So Lucy has just returned and now it’s Brad’s turn to head out to East Africa! Brad is out to discover potential new projects and partnerships and to visit several of COCO’s current projects. We’ve just received his first blog post where he visits Londoto Primary, a really challenging project that has seen perseverance pay off! Hear it from Brad…
Since I returned to Tanzania, the topic of discussion has been this year’s election. The election isn’t due to take place until October, but is already being fiercely disputed by everyone.
Significant proportions of the Tanzanian population are asking questions of the current incumbents. Tanzania has an abundance of national resources to call upon and has world-famous tourist destinations such as Mount Kilimanjaro, the beaches of Zanzibar and the Serengeti. However, the country doesn’t quite seem to be reaching potential.
En route to East Africa, I spent the flight from Amsterdam to Dar es Salaam discussing with my seat neighbour about politics. He was Tanzanian and had been visiting his wife and young children in the Netherlands. He was desperate to raise sufficient money to enable him to enroll his children in school and have his family return to Tanzania… Though only after the election, which he was fearful of violence surrounding.
Similarly upon arrival, plenty of the discussion focused upon the political climate of Tanzania. With this in mind, it seemed fitting that the first project I visited was one so heavily involved in political discussion.
Londoto Primary School is located a long, hot daladala ride from Moshi in northern Tanzania. Since I started to work at COCO last year, as a project it has probably been the major challenge I’ve experienced. The project was not working as we had hoped; the community seemed massively disengaged with the school and any support offered was problematic.
The reason for the community’s apathy towards the school was that Londoto fell under the jurisdiction of Msitu wa Tembo, a neighbouring settlement. Perception amongst the Londoto community was that they put a great deal more into the government pot than they got in return. It’s difficult to argue when mothers are lost during labour in Londoto, as the nearest clinic is 6KM away and secondary school students have to rise at 3AM to make it to school on time.
I haven’t come across a community in Tanzania which has failed to relentlessly pursue a better situation for themselves, and Londoto is no different. Thankfully, in the latter stages of last year, the Londoto community dragged themselves through the endless red-tape and managed to split Londoto from Msitu wa Tembo. I shudder to think how much paperwork and bureaucracy they have had to go through… It was enough of a chew on to prove that I didn’t have ebola when I arrived on Saturday!
The newly-appointed committee has not rested on its laurels since gaining power. The head teacher at Londoto explained that since the committee were elected, they have successfully enrolled over fifty students who were previously being prevented from attending school as their parents saw greater value in them helping to generate income.
The committee has also set aside land for the school to farm, to provide nutritious food to students and have engaged the community to contribute towards the repair of the teachers’ toilets. The toilets had deteriorated into such poor condition that teachers had been advised to move from the site by a local health group, as the amount of waste would make them ‘erupt’ – lovely, right?!
The atmosphere at Londoto seemed completely different to how it had on previous visits. Of course, the kids were always laughing and playing and the teachers were always performing to the best of their ability, but it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off everyone’s shoulders. One teacher explained how tough it had been to work in the school and even said he wasn’t sure what would have become of the school without COCO’s support.
By sheer coincidence I read a quote in my book on the journey to Londoto which explained that “the best charities know how difficult aid is”. I certainly didn’t have to wait too long for an example! Inevitably different projects present different challenges, but with perseverance and skill these problems can be overcome.
 Giles Bolton – Aid and Other Dirty Business