This teacher and mentor is working tirelessly to fight poverty in Tanzania by educating and empowering young women – and finding time to lead debate club
Every day, I wake at 4.30am and start praying for the new day, in which I hope to transform my students and help to eradicate ignorance and poverty. I water my vegetable garden and then prepare a boiled breakfast (made of sweet potatoes, plantains, yams, or cassava, depending on the season) for myself and my family to take to work. I prepare this breakfast for my 20-yearold son, who is now at college, and two other relatives who go to work early in the morning in Dar es Salaam.
At 6am, I start the 2km public-bus journey to Zinga Secondary School in Bagamoyo District, Tanzania. My school is in a rural village, near a famous historical site that was once a trading port for ivory and slaves. The ruins and antiquities attract tourists and we also visit with students, so they can witness the history they have been taught.
I arrive at 7am. My school has nine blocks, with one incomplete administration block. I have been teaching in this school for nine years now. I love my work.
I teach English and Swahili, but I am also a Camfed (Campaign for Female Education) teacher mentor. This means that my interaction between the school and community is wide, as I have a responsibility to make sure girls value their dignity and their education.
Care in the community
My school has a system where each week, one member of staff is the “teacher on duty”. This means that they supervise the school and ensure that all the programmes go well. Some mornings, in weeks when I am on duty, I will make home visits to a student who has missed classes for a week without giving a reason.
A ward official, Camfed alumna or a member of the local parent support group will accompany me in these visits. We make sure to go early to talk to the parent or guardian, but sometimes there is no guardian. One girl I visited lived only with her younger sister and did not have enough food to make the long journey to school every day. I alerted Camfed and we found her a place in a hostel at another school. Then I found her uncle, who could take in her sister.
By 8am, I have to be back at school to teach. When I am teaching, I like to take my students outside to sit under a big mango tree. Here they can feel freer and the lesson is more interactive. If a student needs more attention and has a private problem, I provide a room for them so we can find a solution. Sometimes I refer them to a nurse.
At 11 am I join the other teachers for something to eat. Then, in the afternoon I lead extracurricular activities, including sports and our debate club.
The school timetable ends at 3pm. Many afternoons, I will visit the parent support group in the village before I go home. These parents volunteer their time to support vulnerable children at school, including with school meals or maintaining the buildings.
When I get home I clean the house while my family prepares dinner. After dinner, I make my lesson plans for the next day, unless it is a Saturday. Saturdays are important days for me because they give me a chance to work on running my small business, which supplies bajaji [a type of rickshaw] rides to people who need to make a journey. My business also delivers soap. I love teaching, but it is not easy to depend on a teacher’s salary alone.
Agnes Mmbaga is an English and Swahili teacher at Zinga Secondary School in Tanzania and a Camfed teacher mentor