Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tanzania best for government effectiveness

A new World Bank report says that Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have shown significant progress in the key aspects of improving governance over the past 10 years.

Tanzania has the best record of all three countries in its efforts to control corruption and also scores best under the "Rule of Law" category. Both Kenya and Tanzania score well under the "Voice and Accountability" section, while Uganda is said to be the least stable politically.

Tanzania is also said to be the country that rates highest in terms of government effectiveness.

The ratings are based on the views of East African citizens, businesses and other survey results taken over the past 10 years.

This is really good news for economic development in Tanzania because research shows a strong correlation between higher growth and reduced corruption.

I have blogged here about recent anti-corruption legislation in Tanzania and I am now interested to see that the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have run 3-day training workshops for Tanzanian Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) prosecutors. The training brings prosecutors up to speed on the new Prevention and Combating of Corruption Act and offers techniques for diagnosing a case, developing a theory of the crime, getting evidence admitted in court, and speaking persuasively in court.

PCCB Director General Edward Hosea and DPP Assistant Director Augustine Shio (speaking) participate in PCCB prosecutor training

Through case studies and presentations by an experienced former U.S. federal prosecutor and talks by senior prosecutors and judges from the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Court of Appeal, the training is expected to bolster the number of successful corruption prosecutions carried out by the PCCB and DPP.

USAID is also providing PCCB with support for the development of an electronic case management system, information technology equipment, and vehicles to facilitate field investigations.

A lot of hard work like this goes into building the capacity for better governance. Tanzania is putting the hard work, with the help of the international community.

In the same way, the School of St Jude is putting in a lot work to develop better teaching practices so that bright children from poor families have the chance of a good education.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sponsor a teacher

Our family sponsors two teachers at St Jude’s, and it happened that both of them were mentioned in the latest school newsletter!

Mr Sebastian Gitbang

Mr Sebastian is the Head of the Social Studies Department but next year he will become the Academic Master at Usa River. In this role he will be in charge of all the heads of academic departments and teachers at that campus. Currently he is receiving wise counsel from Nestory Msoffe the Academic Master at Moshono in preparation for the new challenges he will take on next year.

Miss Genofeva and the Hoey family

Miss Genofeva teaches Kindergarten and Year 1. Here she is with some students and the Hoey family who also sponsor her. You can find out a bit more about her here on my blog.

When you sponsor a teacher at St Jude’s your donation helps to provide teaching resources. Teachers also know that someone on the other side of the world is interested in what they do. We are nourished by the interest of others. What are you interested in today? What are you nourishing with your interest?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tony Wheeler – patron saint of backpackers

Tony is someone who has made a career out of doing what he loves most – travelling.

When Tony and Maureen Wheeler arrived in Sydney the day after Christmas 1972 after a six month Asia overland trip from Europe they had 27 cents left between them. In late 1973 they started Lonely Planet Publications to publish Across Asia on the Cheap, the story of their trip from London to Australia. From that self-published guidebook Lonely Planet Publications has grown to become the world’s largest independent guidebook publisher.

In July this year, Tony traveled to Tanzania to climb Mt Kilimanjaro with friends. His friends, the Cubit family, are sponsors at the School of St Jude, so he got to visit the school.

Tony Wheeler, Mark, Amy, Amanda, Leigh, Gemma, Ashleigh Rose, Karen and Cheryl

Like most visitors, Tony was very impressed by the School – it’s a fantastic project by another energetic Australian, Gemma Sisia. Gemma enjoyed showing her visitors the new school emerging at Usa River. It was an altogether uplifting visit, combining adventure travel and good companionship, along with a few bottles of wine.

So, if you are thinking of traveling to Africa, pick up a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Tanzania, and drop in on the School of St Jude where amazing things happen every day!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bill Clinton discovers the School of St Jude

When you follow events at the School of St Jude, you soon encounter the elegant determination and commitment of Kim who seems to be able to turn her hand to almost anything to do with building and promoting the School.

In Gemma’s recent newsletter (you can subscribe on the School website) Kim describes how she discovered that Bill Clinton would be visiting Arusha. Of course she immediately plotted ways to introduce him to the School.

Bill Clinton has established the Clinton Foundation, directed at improving the lives of African people in four ways:
  • HIV/AIDS Care
  • Climate Initiative
  • Mobilizing Action
  • Sustainable Development
Bill Clinton in Tanzania

What a wonderful way to direct his talents and leverage his network of valuable contacts. It is always especially interesting to see what powerful people do when they retire from their main job. Do they go off and play polo, or do they continue to contribute their talents in meaningful ways?

