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The long walk to school

A place where the school once stood before shifting to Kapunga Rice Project Quarters way back in 1991

This was one of the classrooms now overgrown with thorns

By Daniel Mbega, Mbarali

IT’S about 11:26hrs when I mount off a Honda 250R motorbike after about 100km drive from Mbeya to Kapunga village, about 26km from Chimala town where the Mbeya-Dar main road is.

The 26km drive from Chimala to this village along this rough road had been a hectic one, full of white dust and I made a mistake to wear a black suit which now has lost its natural colour.

As I pass through the way I could see many fields of paddy which has long been harvested. To my right hand side there runs the great canal which is the source of irrigation water for the Kapunga Rice Project, the Small-holders farm and other small farms of residents from more than seven villages surrounding the Kapunga Rice Project.

On our way we pass a cycling man on bicycle who heads to Chimala and my colleague, Ezekiel Kamanga, who is on the wheel and cares about nothing except speeding, turns to me and says the man we just passed is the head teacher of Kapunga Primary School, which is situated at the Kapunga Rice Project.

“He lives at Chimala and rides a bicycle for 52 km to and from school. All teachers at the school are living at Chimala as the investor who bought the farm from the National Agriculture and Food Cooperation (NAFCO) evicted them in 2006 from the houses they used to live during the NAFCO era,” Mr. Kamanga says.

This interest me and I decide to find him through a mobile phone after being told by the village chairman, Mr. Ramadhan Ally Nyoni, that the head teacher was going to Rujewa, some 40km from Chimala, for official business.

However, the head teacher Mr. Sengele, says it has been there normal life to walk or ride 52km everyday to and from school since January 2007 and as a result most classes are not attended to.

“We are isolated like orphans. Our salaries end up on these daily trips, you need 5,000/= daily for transport to and from school, and another 5,000/= for meals everyday. And because our salaries are very low, it is hard to meet these demands hence leading most teachers to walk this long distance,” he says.

Mr. Sengele says he suffered so much from the eviction and was forced to live in a classroom with his family for one month since December 6th, 2006 to January 6th, 2007 and the government didn’t give them transport or subsistence allowance to vacate the teachers quarters which were built by NAFCO way back in 1991 as the farm staff quarters.

It is said that the school was shifted to the NAFCO project area in 1992 from the Kapunga village, and the former school buildings and teachers quarters were demolished right away, but what happened 14 years later was something no one ever expected.

The school, which was officially registered on 31/10/1977 with registration No. MB 08/1/022, has a total of 705 pupils, among them 81 are standard seven who are expecting to sit for their final examination next month. The total number of standard seven pupils includes 41 girls and 40 boys.

All these pupils are in 16 streams, but the number of teachers is deteriorating as well as the attendance and performance.

“We have  only 9 teachers while the demand is 16. In 2006 we had 12 teachers and 12 streams, but some of the teachers got married and were transferred. Five of the current teachers live in Chimala – they comprise of Andrea Msoli, Jumanne Mwasenga, Jumanne Karesi, Ms Donata Chaula  and myself. Another teacher, Stamford Mapamba, lives at Site One village, while Ms Veronica Ruhasi and Ms Happiness Ndali have rented rooms at Kapunga village,” Mr. Sengele says, adding that Salum Msoma, another teacher, lives at Mapogoro, about seven kilometers from school.

At one time in 2007 the students called for a presidential visit in the area to see how ‘grand corruption’ (ufisadi) under the guise of investment has blinded district officials to the detriment of education provision. They lamented how the investor had evicted their teachers from their houses in 2006.

Two months later, the government acted by instructing the investor to immediately allow ten teachers who were evicted, allegedly in order to pave the way for the renovation of the houses, to go back to their homes, but the investor wouldn’t listen.

The current attendance is about 75 per cent, and this has been due to the distance from school for all teachers and pupils, some of them are walking for more than 10km daily.

“The school performance also is going down compared to five years ago. Last year only 24 out of 60 students were selected to join form one, while in the year 2009 at least 35 out of 55 were selected. We don’t know what will happen this year because even the teachers have lost morale,” Mr. Sengele adds.

The Kapunga village chairman, Mr. Nyoni, says the villagers have built a teachers quarter near a place where the school once was built and the government helped them with iron sheets and timber, but the investor destroyed 12,000 bricks, valued at Tsh. 1.2 million, which the villagers had made so as to build them classrooms.

However, Mr. Sergei Bekker, the production manager at Kapunga Rice Project Limited, says that their aim was to build a new school at Site One village at shift the current one so as to help the community.

“We can’t build a school at Kapunga village because that is our land. We wanted to build it at Matebete village, but the government said those people out there ought to be evicted as that is TANAPA’s land. The Kapunga villagers doesn’t accept us as investors and this is the problem which has delayed the school project,” he says.

I am trying to wonder if this kind of situation is happening in a country trying to celebrate her 50 years of independence and whether the National Development Vision 2005 would ever been realized to see a nation whose people are ingrained with a developmental mindset and competitive spirit and with people who have high quality of education at all levels; a nation which produces the quantity and quality of educated people sufficiently equipped with the requisite knowledge to solve the society’s problems, meet the challenges of development and attain competitiveness at regional and global levels.

Maybe within time things will change and see a better future of education for the Kapunga kids and the community as a whole.

Ends.

Reach me through: mbega.daniel@gmail.com, or +255 715 070109. Visit me at: www.kilimohai.wordpress.com

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