Friday, November 30, 2007

Tanzania lags East Africa in school enrolment

The latest UN Human Development Programme report 2007 shows the following enrolment rates across primary, secondary and tertiary levels:

Uganda: 63%
Kenya: 60.6%
Rwanda: 50.9%
Tanzania: 50.4%

The Tanzanian Government has encouraged the private sector and religious institutions to build schools, and every region has set high targets to build schools, but there is an acute shortage of qualified teachers and teaching facilities.

Tanzania's education history was checkered during the British colonial era when it closed all schools for ten years, while Kenya and Uganda weren't interrupted.

Given the shortage of teachers and facilities, perhaps Tanzania should relax restrictions on foreign teachers until enough local teachers are trained.

The School of St Jude attracts quality teachers by paying good salaries and offering professional development training. Volunteer teachers also contribute their skills and experience.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Government; new policies

The new Labor government in Australia has a couple of things going for it, from my point of view.

Firstly, there will be a new energy in the way the country is led, and this will pervade all aspects of government.

Very importantly, Kevin Rudd has said he will ratify Kyoto. This places Australia at the table of international action on the most important issue of our time.

Secondly, he has committed to increasing Australia's Foreign Aid to .5% as a step towards meeting our commitments to end global poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals.

So, I'm very glad for this outcome and I hope that the new Government lives up to the potential for good leadership that comes with a new beginning.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Aerogram gratitude

The kids at St Jude's are smart and cute! And they know how lucky they are to be at an excellent school.

People who visit the school always comment on how energetic and happy the kids are. From time to time we get a taste when we receive one of their blue aerogram thankyou letters. Blue aerograms are from another world. They are not used much in the modern world of email, but they are a perfect vehicle for kids in Tanzania to write to sponsors and donors.

It's fun to see the kids growing up through their aerograms. In the early years the aerograms had only a sentence or two and the space was filled with drawings and stickers. Now the kids are getting older and their English is developing.

Our latest aerogram has a lot more writing. It is full of news about Tanzania.

It starts with a 'thankyou' and chitchat about the weather.

Then we get some facts about news about Tanzania and recent events. Volcanos, earthquakes and Tanzanite.

With illustrations of course!

It is very good to stay close to this excellent education project in Tanzania. We watch world developments on a global level, or at a country level, and it is good to also see what is happening in one particular place. I know that our support for this project is just a grain of rice on a global scale, but on the individual level of the child who wrote this aerogram, our support is his whole future.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas is coming

The shops are stocked and it's time to plan your household decorations.

There are lots of places where you can look to find interesting and unusual Christmas decorations and gifts. The best gifts are those that help the maker and the giver, as well as the receiver.

Fair trade crafts from Africa will fit the bill nicely!

What about these cheerful Santas? They are nicely surreal. Check them out at One World Projects.

These Santas (8-9 inches tall) are made in Mali from soft drink cans. They are made by a project that supports anti-malarial initiatives.

I think I will share more of the curiosities I have come across in the next few weeks. You may see something that takes your fancy.

If you'd like to see some Fair Trade crafts, check out your nearest Oxfam shop, locations can be found here. I was pleased to find a new one open up nearby. Now I've got a local source of Fair Trade coffee. It tastes pretty good too.

Free rice

I enjoy the various websites where you click a button and a sponsor makes a donation to a needy cause. I seem to have contributed to several over the years.

Free rice is the latest incarnation. It's a bit addictive because it is set up as a word quiz. Every time you get a word right, a sponsor donates to the UN World Food Program.

Give it a go, and add your bit. How far can you get in the quiz? I got to level 43, but there were a few guesses in there.

Great for trivia fans too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bob Geldorf in Brisbane of all places

Bob Geldof still thinks Australia is one of the meanest countries on Earth when it comes to its foreign aid program. So the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Bob Geldorf in Brisbane, November 2007

Geldorf gave an emphatic response when asked if Australia was shouldering its weight of the world's international aid.

"No, it's embarrassingly pathetic. In fact it is one of the meanest on the planet."

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has promised to increase Australia's overseas aid program - now just 0.3 per cent of GDP - to 0.5 per cent of GDP by 2015, if elected.

Geldof was still unimpressed, accusing Australia's leaders of breaking United Nations goals for foreign aid.

Geldof said Australia's commitment to foreign aid was well below the levels of other countries.

"I mean Britain will get to 0.51 per cent by 2012, France by 2013, and the European countries ... will get to 0.7 per cent by 2015," Sir Bob said.

