Chocolate University Advisory Board Member Daudi Msseemmaa shares the latest news on our work in Tanzania:
The 13 students from Central High School came back from their trip to Tenende Tanzania, where Askinosie Chocolate’s newest cocoa beans are sourced. They’ve had meetings to debrief and look forward. The cocoa beans that they saw freshly harvested in Tenende, Tanzania have been shipped halfway around the world by truck, ship, train, and truck again. They received the beans here in Springfield, Missouri, and some took part in the various stages of chocolate making.
When the Tenende chocolate bars were finished, they worked and spoke at a release party at the factory for the product, where hundreds of dollars were raised for their friends at Mwaya Secondary School back in Tenende.
In November and December, the Central students strategized ways to best help the students at Mwaya. Having a little experience with Tanzanian schools, my wife and I were able to contribute to this effort by pointing out the specific problem at Mwaya of the number of girls who drop out after their first year of secondary school. With the Central students, we talked about ways to help tackle the problem.
In our project description we quantified the problem with the most recent data provided by Mwaya’s headmaster. It showed that 54 percent fewer girls are in Form 2 than in Form 1, though the number of boys actually goes up. Based on similar experience at other schools, we theorized that the factors include:
- • Inability of families to continue paying school fees
- • Dropouts due to pregnancy/marriage
- • Students are needed for labor for their families’ farming/herding activities
- • Poor test scores discourage student from thinking they have the capacity to succeed academically.
With input from Mwaya’s headmaster, we decided on a three-pronged approach to help:
Most prominent is funding textbooks as a way to shrink the gap and help the school improve test scores. And to address the problem, the books would be in the most needing subjects: English, Physics, Chemistry, Biology. We developed a pyramid-shaped formula for buying most of the books for students in their first year of high school and fewer books for those nearing the end. Most of the books cost $3 to $6 US.
Chocolate University had raised $4,500 for textbooks by mid-January. The money was sent to my wife in Dar es Salaam, who worked with the headmaster and a friend of Tenende named Iddy to buy the books according to the national curriculum and to ship them to Kyela, the district where Tenende and Mwaya school is located.
Last Sunday, Kellen and some of the leaders of Uwate, which is the cocoa farming co-op that supplies the cocoa beans for the Tenende chocolate bar, opened the boxes of books. They had ink stamps specially made and stamped each of the hundreds of textbooks, ‘Donated By Chocolate University.’
There was so much excitement in the air on Monday that it might be hard to explain it from an American vantage, where textbooks in high school are a given. The students at Mwaya had no textbooks. Even many of the teachers were working without textbooks.
A school assembly was called. Kellen presented the books to the school on behalf of Chocolate University. Leaders from Uwate, including Mama Kyeja, were there. Later that day, the books were divvied up and checked out by the students, as if the administration office had become a library.
Students will have to share books because the funds raised weren’t enough to buy books for even half of the students. But now students and teachers will at least have access to textbooks. We look forward to seeing the long-term improvement in the learning that happens.
2. Empowered Girls
The second prong of our efforts is to start an Empowered Girls club at Mwaya to help girls learn ways of confronting certain problems unique to females and to know their value to society is much more than a baby factory. Leaders were chosen and an Empowered Girls seminar was held with speakers who came to dispel some myths that get girls in trouble.
3. Equipping teachers
We did a quick assessment, asking teachers what their needs were and looking at ways we can help in the future on a tight budget. When we go back to the area in July, we’re looking at ways to bring some on-the-job training for them, and we want to make sure they have access to books and resources they need as teachers. Other needs are more basic: Staff housing is needed because some teachers have long commutes on foot or bicycle, electricity is needed to allow teachers and students to work in the evening dark.