Fighting for Education Rights

STORY ABOUT A TEACHER BECOMING A FIGHTER FOR EDUCATION

This article is based on an interview I did with another intern, Jesper Andersen, for a documentary, we produced about the school attendance of children under 13 years old *. There are many parts of the story the headteacher of the Tumaini nursery school told us that we didn’t use for our documentary. I was really touched by his story; and found that it’s worth being told. Here is the story of Gabriel Costantino Chaugali, headteacher of the Tumaini nursery school in Madale, Tanzania.

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The land the school was constructed on hasn’t always been Mr. Chaugali’s. In the beginning, this land was used to hold goats. There is a big tree in the corner of the land; Mr. Chaugali’s thought it would be a great place to start something. He went to the owner and asked if he could have the land to teach children under that tree. He began like this; teaching only one student under the tree; her name was Agnes. This was ten years ago, in 2009.

At first, he didn’t want to become a teacher. He just wanted to help kids. “But I believe in God, and each night, someone told me that I really needed to do it for the kids. My family was living on Zanzibar, but something told me that I needed to go back to the mainland and help those children by teaching them; helping the ones who can’t afford school fees.”

Nowadays, the school is attended by 50 children. Depending on the year, the number of students studying for free changes. Some years, it’s 5 kids; some years, it’s half of all the kids.

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“Education is like your eyes. You can’t do anything without your eyes. It’s the same for education; you can’t do anything without it.”

The purpose of Mr. Chaugali’s journey is to help the community. To help the kids to learn and have a good life afterward. He believes that there is no economically developed country without a good education foundation. “People need to know things about their country and about the world to develop their mind and be interested in what’s going on in the world. You can’t have professionals without education, so you can’t have industries. The nation’s kids must be educated to help the country grow when they will be older. Otherwise, the poverty cycle will continue to turn.”

That’s why he is trying as much as he can to accommodate parents. They are only asked to pay for their children’s school uniforms and exercise books. The uniform is about 10$, and the 12 exercises books for the year are about 4$ in total. Some of the children don’t even have a uniform, but of course, they can still attend the school.

The school fees from the children who have parents paying are sometimes not enough to cover the operation costs, such as the food for breakfast and the assistant teacher’s salary. Mr. Chaugali is having extra jobs to cover these costs: he’s also teaching privately, children from families with a higher income in his free time. This allows him to continue to pay his assistant so that the school doesn’t have to close when there is not enough money for one month.

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“The society, which doesn’t want children to get an education, isn’t educated. An educated person would never let this happen.”

The issue that the teacher found is that parents aren’t educated about the importance of school. Most of the time, they didn’t get the chance to go to school themselves. “When parents know they don’t have enough money to pay for school, they sometimes feel bad to put their kids in school for free. They feel like their kids are their responsibility, so they should be able to pay everything; otherwise, they stay home with them.  Sometimes, children are not coming because they have to take care of their siblings. They arrive late or leave early and sometimes miss several days of school.”

“Education is important, money issues aren’t.”

Mr. Chaugali is working a lot to undo this belief. To help the parents take school seriously and to make sure that they are preparing their kids for school every morning, he is doing a walk around the village to pick up the children. This way, parents don’t have a choice to prepare their kids, because they know that the teacher will be at their place soon. He is also bringing them back home after school.

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The teacher explained to me that a couple of years ago, he always saw two kids running around while he was walking to school. One day, he went to the mother and ask her why her kids weren’t in school yet. She told him that she was poor; the father didn’t communicate with her anymore, so she was by herself. Her only income was the local alcohol she was selling. The teacher took the contact of the dad and he called him himself. The father said that he would pay for kid’s school fees. He only paid for one month. Mr. Chaugali took them under his wing. They stayed at the Tumaini nursery school for about three years. They are now in standard four.

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Even after the students quit school and enter primary school, he continues to check on them. He visits their home, and he makes sure that they are doing their homework and that they are doing fine.

If you had one thing to say to your community, what would it be?

I would like to advise the community, or the people with more money, to help the poorest ones. Education is crucial, the poor kids need education as much as the rich ones. I implore two things. First of all, I ask for financial support from the one with more money, to help their neighbor’s kids to attend school. Second of all, I ask help from the community to educate the adults. The parents need to be educated about the importance of school for their children, in order to break the poverty cycle and to help the community, and the country, to grow. Education can break this cycle.

 

* The documentary referred is available on Art in Tanzania’s Facebook page.

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