"If you don't get to 0.5 per cent by 2010, you don't get to 0.7 per cent by 2015," he said.

Australia has agreed to the Millennium Development Goals of the UN and has promised to get to 0.7 per cent by 2015.

"And if people think that is a lot of money - what, is 99.3 per cent not enough for you all? Is it not enough?

"It's tragic."


Yes, it is tragic. For the 20% of Tanzanian kids who die before their fifth birthday.

This week, Australians can make their vote count. Lobby your local candidate and seek their support for Australia to honour its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and end world poverty.

And, you can do your own bit by donating to the School of St Jude. Fighting Poverty Through Education.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Red Green Orange

The first set of traffic lights in town takes some getting used to. What do the lights mean? How do they work? What are cars supposed to do? We take them for granted, or curse them when we get too many reds in the 22 sets in the journey to work.

Arusha, with a population of 400,000, got its first set of traffic lights just last month. The Arusha Times reports on the wonder and confusion they created.

Like a gospel convention, thousands of Arushans every evening since October 9 have been attending the Sanawari intersection to witness what they believe to be a marvel of technology and Tanzania Road Authority's (Tanroad) "criminal negligence."

It appears that lights were installed at only three of the four aspects of the intersection, leaving cars entering from the fourth side to do what they will. There’s a recipe for confusion! A taxi driver commented:

What they have done is unbelievable. The traffic jam now goes about a kilometre each direction. Pedestrians and drivers are scared of being knocked down. What kind of technology is this?

In addition, there have been some problems getting the sequence right. There are times when all lights go red and all movement stops. Suddenly, they all go green and the whole intersection becomes chaotic.

An irate bus driver commented:

They have eyes but they do not see. If there are any engineers in the Municipal Council or Tanroads, which school did they attend? They should be charged with criminal negligence.

They are playing with people's lives. Had it not been for Traffic policemen who have been intervening, all day long, this junction would have been a pool of human blood.

For others however, the biggest problem of the traffic control lights is that they have been placed too close to two bus stands, a taxi docking area and a push cart station on the Sanawari road.

As if to put Tanroads to shame, pedestrians and drivers have catalogued an array of errors and that have been the dominant topic in Arusha for the past one week.

Like officialdom around the world, Arusha officals are passing the buck. The Municipal Council says Tanroads is responsible, and Tanroads says the relevant person is out of town.

In the mean time, Arusha locals have flocked in their thousands to stand and wonder at the operation of the marvellous new traffic lights. Drivers, pedestrians and even some of the traffic police men saw the lights as a mesmerising puzzle. "It is now green, in a few seconds it will be yellowish and then red and cars will stop," an elated man was heard telling scores of people who were just about to cross the road.

There's lots of local colour in this account of the first set of traffic lights in Arusha. I bet it's been a hot topic at the School of St Jude, in the playground and in the staffroom. I wonder how many of the St Jude's buses use that intersection?

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Sleight of hand

Reuters reports that the European Commission (EC) will give Tanzania US$800m between 2008 and 2013, to help it boost trade. Around 90% of the program is dedicated to macroeconomic aid, support to the transport sector and a trade and agriculture focal area aimed at pro-poor growth.

At the same time, Tanzania is among African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations in talks with the EU ahead of signing an Economic Partnership Agreement trade deal before a December 31 deadline.

The EU wants to sign these new Partnership Agreements with ACP countries to replace preferential deals that the World Trade Organisation has deemed illegal.

Opponents of the new Economic Partnership Agreements argue they will weaken developing economies, expose them to cheap European imports and cut government revenues earned from tariffs.

Is this just a sleight of hand? Giving with one hand while taking with the other?

I wonder whether what bargaining power the ACP countries might have?

General budget support

In Tanzania aid accounts for more than 40% of the national budget. Several European countries have been sending their aid money straight into the government’s treasury and not for specific projects. The approach is called ’general budget support’. Proponents of that system say that it forces the government to be accountable to its people and also argue it’s the only way to phase out aid dependence in countries like Tanzania. However, they also advocate that taxes must be raised so they can take over from aid as financing.

Allison Dempster on Africa Files reviews the case for this kind of aid to Tanzania.

Donors and sponsors to the School of St Jude can tie their funds to something specific by sponsoring a child or a bus or a classroom, or they can donate to general funds and give the school administrators the flexibility to apply the funds where needed most.

