He continued, “I will help you find the right people to assess and prioritize the need for new schools.”
He would be retiring in two weeks and would be available to take me around the various local Ministry of Education offices and meet the necessary contacts.
“Thank you, thank you,” I gratefully uttered. “I will contact you then.”
He was a busy man. Several visitors were waiting to see him, so, after a really firm handshake, I took my leave.
On the way to the gate, Helen called after me, “Would you like to see a nursery class in progress?”
I don’t think I can remember ever witnessing one in progress. This was a treat! She showed me a Level 3 class with 15 or so kids. Classes range from Level 1 for two-year- olds to Level 4 for five-year-olds (for Primary Schools it's Standard 1 for six-year-olds to Standard 7 for 12-year-olds, and for High School, it's Form 1 for 13-year-olds to Form 6 for 18-year-olds). Helen had the polite little four-year-olds show me the writing in their exercise books. Supply funds are extremely lacking for even the basics, pencils and paper. They used up every square inch of paper in their books.
After a few more moments of enjoying the teacher and pupils interact, Helen and I left. She walked me to the gate, chatting about the drying up of funds from the donors.
Later that day I returned with an armload of exercise books, pencils and colored pencils. I was surprised how inexpensive the cost was here, about half of that in Canada.
On another morning’s walk, I met Dr. Spear Mwakila, who was going my way. A diminutive, smartly-dressed young man with an
incredibly big smile, he looked all of 17- years-old. I mistook him for a high school student on his way to high school. He was
actually in his 30’s. He had a small herbal medicine clinic that he operated from his home, treating patients with his own natural
remedies. He was very interested in my work and strongly suggested I should meet one of his good friends, a farmer, teacher and
philanthropist. I agreed, and invited him to breakfast where his own interesting story unfolded.
Spear was the only son in a farming family in a small village in southern Tanzania. He had four sisters. His father had died when
he was only five. His mother, according to traditional laws, was then forced to forfeit ownership of all property to the grandparents. Destitute and penniless, they had no choice but to move in with them. Spear’s grandfather put him to work tending 100 cattle
(at five-years-old!). When he turned six, his older sister, noticing his aptitude for learning, asked their grandfather to send him to
school. He flatly refused.
“The boy must do his duty to the family and work on this farm.”
Undaunted, she contacted a sympathetic local teacher who confronted the grandfather: “The law in this country requires all children go to school. If you don’t send him to school, we will report you, and you will be fined.”
The grandfather later summoned Spear: “If you go to school, you are no longer my grandson.”
He began his new life, living with the family of the teacher, who was more than willing to sponsor this young prodigy. Spear excelled through all levels of primary and secondary school, and worked his way through college by traveling through various towns and cities selling T-shirts to tourists.
By the age of 26, he had a degree in herbal medicine from the Tanzania Institute of Agriculture where he had learned about the chemical properties of native trees and plants. Through years of continued research in towns and villages, in various botanically “ripe” regions around the country, he developed herbal concoctions that have successfully treated patients suffering from HIV, tuberculosis, high blood pressure, diabetes and malaria. Although his reputation is growing, his practice at the moment is limited
to working from his home office.
Armed with his successes, he recently attended an international medical conference in Dar Es Salaam, where he hoped a western sponsor would help fund his dream for a new clinic in Arusha and help him to purchase land where he would grow his specialty herbs, plants and trees. Many were impressed by his presentation, but when asked to divulge his herbal formulae, he declined, so any interest quickly evaporated. One could understand; what would be in it for them?
Spear showed me photos of his family. His three daughters seemed to be a chip off the old block. Their school marks were in the upper 90s. He also showed me a photo of a group of young orphans that he works with in his spare time. I was impressed with his energy and enthusiasm, and hoped we would keep in touch. After finishing our breakfast we parted and agreed that sometime tomorrow we could get together again, this time, with his friend.