In Tanzania, children who are deaf, blind, or “slow learners,” have traditionally been placed in regular classrooms with as many as 90 other students. In such an environment a teacher has no time to give these children the individual attention they require.
In 2010, the Sikonge District Council appointed a new educational officer. He immediately recognized the futility of trying to teach these children in a standard, overcrowded classroom. At his request, the council designated $2000 to refurbish two classrooms at the Sikonge primary school to begin a program of special education.
The following year, Egata Magofu, the newly designated District Special Needs Officer, convinced two large banks headquartered in Dar es Salaam, to contribute funds to electrify the classrooms and build a dormitory. Headmaster Malaki Lulomba then opened the school together with two other specially trained teachers. Although the district’s non-funded mandate stated that all children must live at the school, there were no beds, bedding, or mosquito nets in the dormitory; the first 15 children enrolled were therefore by necessity day students.
First Presbyterian Church of Durango, Colo., is part of Presbyterian Church USA, a denomination in full communion with the Moravian Church, began support for Sikonge’s orphans in 2002; their Mission Committee pledged additional funds to assist this new, special school. With their help the dormitory was furnished and opened in 2012 with beds, mattresses, sheets and other materials; 27 of the then 36 students began living at the school.
Using money generated by an annual mission appeal in support of the school, First Presbyterian expanded its commitment. Tables, chairs, and desks for the classrooms were constructed by local craftsmen to specifications requested by the headmaster; special educational materials requested by the teachers were located and purchased.
To demonstrate to a visitor the progress the class for the deaf was making, one of the children, Ibrahim, was asked to go to the blackboard where he was given sign language to write Mama Kimwaga’s name. When he had completed the assignment successfully, the young boy beamed with pride while he was being roundly applauded by his classmates.
Embarrassed by the magnitude of assistance coming from abroad, at the end of 2012 the district council designated nearly $40,000 to construct a second dormitory, a dining center, and teacher housing. The new dorm, dining hall and kitchen were furnished by First Presbyterian, which also provided students with uniforms and health care. By the end of 2016, the church had raised nearly $17,000 in support of the children at the school, which is cost-free to all who attend.
While making rounds in the villages, Mama Kimwaga, the head of the Sikonge orphan program, has continually found new candidates for the headmaster to evaluate. Largely due to her interest, by December 2016, the school had expanded to 92 students with seven specially trained teachers.
The school has now begun vocational training to provide their students with the skills they will need to become self supporting, productive citizens of their developing country. First Presbyterian has already purchased sewing machines and other materials to help it enter this new phase of service to these children.
This special school, unique in our partner province of Western Tanzania, is making a very significant difference in the lives of these children. For the first time they are truly benefiting from their educational experience. They are not only being taught according to their individual needs, they are also able to live and study among their peers.
Wisconsin Moravians embrace their adopted village of Mkolye, Tanzania
The Board of World Mission announced Adopt a Village in the January 2006 issue of the Moravian magazine. Shortly thereafter five Moravian churches in Wisconsin (Veedum, Saratoga, Rudolph, Kellner and Wisconsin Rapids) banded together to adopt the orphans in the village of Mkolye. They thus became one of the first groups to participate in the program.
Perhaps inspired by the 2007 visit of Mama Kimwaga, the head of the village orphan program, and Dr Ruhamya, the program director, the churches decided to extend their assistance beyond supporting the orphans; they started by funding the construction of a well to provide the village with clean water.
Being Moravians, they next chose to work with the area’s educational system. Over the next several years they provided a full complement of desks to the community’s primary and secondary schools. Tables and chairs were given to each of the five secondary school teachers, and the headmaster received a desk and chair.
Text books are a rare commodity in Tanzania; they were nearly absent in Mkolye. Working through Mama Kimwaga, herself a primary school teacher for 40 years, the five Wisconsin congregations sent funds to purchase multiple textbooks for each of the subjects being taught. Because these books are highly valued, the schools decided to use some of Wisconsin’s donation for the construction of bookcases with locks in order to store the books safely at night and between semesters.
By 2013, the congregation at Mkolye Moravian had outgrown its church building. They began raising money to purchase land near their original building. Most of the people living in the villages are able to make bricks and build their own homes. However, very few have the expertise to construct walls strong enough to support a heavy metal roof which is now required for all public buildings. Further, the cost of the materials for the roof is more than most churches are able to afford.
In late August of 2014, Rudolph Moravian church was destroyed by fire. The congregation was devastated. None the less, remaining dedicated to mission, they sent a significant portion of their remaining assets to their partner village to assist it in Mkolye’s new church construction.
Knowing that Rudolph had made funding available for roofing materials, the Moravians in Mkolye worked through the year, under the guidance of an experienced contractor, to complete construction of the walls. Through the benevolence of the congregation at Rudolph, by July of 2016, the building, including the roof, had been completed. Three weeks later the first marriage was celebrated in their new sanctuary. Pastor Kikoma sent the people of Rudolph photographs taken during the service, as well as a letter of sincere gratitude.
Just as the mythical Egyptian phoenix would rise from its own ashes to a renewed life, from the ashes of Rudolph Moravian the new Moravian church at Mkolye has risen.
Drs. Bill and Peg Hoffman continue to share highlights and successes of the work of Adopt a Village and other efforts in Tanzania.