Poverty in Tanzania?

Morning 07:45; Jan, Eva and I go up the mountain behind our house in Uuwo to one of our projects, as we do every Tuesday. Corn fields, banana palms and some houses with cowsheds accompany us on our way over the red earth paths to Kondiki Primary School. But we are not alone. Many primary school children walk the same paths as we do, passing a kiosk and finally a short stretch along one of the biggest streets of our village.

If you look closely and understand a little bit of Kiswahili, you will notice that these children radiate almost nothing but carefree bliss. The partly smudged mouths testify that they were just sitting with their family in their house, drinking Chai and eating Uji, a porridge made of corn flour. Now you can see them running across the paths with their shoes worn out and kicking a football made of black plastic bags tied together in front of them. As soon as they arrive at school, they will be sitting with their friends in class and, just like you know from your own experience, either watch out and join in or just kill time in some other way.

Tuesday is market day in Mwika, so there are already some mamas on the road with banana trees and baskets full of coffee. On their heads they balance their goods down to the market place where they are sold to anyone who offers enough. With this money the women can buy the oil and spinach for dinner.

What did I take from it?

In our imagination we often project an image of poverty onto all these things. But from my own experience and my own knowledge I can say that the people in my village and in many other villages are not poor. They live according to a completely different standard than we do in Germany and the rest of Europe, no question. But just because this standard of living is so different it doesn’t mean that one means “wealth” and the other “poverty”.

Eating corn porridge for breakfast? Smeared smile. Walked out of the house with expired and broken shoes? I can still jump rope and shoot a football with these. A football made out of plastic bags? It’s easier to hold it up anyway. Run to the market all morning heavily laden? I can have a good chat with the other mamas.

I do not want to deny that there is poverty in Tanzania and other parts of Africa. But isn’t it exactly the same in the western world?

I have lots of special moments and memories in mind when I think back to my time in Tanzania and my contact with its people. But there are three things I will never forget. Firstly, the enthusiasm with which young and old approach their day and their tasks, and secondly the strong community that forms in all areas. But the last and most important quality is the bliss I mentioned earlier.

Going into the day carefree, not already thinking about all the things to come, appreciating the things you have and not mourning those you miss. I am constantly reminded by Tanzania and its people that being happy is not as difficult as it sometimes seems. We can all learn a lot from this attitude and way of life.


School and education

In one area of Tanzania, which I got to know and actively helped to shape for a whole year, a certain poverty is nevertheless evident. Tanzania’s school and education system is designed in such a way that for the vast majority of children and young people, the path to a good education remains closed forever.

Primary school is compulsory for all children and does not have to be financed by the parents. From the sixth grade onwards, however, there is no longer compulsory schooling and secondary schools cost money. With an average of about 5 children per woman (the own children are the retirement provision in Tanzania) not every family can afford to continue to send all their children to school. Therefore many children already work on the family’s farm after primary school. So if you get into a secondary school, you are lucky, because you will probably get a school-leaving certificate. But what is the quality of teaching? We were amazed and frightened to find out that a lot of pupils who have been going to secondary school for two or three years hardly understand a word of English and certainly cannot speak it. The problem with this: all secondary school lessons are held in English! If you want to have a good school education, you have to attend one of the expensive private schools from primary school age. As expected, however, hardly any family can afford this.

For many, this therefore means: training and not studying. But here comes the next stumbling block. In Tanzania, you don’t get a salary during your education, you even have to pay for it. This is another financial hurdle that hardly anyone can jump over.

Matema can make a difference for children and young people

Each of our dressmakers has a trainee with them. The costs for the training are provided by us and the work is paid for. This enables young people who would otherwise never have had the chance, to further their education and enter the working world.

Furthermore, we finance school fees for children whose parents cannot afford them with our turnover.

Tanzania’s poverty lies in the lack of prospects for young people. This problem will not be solved by Matema tomorrow or next year, but we want to take the first step and show people how it can be done.


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