In the US and Europe, the days of summer are waning and many kids return to school this month. The classic first writing assignment for back-to-school is “What I did over my summer vacation.” Secondary school students in Tanzania, such as those in the Kisa Project and Binti Shupavu, would not write this particular essay because they go to school year-round. However, they do have periodic two to four-week breaks from school, as well as time off for national holidays. There are 14 annual national holidays in Tanzania where there is no work or school. Some of them are religious and others are politically oriented, during which we remember our history.
“I am counting down the days left at school until the holidays!” Mwanahawa, Kisa Scholar, Msangeni Secondary School
AfricAid Scholars and Mentors alike look forward to holidays. They are time to break the daily routines of the school cycle and give our minds and bodies some rest. They are also an opportunity to think about dreams and to get our thoughts together for our journey through life. They are a joyful time to spend with family and friends who you have not seen for a long time.
At boarding schools, students can decide if they want to spend the school holidays at school or they can go home, depending on their living situation. During June and December, which have the month-long holiday breaks, the majority of students do go home. On national holidays, students stay at school, but there are no regular classes or activities on those days.
How do Kisa and Binti Shupavu Scholars spend their holidays? Like their fellow classmates, the participants in our programs spend their holidays to rest and restore… to regain strength to move on with their coursework. They also are involved with household chores and playing outdoors. Unlike their regular classmates though, they share what they’ve learned in Kisa and Binti with family and friends. Kisa Scholars use the breaks to conduct community assessments in preparation for their Year One Presentations (Y1P) and the 2 Day Challenge (2DC).
Scholars enjoy the holidays for various reasons:
“I like holidays because they give me a chance to meet my parents, relatives, and friends and to change the type of food I eat at school.” Angela, Kisa Scholar, Mawenzi Secondary School
“I like holidays because because I get to exchange materials and ideas with my peer Scholars from different schools, cover other topics or clarify the ones I learned in school, and assist my parents with domestic activities.” Sweebert, Kisa Scholar, Oshara Secondary School
During holidays, parents ask the girls about their academic performance, the challenges they are facing, and how best they can support them in their educational journey. The girls help their parents with domestic activities like cleaning, cooking, and helping their young siblings and neighbors with homework. This is often how the lessons of Kisa and Binti are spread throughout the community. Many of our Scholars use the holidays to share leadership and life skills with youths in their communities who do not have the benefit of leadership programs.
Scholars also participate in a lot of good, fun activities that there is no time for at school – they take time to be kids! For instance, the enjoy rede (a game played mostly by girls and similar to dodge ball, but with more agility – while they are dodging the ball they have to fill a bottle with sand, dirt, or collect sticks in a pile), playing cards, swimming, and going to the market.
AfricAid generally uses the Scholars’ holiday time to introduce our programs to the parents and guardians of girls who have just joined. It is time for Kisa Scholars to share with their families and friends what Kisa is all about. The Year One Scholars are given overview letters from AfricAid to deliver to their parents. We encourage Scholars to add personal testimonies about the program to give their families a better understanding of what they are learning in the sessions.
Some of the sessions that Kisa Mentors teach require a practical application in the Scholars’ communities. Holiday time at home is the perfect opportunity to observe and think about challenges faced by one’s community. The Scholars ask other people for their views about the problems, and meet with at least three community members and leaders to navigate solutions and identify existing assets that can be used for these solutions. They engage themselves in community activities, attend community meetings, and start building trust with community members. This is laying the groundwork for the Year One Presentation and 2 Day Challenge, which are essential parts of the Kisa Curriculum.
Rehema, a Kisa Scholar from Oshara Secondary School explains that through the community assessment and involving herself with community issues, “the community leaders now trust me to organize and involve youth.”
When the breaks are over, Scholars return to school excited to share about their holidays with their classmates. Mentors resume their Kisa and Binti classes again and share with the mentees about their own holidays. Everyone’s minds are refreshed and they are ready for more!
Learn what it’s like to go to school in Tanzania in our 3-part blog series.