Tanzania welcomes you with open arms, or adorable little hands, as we see in this photo. Photographer, Tom McCarthy spent the Summer weeks of 2016 documenting moments from various student travel programs in Tanzania. An inspiring moment of a little boy showing a recently-constructed classroom with a new friend is seen here.
Tanzania is home to over 56 million people and is often known for its expansive protected wilderness areas such as the Ngorongoro Crater and the plains of Serengeti National Park. It is home to Africa’s highest mountain, the famed Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the beautiful islands of Zanzibar.
The little boy seen here is peeking out from the door at the primary school in a rural village called Mang’ola Juu, located at the edge of Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside the crater is a thriving ecosystem of lush forests, vast grasslands, and a freshwater lake.The famous Big Five game animals – lions, leopards, elephants, cape buffalo and rhinoceros – all make their home here.
Back over to the primary school, students are seen arriving and filling the classrooms in the early morning. Two little boys playfully clap their hands and sing a tune. Another younger child is seen shyly hiding behind an older friend. They all wear uniforms, with colored sweaters dependent on their grade. Girls are seen wearing blue skirts to their ankles and boys with tan shorts past the knees.
One of the challenges facing young students in Mang’ola Juu is that many must walk up to 15 km to and from school. A walk this long can be very dangerous and oftentimes means that students must skip school altogether. Most primary schools in Tanzania lack funding for basic supplies and are unable to fund improvements for aging school infrastructure.
There have been infrastructure improvements in Mang’ola Juu Village since 2007, a community of about 700 residents and over 300 primary school students. Early work focused on rebuilding classrooms that had been damaged by an earthquake, and since have built much-needed new classrooms, teacher’s houses, and toilets to support the Mang’ola Juu Primary School.
Groups of high school students traveling to the village spend about seven days working from morning until afternoon on different sustainable development projects in the village. The week this moment was captured, two local masons led construction and the Village Committee organized community volunteers to assist along with the high school students. They constructed a toilet block, along with six latrines, and planned English lessons for the local children.
The student’s eagerness to learn can be seen on the many smiling faces in the primary school with laughter ringing through the yard. This little boy in particular was excited to show Tom the newest classroom just through the door.
With many children needing to work from a young age to bring in additional income for the family, the bustling school yard is a true pleasure to behold. The local children are quite eager to try out their recently acquired English skills. Not only are they fast learners, they are greatly enjoying the lessons.
While popping in and out of classrooms, high school students are seen teaching locals. The kids are precious in their uniforms, fighting over the pencils and often sitting three to a desk. The teacher starts the lesson for the day and students turn their attention forward after a few more playful exchanges.
The lunch break brings students and village members to the soccer field in the yard. A friendly match picks up and excited shouts of encouragement follow the students kicking the ball. A goal is scored and excited murmurs turn to shouts. Another group of students sit down on the opposite side of the yard to play a version of duck-duck-goose. A young girl gleefully runs around the circle trying to get back to her spot before getting tagged. She just makes it and collapses into a fit of giggles.
By night, with no city lights around for many miles, planets, satellites, shooting stars fill the sky. Silent but for the distant sounds of crickets and hooting owls.
After returning home at the end of the summer – to the familiar sights, sounds, and smells, a moment of reflection is needed. What was most challenging along the way? Is there a feeling of growth from engaging with the place and the people visited? And more importantly, how does one amplify the stories of all the friends made along the way?
Thank you to Kayla Anzalone from Rustic Pathways for permission to share the photograph.