Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Long Walk

While Elliot was in Dar waiting for his license plate, Abbas, our translator, and I took the opportunity to spend some time in other parts of Lundamatwe that we had not visited. The village of Lundamatwe is roughly shaped like a square about ten miles long and ten miles wide. The paved road that goes from Dar to Iringa cuts right through the middle of the village. The Lundamatwe Primary School is located on the paved road almost dead center in the village. The Ulonge Primary School is located on the paved road about 3 miles west of the Lundamatwe School. Abbas and spent a few hours on Monday (the 13th) near the Ulonge School in the northeast part of the village. As we talked to people there, we found out that many had kids who had attended the Ulonge School, but since that school only had room for Standards 1-4 their kids had to walk to the Lundamatwe School for Standards 5-7. Many of the kids had to walk close to 4 miles each way to school! Later that day we asked the headmaster of the Lundamatwe School if he had any idea how many kids were coming from the Ulonge area. He said that he was not sure but that he would find out for us. On Tuesday the headmaster told us that there are 159 kids (about 50 in each Standard) from the Ulonge area (these kids had all attended the Ulonge School when they were in the younger Standards). The headmaster told us that the long walk from Ulonge means the kids cannot return home at lunch time for food and so they are more tired at the end of the day and as a result their performance in the classroom falls below that of their peers. The extra kids from Ulonge also cause overcrowding in the Lundamatwe School. Standard Six, at Lundamatwe, has two classrooms with almost 90 kids in each. If the kids Ulonge were able to attend the school in Ulonge, then there would only be 60 kids in each classroom, which is still a high number, but much more manageable for the teacher. A fifth classroom is under construction at Lundamatwe, but the village funds have dried up. Project Kesho is committed to working with the Ulonge School to finish the classroom before the new school year starts in January, and funds permitting, to build two additional classrooms so that no child from the Ulonge area has to walk to Lundamatwe for school.

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