The trade school model
Vocational schools were introduced to present-day Tanzania during German colonial rule. Today, as few as 25% of Tanzania's primary school students pass the rigorous Standard VII exam required to enter secondary school, so trade schools throughout the country cater to students who wish to pursue alternate forms of education. Additionally, students might come from families that cannot afford traditional secondary education.
Audrey Veldman Vocational Training Center in Kitete offers an intermediate step between primary school and additional schooling and provides pupils with the skills to work a trade. The rural boarding school was initially established for girls only, but it has since expanded to include boys as well. Students at AVVTC range in age from 14-22 years old and participate in a two-year work training program.
Being here is frustrating sometimes. But then I remember that, in addition to teaching in the classroom, it's our responsibility to learn and spend meaningful time with the students, and so deepen our friendships and give them love, support, and attention. Sure, we are teachers, but moreover this is a ministry of presence. A summer where I seek first to give before receiving, learn before teaching, love before being loved. Though what we learn in classrooms is important, what we learn from our relationships, and from each other, is far more formative to our character. -Excerpt from my journal, Day 25
In the infancy of our relationships with these students, it meant the world to me to learn more about their lives, regardless of the language. They were trying, and we were, too. Only by overcoming our own hesitation with the language barrier could we fully immerse ourselves in the experience and make the most out of our time in Tanzania, whether that involved speaking English, Swahili, or some unorthodox combination. Cliché but true, though our Swahili advanced tremendously, we had already found a collective humanity that superseded the language barrier. We were united by our desire for friendship and acceptance, by our laughter at each other’s valiant attempts at conversation, and by our curiosity about each other.
-Excerpt from my reflection on Justice and Globalization
How did we benefit the students of Audrey Veldman? Perhaps by sharing with them our concrete classroom skills, procured from our American educations? They certainly became more proficient, which was rewarding to see. Or perhaps by cheering at their football (soccer) games and learning each student’s number on the field? Celebrating their wins and commiserating on the losses but supporting them all the while. Knowing them individually. Maybe we benefitted them by participating in their trades and sharing pictures with them. But I think the best answer is simply by being their friends, marafiki zao. By loving them in their home away from home.
-Excerpt from my journal, Day 51