Kim was at the airport to meet a plane when she discovered that Bill Clinton was visiting Arusha. She says,
So Bill was in town and Susie knew his pilot, John! Phone calls to the right people, chats over drinks with the crew and we extracted a promise that the next day they would try to arrange a meeting with Bill at the airport just before he left, where we could hand him a copy of Gemma’s book and the school’s DVD and plonk a St Jude’s hat on his head (I chose the biggest size).

The plane left earlier than expected, but Kim managed to get the books, DVDs , AND the hat on board, and she had confirmation from from John that President Clinton was handed his copy on arrival in Spain the next morning. She said:

That was lucky – they were personally signed so we couldn’t have given them to anyone else ...

The photo shows Keren, Carter and Suzie on the tarmac with the St Jude’s goodies.

It’s great to take every opportunity to tell others about successful projects like the School of St Jude. Who can you tell today?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Financing schools for the poor

In very poor countries like Tanzania the public school system struggles to provide even the most rudimentary education for children. School rooms are nonexistent or decrepit, teachers are untrained and absent, and there are few books or supplies.

Outdoor classroom in Ghana

Microschools are tiny schools run by committed individuals who provide basic education for a few local children at a cost of a few pennies per day. Recent research by James Tooley, a leading academic expert on schools for the poor, has shown that these schools outperform their public school counterparts across Africa, India and China.

In 2006, while a professor of education policy at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Tooley published a groundbreaking, award-winning research study on the impact of these schools in five developing countries -- China, Ghana, India, Kenya and Nigeria. He found that,

Contrary to previously held beliefs, schools for the poor are superior to government schools, school teachers are more committed and education outcomes are better. All this is accomplished for a fraction of the per-pupil cost of government schools.

Tooley's extensive three-year study, which is ongoing, investigated education in all types of poor environments – from slums and shantytowns in metropolitan cities to remote rural villages in impoverished regions. More than 24,000 students were tested in key curriculum subjects and research was conducted with parents, teachers and school managers. Tooley says,

An education revolution is taking place. In the poor urban areas surveyed, the vast majority of schoolchildren were found to be in 'budget' private schools. These schools charge very low fees, affordable to parents in poverty.

The study found that concerns of lower quality education were misplaced when compared with public education in the countries studied. Tooley explained,

In every setting, teacher absenteeism was lower and teacher commitment – the proportion of teachers actually teaching when our researchers called unannounced – was higher in the schools for the poor than in government schools.

The poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on Earth have managed to nurture a large and growing schools industry.

Tooley’s research has encouraged microfinance provider, Opportunity International, to develop school loans programs to help these microschool to bring greater educational opportunity to poor children, especially girls. Christopher A. Crane, president and CEO of Opportunity International, says,

Transforming the precarious lives of the poor requires three elements: banks that provide loans and savings accounts that allow the poor to buy food and shelter, microinsurance so a death in the family or illness doesn't throw them right back into poverty, and education -- the element that has the most hope of eliminating the cycle of poverty with their children's generation. This is truly value-added microfinance.

A loan from Opportunity International can help a tiny neighbourhood school to expand and serve more students. The average school size of a Microschool of Opportunity in Ghana is about 200 students.

Opportunity International is rolling out its school loan program and expects to help its clients on three continents to educate one million poor children over the next three years.

What a great program! Like the School of St Jude, Opportunity International is brings basic education to children from the poorest families, in countries where government revenue is not sufficient to provide this essential service.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Order your 2008 calendars

A School of St Jude calendar is the perfect gift for that person for whom it is impossible to buy anything – Aunty Madge has enough Body Shop loofahs! And this is a great way to help the school grow as all profits will go towards the school's running costs and you will be helping to spread the word with an attractive and practical gift.

St Jude's kids on the bus

The calendar will be a 12 page wall calendar about A4 size with a glossy photo, facts and information about the school and space to write the ‘Don’t forget!’ stuff every month.

Top students in 2006 exams

The hardest part will be deciding which photos of exuberant students, cheerful staff, colourful buses and our local environment will make it to the final cut – that’ll be tough!

Irresistable cuties!

To make sure the School orders the right number (they don’t want disappointed sponsors or a stockpile of 2008 calendars in 2009!), they are asking you to put your orders in before the end of August so they have a realistic figure for the printer. The calendars will be posted out from Australia to arrive mid to late November in plenty of time for Christmas and the special multi pack costings make them very reasonably priced Christmas gifts. The prices (including include GST, postage and handling) are as follows:

  • 1 single calendar - AU$16.50
  • Pack of 10 - AU$130
  • Pack of 20 - AU$200
If you could send the School your order as soon as possible, that would be fantastic. You don't need to send any money - the School will let you know when that is due.

