“Maintenance” is not a word that currently exists in Africa …. we’re told this by Joshua in our 8 am meeting at the hospital and this is the challenge facing the Foundation with its projects here, if they are to last in the long term. Identifying the right person to handle it is the only solution – a view held by Klaus, the Würzburg priest we met in the guesthouse on his way to Mbinga.
In contrast, African parents do share the universal dilemma of how to manage the development and schooling of their teenage girls and we’ve seen their solution. Today’s focus is the soon to be 50 year old Peramiho Girls Secondary School, where the Foundation’s new dormitory has been recently completed. Here, under the watchful eye of Headmistress, Sister Katherina, the school’s 350 cheery and enthusiastic girls focus on academic study, prayer and seemingly little else. Started by the Sisters in 1968, there’s little evidence to suggest much has changed since then. Sister Katherina’s overview suggests the goal is tertiary education and to achieve this, the girls are up at 5am, showers are cold, nobody leaves the grounds, mobile phones are not allowed and relaxation is limited to Saturday evenings and entails group discussion. No surprise then that we’re told the Sisters’ principle motive for bricking up the secondary entrance into the school was to curtail the access it provided to local boys! The results mirror the strict education. With rank one in the region and rank 30 in the country, the school belongs to the best of all 3000 in Tansania.
The girls welcome was fantastic – a hearty display of dancing and singing without a hint of self consciousness – perhaps a stark contrast to a visit to any UK school. Our tour of the classes revealed a similar curriculum to the UK but ages were less defined and academic hurdles more stringently imposed. My daughter Beth’s time spent with the girls revealed an openness and curiosity as well as a contradicting picture – that Instagram accounts were prevalent and the aspiration was marriage at18 – I think the Sisters have a battle on their hands but perhaps the new chess game, table tennis and the new netball will help them to fill those long Saturday evenings. Beth now realizes the “grass is not always greener …!”
(by Mike Tyler)