who
have made money locally on "dukas" or shops, a new capitalism that
has been emerging with the recent change of government. There are
teachers who remember when it was illegal to own a television.
Until two years ago, there was no bread available locally.
I see local children playing without toys or props as any children
would, making up games, hiding around trees and bushes, and running
barefoot, entertaining themselves. You see quite alot of people
playing checkers on a board made from a scrap of cardboard cut into a
square, drawn in squares made from pencil lead, and "checkers" made
from bottle caps. Yesterday I saw children playing with a wheel
attached to a scrap piece of wood, pushing it on the ground and
running around the dukas. For families who can afford it, a variety
of consumer goods for children are available imported from India and
China. I even saw a row of Barbie dolls in a store last week, in the
first "shopping center" in Dar, a place where you see only people
with money shopping. But I would say that even children who have alot
of consumeer goods here, generally have much less than those of the
There are no museums for art and no galleries, although there are two
art schools in the area. There are a few curio shops and open air
markets, creating mostly tourist items. It is an unfortunate start to
not find art for art's sake here because people simply can't afford
to. As the secondary school art teacher said, "They've amputated
their souls." It is a fact of economic survival that people sacrifice
themselves in this way.
Well, the generator is due to shut down again. Will write more later.
Thanks for sharing your posts with children in your classes and for
their responses. Penpals and art exchanges are most welcome. As an
addendum to my previous post, if you send anything to the school in
this regard, please address it only to the school and put my name
inside. If it is addressed to me personally, the local mail people
will open it open, take what they want, and charge 100% duty on the
remains. Anything send here for humanitarian or exchange purposes
should be addressed only to:
International School of Tanganyika, Ltd.
P.O. Box 2651
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Thanks for your comments, thoughts, and questions!