Send your order to school:

The School of St Jude
Fighting Poverty through Education
PO Box 11875, Arusha
Tanzania, East Africa
Phone: 255-754-566136

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Meserani Snake Park

Arrive as a stranger, leave as a friend.

What a useful place this is! When you visit the Meserani Snake Park 20km west of Arusha on the road to the Ngorongoro Crater, you can see snakes, monitor lizards, tortoises and crocodiles,

you can take a camel ride, set up camp,

you can hang out at the famous ‘Pit’ bar,

you will be able to service your vehicle in the fully stocked workshop,

or take a guided tour,

check out the genuine local crafts (profits help to fund the medical clinic the Park runs for locals), or look through the Maasai Museum.

The Meserani Snake Park is a thriving tourist destination with some very useful services.

Check out some great visitor photos on the Fred Vos travel blog.

Here are some pictures of the hugely fun and educational day at the Park enjoyed by students from St Judes.

Miss Martha with some fierce Maasai warriors

The girls are just gorgeous!

Hands on learning!

All aboard for another Meserani experience!

It's great to see that children from the poorest families can have fun learning experiences through the very excellent School of St Jude. These kids are soaking it in and getting massive benefit from the opportunities offered through the efforts of School supporters world wide.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Bustling building site at Usa River

The latest newsletter from St Jude's shows the progress on the the Usa River site where a second school is being built.

When Gemma started the school in 2002 with 3 students, she had only one building that was started by a group of Australian Rotary volunteers. This year, she has two major building projects. The new school at Usa River is employing hundreds of local workers. There are 700 people on the payroll. This intense effort will mean that the whole school (classrooms, offices, hall, kitchen and boarding accommodation) will be ready for students in January 2008.

Here's the progress.
May 2007 – laying the foundations

Kim measures the admin storeroom

July 2007 – primary boys boarding house

July 2007 – classrooms going up

July 2007 – Classroom walls

Main structure of the school takes shape

The electrician and plumber supervise works

Amani (left) the electrican, who has been with the school since it started with 3 kids back in 2002. He is standing with the plumber, Robertson. Both are taking a moment to watch a concrete pour taking place. Their jobs are going to triple over the coming year and so will both have to take on more apprentices, etc.

The School of St Jude provides a good education for bright children from the poorest families. It also provides work and opportunity for local teachers, builders, cooks, drivers, mechanics and all the trades involved in building and running substantial education facilities. None of this would be happening without the passionate commitment of Gemma. And, of course, it depends entirely on your interest and generosity.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Jatropha – never heard of it!

It exists. It’s a major crop grown for its oil, and production is ramping up because it is highly suitable as a biofuel. Now I’ve heard of it. And so have you!

Jatropha has pretty flowers

I heard about it through ‘African Agriculture’ – a news site about, yep, agriculture in Africa. They reported yesterday on a $20million venture to grow jatropha in Tanzania.

Jatropha seeds

Here’s what Wikipedia says about jatropha.

The hardy jatropha is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds with up to 40 per cent oil content. When the seeds are crushed, the resulting jatropha oil can be used in a standard diesel car, while the residue can also be processed into biomass to power electricity plants.

Jatropha - tree, leaf and flower

Here are some handy facts about jatropha (sorry, I like this kind of thing, feel free to skip to the end!)

- After the first five years, the typical annual yield of a jatropha tree is 3.5kg of beans.
- Jatropha trees are productive for up to 30-40 years.
- 2,200 trees can be planted per hectare (approx 1,000 per acre).
- 1 hectare should yield around 7 tonnes of seeds per year.
- The oil pressed from 4kg of seeds is needed to make 1 litre of biodiesel.
- 91%+ of the oil can be extracted with cold pressing.
- 1 hectare should yield around 2.2-2.7 tonnes of oil.
- Press cake (seedcake) is left after the oil is pressed from the seeds. This can be composted and used as a high grade nitrogen rich organic fertilizer (green manure). The remaining oil can be used to make skin friendly soap.

Isn't that cool?

Then I discovered that Diligent Tanzania Ltd, based in Arusha, are producers of jatropha oil and biodiesel for transportation fuel purposes and offer consultancy services for anyone who wants to grow or use jatropha. Their website indicates that Diligent is very socially responsible. They work with local jatropha growers to improve their farming practice and they guarantee a market for their product. They also arrange local processing of the seeds into oil, which keeps more jobs in the local area.