Donor countries like Sweden and Norway are helping Tanzania grow its administrative capacities by donating to general budget support which Allison describes as
To hear its fans describe it, budget support is the Tom Hanks of foreign aid concepts - ordinary looking, but turns in solid performance most of the time. A no-name’brand approach to international aid, if
you will.

Interesting, yes?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Election score card

Australian NGOs are presenting succinct scorecards that make it easy to compare the policies of the main political parties on issues of interest.

Ben gives a handy list of eight NGOs that have scorecards on issues like:

Make Poverty History
Climate Policy
Rural Health
Environmental Issues

. . . and others.

On the policy that affects poor countries like Tanzania, the scorecard at Make Poverty History gives the following scores:

Coalition = 2 points
Labor = 8 points
Democrat = 8 points
Greens = 7 points
Family First = 7 points

Check out the Make Poverty History site to see what earned them the points.

Many of us vote from our traditional preferences. See where your preferred party stands on the issues that matter to you. Poverty is one area where there is a real difference between the parties. There's no 'me too' here.

The suffering of the very poor is easily ignored when it is not right under our noses. Your vote can reflect a wider world view if you keep your eye on the larger picture.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Excitement of the new

I thought I would share a couple more pictures of the first night in the new boarding accommodation at the Moshono Campus at the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania.

When everything is fresh and new there is a special excitement. You can see it in the wide smiles of the girls as they explore their new sleeping quarters.

Girls in one of the dormitories

The boys look just as excited by the prospect of sleeping in new beds in rooms with electricity and bed nets.

Only 10% of Tanzanians have electricity. St Jude's selects children from the poorest homes – if they have window glass, electricity or more than two rooms in their home, they usually don't qualify. So this dormitory accommodating is VERY exciting for these kids.

Boys in one of the dormitories

More than that, the boarding school accommodation will give these kids a nourishing evening meal and breakfast, and they will have the conditions they need to do their homework. This will become especially important as they move into Secondary School.

The School of St Jude provides excellent education. Although it has been established only five years, it already has a winning reputation for placing children in the top 10 places in the District in national exams for Year 4. The Boarding School will help these bright children continue to excel in the years ahead as they compete with children from more privileged homes for the limited University places.

Every dollar you donate makes a huge different to these lovely children. They work hard to make the most of your generosity, and to acknowledge the help that is given to them by their families and teachers.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Financial Times reviews Tanzania

In a recent article, the Financial Times gives a good overview of trends in Tanzanian development. It asks the question that many ask – why does Tanzania languish in poverty, given the natural resources and foreign aid it has received?

They note that Tanzania is
Rich in farm land, mineral resources and wildlife, it is free of tribal tensions and has experienced a series of peaceful transitions of power, thanks to a sense of unity forged by Julius Nyerere, its founding father. It also has a stable macro-economic environment and its administration is relatively well-organised: the principal achievements of Benjamin Mkapa, who ruled from 1995 to 2005.

The article notes that the current government's biggest achievement
. . . has probably been the introduction of universal primary education: more schools have been built in the past 18 months than in the previous 20 to 30 years, say officials, although there are now not enough teachers.

And they comment that
. . . In the United Nations' human development index, which measures standards of living and health as well as education, Tanzania has barely moved.

The following statistics reveal the depth of Tanzanian poverty.

According to the last national household survey, conducted in 2000-01, almost one in five people was receiving less than the minimum calorie requirements. More recent government research showed two-thirds of mainland households did not have access to piped water and 89 per cent were without electricity. The country's adult HIV/Aids infection rate is 6.5 per cent and in some regions hits 15 to 20 per cent.

In her 2007-08 budget speech, Zakia Hamdani, the finance minister, said the resources needed for the implementation of the previous administration's growth and poverty reduction strategy - known as Mkukuta - "were immensely large compared with the resources available".

Zakia Hamdani

One explanation for the lack of economic development is the culture of corruption that affects all levels of life in Tanzania. Gemma's book, St Jude's, describes some of her encounters with corrupt practices.

The Financial Times report notes that
Critics contend that Tanzania lacks political accountability, which means people in power are isolated from the masses. One manifestation of the problem is corruption. Suspicions of high-level graft were stoked by several multimillion-dollar projects that pre-dated the Kikwete era: the acquisition of a presidential jet; the building of a new Bank of Tanzania headquarters; and the purchase of a military radar system from BAE Systems. No wrongdoing, however, has been proved.

The current government seems to be ready to tackle corruption to some extent, and several high-ranking members of the dominant political party, CCM, have been arrested on corruption charges Mr Kikwete says: "If people want to get into leadership through corrupt practices, through corrupt means, I think that's detestable. We have to take action."

