Edmund Rice Sinon Secondary School.
Now online with high speed internet access for students and teachers

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January Newsletter

Yes, type in Edmund Rice Tanzania on any internet search engine and there we are with our own real web site (http://eol.habari.co.tz/edmund-rice.htm). Now before you get too excited, let me say that it is early days.  

The project began when a student stood up at a school meeting and lamented the fact that the school didn’t have a library.  I replied that books were a thing of the past and too expensive for this school.  We would bypass the book era and go electronic.  And it has happened, thanks to some generous donations.

Christian Brother’s sponsored Ryall Trust in New York USA, $US 5,000.00 to upgrade our Vocational Training Centre.

The Australian High Commissioner in Nairobi  donated $US 2,800.00.

Fr. Ed Gorman O P who taught here in the late nineties donated $US 1,000.00 and there were some smaller donations  from family and friends.

So What  have we got now?

We have a new  room with 25 computers all networked and connected through ethernet broadband system.  We have a 30 metre tower that is helping bring in the world. The existing computer room will continue to provide computer training. An NGO connected with internet provider Habari have approved our school to receive free connection.  This is provided through EOL@habari.co.tz  The school also has an email address ersss@habari.co.tz

We have been promised a server from a local company manufacturing transformers here in Arusha, ABB ltd

Now two volunteers have come from Seattle USA Matt Dahlin and Anne Fillmore and they will work here for four months.  Matt will use his IT skills to put together the system and install the soft ware to create this electronic library.  Matt has already installed Net Nanny for the all too curious.

The aim is to have volunteers browse the internet and help create a user friendly library on the server.  Teachers will then book the room and their students will be able to read and research subject material.  Students working in English as their second language, will need this breakdown of material to make the most of what is available.

Also we want to develop the web site as a means of promoting the school and securing funds for further developments.  Donors will be able to keep up with developments and sponsors will be able to keep in touch with students that they are sponsoring.

So don’t forget Edmund Rice Tanzania is now online. Check back often for weekly updates to the school website!

Brother Frank O’Shea 

Add us to your Favorites list: http://eol.habari.co.tz/edmund-rice.htm

 

Tanzania's Crisis in Education
 
Silence fills the courtroom as the accused is led into the room to hear her fate. . She is a pathetic figure as she stands before all in the room. The judge is given a document to sign and she begins to sob and mutter an incoherent litany for mercy. Unperturbed he picks up his pen, signs it and in doing so, the death penalty is confirmed. The court is adjourned and the condemned is led away. . . . . . . . .

I have always believed that I have one novel in me, and this could be the opening paragraph. Unfortunately this paragraph is not prompted by my allusions of grandeur as a writer, but by real life events happening here in Arusha Tanzania.

I have just spent a week acting as chief Justice or Lord High executioner of the hundreds of students trying to obtain an education. Statistics don't do justice to the the plight of these people.

Only 8 percent students who successfully completed their primary education can be accommodated in Government Secondary schools. Non- government schools may take another eight percent. Dar es Salaam, a city of four million, half being under the age of sixteen, has 297 primary schools. (The Guardian newspaper Jan 10th)  In Arusha less than 30 percent of the students who successfully completed primary education have any chance of progressing to Secondary education. (Arusha times newspaper Jan 17th)

Here at Edmund Rice Secondary School over 1,500 students did an entrance examination for Form 1. Only 200 students were given a place. In Form II there were 99 students who did an examination for 14 places.

Each day during this first week of school, the crowds have gathered at the office. Priests, sisters, police and even the Regional Education Officer also visited. They gave endless accounts of hardship, orphans and bad luck stories. 'Just one,' the man says. "My child will be ruined,' laments the mother. For almost all of them they hear the same thing,' Sorry but I can't help you; the school is full." We will have 700 students in the school and a further 1000 looking in over the fence.

The Form III students received their Form II national examination results yesterday. Great excitement was the lot of 149. However for two girls it was to be that one day in their lives that they will never forget. Both of these girls scored only 29% or an F Grade. They had failed. They were being told that they were failures and that their schools days here were over. No amount of talking or trying to be nice was worth a pinch of the ' what ever it is that you fancy giving a pinch of." They sat in my office and cried and pleaded for another chance. After some time the Academic teacher brought me the official notification of their results and a proclamation to themselves, their families and friends that they were indeed failures. Torn between responding to their grief and just doing what had to be done, I signed the document and thus ended their time here. Court adjourned!.

I left, filled with so many questions and so painfully aware that this was the human face of those lifeless statistics, mentioned earlier. I was tempted to flee and start writing that novel.

Reflecting on all that has happened over the past few days, I recalled the words of Jesus when he lashed out at all the self righteous leaders of his day.

Woe to you Headmaster sitting there behind your big desk, pretending to be God almighty himself.  

Woe to you brother who upholds the law of the education Department at the expense of two girls. 

Woe to you all powerful and mighty one, who say yes to one and she gets a chance and no to another and she is sent away.  

(Highlighting this was the case of two passionist sisters who applied. One got a place, while the other was sent away).

Woe to you O great Foreigner here in Tanzania, with the big computer, scrolling down 1,500 names and clinically deleting tens of students because they scored 59% and not 60%. . . . . . . . .  You snakes, vipers (Australians could add some other colourful adjectives) How will you escape the judgment of hell.? (adapt. Mt: 23)

Lord forgive me and somehow come to their aid, that is my cheap fix it prayer.

However I know that this is inadequate. My only consolation is that we are trying to help as many as possible. In 1995 this school had around 250 students, and now it has 700 students. By the January 2006 it will have 800 students. That is not just a statistic but 800 different and personal stories of kids crying out for a better life.

A further response to the crisis is the hostels that we have built. In 1998, I leased some rooms and gave thirteen Maasai girls the chance to stay near the school. This meant good food, electricity, water without the four hours walking to school each day. In September of 2003, there were three visitors from Ireland here and they gave me Euro 3,000.00 for assisting kids with their education. Yesterday 16 girls moved into their latest room, bringing the total now to 156 girls that live in from Monday morning to Friday afternoon. The recently completed boy's hostel has 170 boys accommodated there.

The pressure created by this crisis is driving this rapid expansion in capital developments at the school. The recurrent operating costs are all met by the parents who are paying $US 142.00 this year for fees. This is a huge ask when so many are so poor. Many parents can't afford this fee and we have generous sponsors from many countries who are giving scholarships for the poorest boys and girls. This year we will have over 100 students who are receiving scholarships. Last year we had several students whose had a parent die and all of them were rescued by a scholarship. The gift of education to these children, in this context, is a great gift. The donations that I receive for the capital developments are a great gift to these students and to future generations of young Tanzanian children. On behalf of the school community I say thank you to every one.

Brother Frank O’Shea