Diligent staff in Tanzania

The world is just jam-packed with bustling initiatives and ventures that are constantly changing the landscape we live in. Keep your antennae out, you'll see them everywhere.

I wonder whether any parents of St Jude’s kids are jatropha farmers? I wonder whether St Jude's diesel generators can run on biofuel?

I wonder. Do you?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Teachers are inspiring!

The School has been fortunate to benefit from the generosity of the Smith Foundation to fund highly experienced teacher trainers to bring new skills to the talented and committed teaching team at St Jude’s.

My posts, here and here, describe the visits of these trainers, Amy and Freda, who visited the school in December 2006, followed by a visit by Amy in April 2007. Here is what Amy says about her April visit.

Today was my first day back at St Jude since December. I spent the day talking with teachers and observing in classrooms, looking for evidence of progress in teaching techniques. The evidence was everywhere I looked - Rooms full of student work, word walls, and informational materials - Small group hands-on work going on in almost every classroom I visited - Highly engaging instruction and strong positive interaction between teachers and pupils. I can honestly say I saw more progress than I had ever expected. Work still to do, but so great to see teachers accepting the challenge so readily!

Mr Peter and Mr Koringo discuss leadership principles

When the new Usa River campus opens, senior teachers from St Jude's will lead the school. Amy is working with them to develop a leadership capacity based on democratic and shared leadership strategies. She notes that the senior teachers are a great find for the school, bringing knowledge, experience, and a strong commitment to the children and the goals of the school.

Success builds on success, and excellent teaching depends on inspiring leadership. St Jude's has it in spades!

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Baked green bananas and hot tamarind sauce

Here's Miriam's (Rose Kinunda) great website that features recipes for Tanzanian food.

You can find a recipe and get a taste of home, remember your visit to Tanzania, or experiment with something you've never tasted before. Recipes are in English as well as Swahili.

Hmmm... 'bananas and tamarind sauce' has caught my eye – now I know what to do with that jar of tamarind paste that is sitting in my cupboard.

Hot tamarind sauce.
•1/2 cup Natural tamarind paste,
•1 tsp hot peppers (reduce amount of pepper if you can’t handle spicy food)
•Water (if needed)

Check it out. I'm going to try the pilau next.

Happy cooking!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sponsor a bus

Hey, we have become the proud sponsors of two buses at the School of St Jude. Among the jellybean buses, there's a purple and a light pink. They're ours.

Currently the School has over 840 students coming to the school from a radius of over 40km. The Big Purple Bus helps to pick up a number of children who live in Sanawari, on the other side of town. Some of these children still walk a bit to get to the bus stop as a lot of roads are inaccessible for buses. But imagine they had to walk all the way to school! With the help of sponsorship the School is able to keep up with the bills for fuel, tyres and maintenance.

The light pink bus helps to pick up a number of children who live in Mburiet, Engosheraton and Unga Limited, one of the poorest areas in Arusha. In Mburiet there is an orphanage called Huruma. Eight of the children living there attend The School of St. Jude. Until last year, they had to catch a “dala-dala” (local minibus) first, up to an area called Engosheraton where they would catch the school bus.

This was not only a very long journey for them, but also getting complicated when for some reason the little ones had to go home by themselves (the older ones staying back for tuition etc.). But this year, the Light Pink Bus is going all the way up to Huruma (that is, whenever the weather situation allows, as with too much rain the road gets too muddy) to pick up these eight and two other children who live nearby. Then it picks up students from Engosheraton and Unga Limited. Unga means Flour in Kiswahili and there is a large flour factory as you enter the area.

Weekly diesel bills for the School's fleet of buses cost $2,000. Without the buses, the School would not be able to serve the large area that it does. As well as picking up children and teachers for the daily trip to school, the buses are used to transport all kinds of goods for the school, including bulk food supplies for the kitchens.

It's great to see so many happy faces. These kids are glad for the opportunities they receive when they are accepted into the School of St Jude. Like most kids, they like to learn, and this School is almost their only chance of getting a good education. Schools in Tanzania have very rough buildings, almost no resources and too-few teachers. Everyone who visits the School of St Jude remarks on the joyful spirits and appreciation of the children.

So, you know that your contribution is going where it is needed, and that it will be appreciated. Add your bit now. Use the ChipIn tool at the top of this page, or visit the School website to become a donor.