A bright spot is the increasing force shown by Tanzanian newspapers, which have become increasingly aggressive in their reporting. The number and prominence of civil society organisations is growing.

As I have mentioned before, donor countries are becoming tougher by tying their funds to improvements in anti-corruption practices. The Financial Times article quotes a Norwegian embassy official as noting the intent to take a firmer line on corruption.

Inch by inch, improvements are becoming evident.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

African women

It is especially rewarding to see African women in leadership roles. You may remember that the Tanzanian, Asha-Rose Mtengeti-Migiro, is the Deputy responsible for day-to-day management of the UN.

Another African leader is Obiageli Ezekwesili, the World Bank Regional Vice President for Africa. In October, she visited Tanzania to attend the Aid for Trade Conference and to make an on-the-ground assessment of the World Bank’s support in the education and water sectors.

Ezekwesili speaks with students at the Jitihada Primary School in Dar es Salaam

This World Bank website outlines her tour of Tanzanian projects supported by the World Bank.

This very upbeat report outlines the benefits of the projects that have been supported by the World Bank. However, it is a sobering reminder of the scarcity of resources for education in Tanzania.

The Jitihada Primary School was opened in 2004 to relieve crowding in neighbouring schools. Crowding in Tanzanian schools became a major problem when the government removed fees for primary schools in 2002 and millions of poor children crowded into the schools.

The Jitihada Primary School has 10 classrooms and 1,278 pupils. That is 127 pupils per classroom. It has 23 teachers. That is a student:teacher ratio of 1:56. There are 254 desks in the whole school.

This is one of the lucky schools that gets special support from a World Bank program.

Rehema Kiwalaka, one of the senior teachers at the school, explained that the school has made steady progress.

We are grateful to the development partners like the World Bank and the government who have made it possible for us to have schools like this one, which fulfils the dream of Tanzania’s children to have an education.

What a contrast at the School of St Jude where, thanks to supporters worldwide and Gemma's brilliant leadership, academically gifted children from the poorest facilities can get a world-class education.

The School of St Jude is fighting poverty through education and preparing a new generation of girls to step into the shoes of African women in leadership roles.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Bring a toothbrush and stay the night

Opening days are so exciting! This one was particularly thrilling for kids at St Jude's because they got to stay in the new boarding accommodation at the Moshono Campus.

For many of these children (aren't they growing fast?!!) this was the first time they slept away from home and the first time they had mosquito nets. Here are some of the girls in their dormitory.

The boarding school will be managed by the Sisters of the Oblates of the Assumption order, which is a great relief to Gemma, as it means the children will get really good care.

The boarding school will provide weekday accommodation for the older children (Yr 6 up) so they are assured of help with their studies and good meals. They stay with their families at weekends.

Here are some of the kids in the dining room.

What an exciting beginning. Think of all the hundreds of children who will benefit from this caring facility in the decades to come.

It is life-changing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Water tanks

Do you remember my first ChipIn donation tool aimed at raising money for water tanks at the School of St Jude? That was last year. It was prompted because the new classroom buildings at the School did not collect rainwater from the roofs, instead the gutters just drained to the ground.

2006 classroom building at Moshono campus

Well, we are pleased to report that the new boarding school buildings at the Moshono campus are being fitted out with water tanks.

2007 boarding school buildings at Moshono campus

When money is limited, things that are important don't always make it to the top of the priority list. In 2006, the School spent US$8,200 drilling new bores to ensure a reliable water supply. These rainwater tanks will add to the supply of safe drinking water available to the School.

Thanks to the support of many people around the world, the School of St Jude is able to provide good facilities so that academically capable children from the poorest families can get an excellent education.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pay it forward

When you educate a child, you are paying for the education you received. You are paying it forward.

I pass on to my children what I have learnt and I hope that they pass it on through the future generations. This is how society evolves.

It is a chain of communication into the future – a way of building the kind of future that you want to see.

Recently, on another blog (Spiritcloth), I responded to a 'Pay it Forward' (PIF) initiative wherein the blogger offered to send a handmade object to three people.

“I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

So now I make this offer to you – I will send a hand made gift to the first three people who leave a comment here. You can get an idea of the things I make on my Flickr site.

In response, I ask you to pay it forward by making a similar offer either on a blog or in your own life.

Donors and sponsors to the School of St Jude are doing a great job of Paying it Forward. They are fighting poverty through education.

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