Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Different Kind of Backpack Hostel

I know it has been a while since we have posted a blog, but I promise we have continued to learn about the culture and place where we live. One of the areas we have continually been updating our understanding is the area of Tanzania education. There are always challenges to educating teenagers no matter where you are. Some of them I am finding are the same, such as dealing with irate parents, and some of them are different such as our students not having any light at night with which to study. One request we have heard over and over again is a request for a place for students to stay and study away from home. We have heard this from students and parents and it is because of the challenges that come with trying to focus on school while also dealing with a very hard home life. Since we are a day school and do not have approval to build dormitories this only leaves one option…hostels.

current structure about the same size

Current foundation that will hopefully become a hostel building

A hostel is a term that is used here as a place for students to live and study while school is in session, a controlled environment with a night matron that is used by schools without official dorms. By and large these hostels are reserved for girls who experience even more barriers to completing their secondary education while at home than boys do. There are many barriers to receiving a good education for both boys and girls in Tanzania. They both go home to many chores such as fetching water, cooking, cleaning, working in the family farm, caring for little children, etc. Often times students will work from the time they get home until after dark. At this point they have no light to study with because the family cannot afford school fees and extra fuel for the lantern. You may think I am talking about the minority of students, but in fact I am talking about the majority of students who attend our school, especially since we are a mission school and try to look out for the students who are struggling as best we are able. These are challenges that many students face, but girls in Tanzania have additional challenges.

There are several reasons that a girl can be kicked out of school that do not affect boys. If a girl becomes pregnant or is married they are automatically expelled. You would think this is a small thing, but it has caused a high rate of abortion among teenage girls because they do not want to have to leave school. Being at a hostel with a strict night matron tends to cut down on the number of girls that get pregnant ;). There are also several families that will marry off their daughter if she is around the house because they get paid for her getting married. This makes it common for a struggling family to marry off their daughter who is still in school so that they have the money to continue to struggle for a little bit longer. However for a hostel, out of site out of mind, seems to play true in the experience of people here.

The last reason for a hostel is female circumcision or FGM. This is still a common practice with the tribe we currently work with. A hostel can be a place for girls to hide out during the season of circumcision. If she is not at home when the tribal rites are going on they will not take the time to do it later, so being in a hostel during this time does actually make her safe.

So we are hoping by the end of this year that we will be able to have some girls hanging their school backpacks up in our new hostel, a safe haven for them, their education, and their future.

*Note: If you are interested in supporting this project see our donate button on the right of the page.

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