The year started well with schooling, with all our children returning as normal on January 5 to their schools, apprenticeship courses and colleges.
However, in March the coronavirus pandemic hit. The Tanzanian government was quick to close all educational establishments and they remained closed until June. We took the view that the virus was likely to infect more people in the higher population in the city, Dar es Salaam, than in the rural area of Mkuranga and therefore we moved all our children who were living in the Reception Home in Dar back to the rural Village. While we furloughed our inhouse nursery teacher – she needed to look after her own children who were not at school – we were able to call upon our own Malaika child who had recently qualified as an early year’s Montessori teacher to fill the gap. Another one of our girls, who is a qualified seamstress, was very busy making facemasks for all our children and staff.
Also, James, Emanuel and Julius, our managers in the Village, spent each morning with the older children working on homework which their schools had provided.
In June, the schools reopened. So far, none of our children or staff has been infected by the virus. The government (certainly in the run-up to the general election later this month) has elected to avoid any further lockdown actions. All our children are back studying in school, with national exams planned as normal in November.
We have three children taking standard 7 (end of primary school) exams this year. Two of them are at Lifewaylight and we very much hope that they will achieve B grades. If they do, they will be accepted by St Matthews, one of the best secondary schools in the country. If they get a C they will still go to secondary school, probably Ujenzi. A third child attends Mkuranga Primary and has struggled to make up for lost educational opportunities before he came to Malaika Kids. We are giving him extra tuition in the hope that he can achieve a C and go on to Ujenzi.
A further 34 children are continuing at primary school – the more we can put through the school which teaches in English (Lifewaylight) the better the outlook for the individual child.
In secondary education, we have four children taking O levels this year. We are sure that one will then move on to A levels, two will hopefully do so, and one who is partially deaf and blind and now attends a special school will undertake an advanced apprenticeship course, perhaps becoming a teacher of sign language.
A further 12 children are in secondary education (but not taking O levels this year).
Over the course of the year, the number of children we support in our Relatives Support Programme (RSP) has risen from 81 to 91. An essential part of this support is the provision of school uniforms and supplies to ensure that these very poor children can attend both primary school and the early years of secondary school.
We are nervously awaiting exam results for one older boy striving to become a Clinical Medical Officer (one down from a doctor). Some modules have been retaken on the way to this point and we have our fingers crossed.
Three older boys will shortly complete short certificate courses that should help get jobs as security guards. They are guaranteed their first few days of paid work to help maintain order during the election.
The outlook for 2021 is more than usually uncertain. General elections take place in Tanzania at the end of October and the current President’s party is expected to win easily. At that point, there may be a public admission that the pandemic is still continuing in Tanzania. The most vulnerable group of individuals is elderly grandparents who tend to be the ones who look after our children in the Relatives Support Programme. It might be that the number of children we support through this unique programme will rise.