A History Lesson

A History Lesson
Oct 20

Kichangani is the diocesan-run student center located across the street from the bishop’s complex where we are staying. It is a collection of 8 buildings with a library, bookstore, Internet lab, a digital learning lab, meeting rooms and an audio-visual studio for recording lessons to add to the digital library.  In addition, there are buildings that were converted into hostels, to house the university student overflow in Iringa.  A large conference center is used for youth functions, weddings, seminars, and church meetings.  The tenet of Kichingani:

Give Knowledge to a Wise Man and he will become yet wiser.  (Proverbs 9:9)

The business offices for Global Outreach Tanzania are also housed here.

When Global Outreach Tanzania was first formed, one of the goals was to educate teachers to provide instruction to the students in computer usage.  Schools were encouraged to apply for computers to create computer labs, which required writing a proposal, supplying teachers and providing a room for the lab at their school. In addition, they had to raise a set amount of money.  The money could be a very difficult obstacle in such a poor country.  Global Outreach provided leads on grants to raise the funds and then provided and maintained the computers for the labs. To date 13 schools have met the criteria and have active computer labs.  These 13 schools have access to the Internet lab at Kichangani, with transportation supplied through a grant from Rotary International.

In contrast, the digital library, Windows to Knowledge, is open to any student in the area and there is staff to help them learn about the computers and navigate the modules.  Both these computer labs have had a profound effect.  Over 6000 students have used the Kichangani libraries, gaining access to skills they would otherwise not have had.

We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Peter Harrits, who is a Lutheran pastor and director of the Tanzania initiative called Bega kwa Bega (shoulder to shoulder.)  He described how Lutheran pastors came to Iringa in 1987 with the hope of starting a relationship with the Iringan people.  The results of their efforts were the establishment of the Lutheran University, and a cooperation between Iringa and St. Paul, MN which gave birth to  Bega kwa Bega.  The pillars of their relationship are Prayer, Presence and Projects.  It has grown into 65 congregation partnerships.  The partnership between St. Thomas More and Sacred Heart will start small but who knows where the Holy Spirit may take us.

After our history lesson, some fun! We were treated to a visit to St. Dominic’s primary school, which includes grades K-7.  There are almost 1300 students at St. Dominic’s, and do they like visitors and they love to ham for the camera.  We high fived so many of the students! Many of the signs throughout the schools said:  Speak English.  Students are taught English early since all courses at university level are in English. Education is the road to improving their lives and their country and St. Dominic’s is preparing them well.  Stan was a big hit with the kids.

We then went to Ruaha Catholic University (ROKU) and visited with the Chancellor, Pater Kevin Haule and the legal counselor, Martin Noel. This ten-year old college serves 5,000 students mostly in the field of education.  We discussed the problems of education in Tanzania.  They will sound familiar: shortage of quality teachers, poor pay, lack of funding and changing political leadership.  But their needs are so much greaterer than ours.

Today, we began to see the successes and challenges of education in Tanzania.  Tomorrow we will visit more schools and visit an out station.

To help you “meet” some of those we have met, we will provide one short bio for the next couple of days.    Today is Father Chatila, Pastor of Sacred Heart.

Father Chatila received his secondary education degree at Mafenga Seminary in 1988. For the next six years he continued his studies in philosophy and theology.  On June 22, 1994 he was ordained a priest serving in a parish for one year before taking a position as chaplain at a hospital and secondary school. He spent six years as a rector at a preparatory seminary and another six years as a parish priest before being assigned to Sacred Heart just a year ago.  Father Chatila has a quick smile and a heart open to all the possibilities of a partnership with St. Thomas More.

Til tomorrow…Afya.  (God bless you)