In July 2011, we (Katie Henoch and Lia Heaney) traveled to Arusha, Tanzania to volunteer at a school called TUPO. TUPO stands for Tumaini Positive Test Club; it is not a official school but a small, one-room nursery school where children from the surrounding neighborhood (ages 3-7) attend Monday through Friday 8:30 AM-11:30 AM free of charge. Most of the children are affected by HIV/AIDS in some way, either they have the disease or they have lost one or both parents to it.
At TUPO, there is only one teacher, Ana. The children’s first language is Kiswahili and many know a few simple greetings in English. Throughout our time at TUPO, we observed that with only one teacher and nineteen students (at varying ages and learning levels) it was challenging to complete lessons and keep everyone on task.
With the time we had, we focused on sustainable goals. We taught lessons on hygiene, specifically about washing hands and covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing. We separated the students into two groups; one of us would work with the 3-5 year olds, and the other with the 6-7 year olds. We worked on solidifying basics such as ABCs, simple addition and subtraction, essential phrases in both Swahili and English, and we established a classroom routine. We always finished the day by reading either Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, two classroom favorites.
By the end of our stay, we had visited the home of each student, knew their personal story, met their guardians, and had a sense of their strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. We made sincere connections with these students and their families.
TUPO, though lacking in many ways, is the best option for many of these families. It offers the children in the neighborhood a safe and structured place to be in the morning. For the 3-5 year olds, TUPO provides a setting similar to a daycare. However, we noticed the older students tend to disconnect because most of the focus is on keeping the younger children on task. We witnessed a lot of excitement and determination in the older students, but the resources they needed were not available to support them moving forward in their education.
We researched registered English speaking primary schools near TUPO. We looked to our Tanzanian friends for information about the schools in the area and the most effective way to support the older students at TUPO. Through this research, we found Uhuru Peak Primary School, a private English speaking school in walking distance from the students’ homes.
We visited the school on three separate occasions, speaking with different staff including the principle and treasurer of the school. After our visits, which also included taking the nine students to interview and their parents to see the school, we all felt that Uhuru Peak would be a great match for the nine oldest students from TUPO: Glory, Godfrey, Joshua, Sara, Moses, Johnson-Laizer, Deric-Emmanuelle, Mercy and Rama.
At Uhuru Peak School, the administration requires a minimum sponsorship agreement of two years. Our goal is to raise enough money to send these nine students to this school through the remainder of their education, the American equivalent to the end of high school. The team at Uhuru has agreed to work with us in the long term as we fundraise to finance the education of these nine students.