St. Marie Eugenie School : “God’s Handiwork” in Tanzania
St. Marie Eugenie Pre-Primary and Primary school is unique and special for what it offers to the children in Iguguno. It responds to a great need of the society and is a challenge for the Sisters since the population is largely Muslim.
The school begun with twenty seven students in March 2008 and soon after the number increased to fifty three students. At present the school is made up of forty-two girls and fifty-six boys and seven teachers. Sister Adria Bibiana is the Head Mistress. Sister Joseph Oiso, her deputy, takes care of the environment and Sister Restituta teaches religion, drama and takes care of the children’s nutrition.
There are lay teachers such as Mr. Aron, an experienced retired Primary teacher. He is an academics teacher and deals with disciplinary matters. Miss Basilia teaches penmanship, art/decoration and prepares the classroom materials. Miss Leah is charged with craft activities and is the class teacher of Standard One A. Mr. Aron is the class teacher of Standard One B.
With time, the number of students increased dramatically as news about the school spread all over the village. Initially the children came from very poor families, some could not afford to have breakfast, others did not have the proper attire and did not feel free to relate with the others.
The students who came later to the school found a new page open before them as they admired the children’s straightforwardness, freedom of speech, intellectual sharpness, simple and joyful attitude.
Although it is a Day School, the children like to come every day. They come dressed for school even during the weekends where they unfortunately find no one. They then take the initiative of going to look for the Sisters to remind them that they must go to school even if it is not a school day.
Now the children like to greet everybody in English expecting them to respond in English also, whereas no one speaks it !
They also like sports and competing with other schools. They played football with the students of two neighboring Primary schools and have won every time. As a result the villagers are proud to send their children to St. Marie Eugenie Pre-Primary and Primary School because of the changes they see in them.
- Problems facing the school
As mentioned above, the villagers are now very happy and proud of the school although not always cooperative. They are not used to collaborating in the upbringing and education of their children. For example, when the Head Mistress writes letters to the parents inviting them to come to the school to be informed about the progress of their children or what is needed from them, very few come especially when it has to do with school fees.
- Ways of learning
During their graduation on November 23, 2010, the number presented by the students amazed the guests. It was the first time the parents responded so positively. There were more than a hundred and fifty parents eager to see what the children were going to present. The day had been very well organized by the Sisters and the staff.
The night before, they prepared a well decorated tent in front of the four classrooms. Early the following morning the desks were arranged and at eleven all the children, called by alphabetical order, took their places and were requested to stay there until the end of the day. The day was really centred on the graduates. They entertained the parents and cleverly presented their needs to the guest of honour, Mrs Song’ongo, a mathematics teacher of the Accounting and Finance Institute at Singida.
The children showed their parents how they spend their time in school. For example the way they use the “pink tower”, a material which helps them form words, and many other learning activities.
The day was exceptional. Everyone laughed heartily and admired their creativity when they recited their poems. They were also touched by their seriousness in sharing their teachers’ need for a meeting/faculty room, especially when it rains, as well as the need of funds so as be able to drill a well.
Another request was to have more land since the present area is too small and the school is expanding. Many of the parents had a positive reaction and supported the request of adding thirty acres to the present five acres. The specific talents of the students were rewarded. This was true for LaiLat, a thirteen year old dwarf girl who looks like a six year old. She is always very cheerful and loved by everyone.
The school aims at creating a committee and soliciting more cooperation from the parents as they come to understand the school’s project and see the transformation in the children and even in themselves when their children return home.
Sister Patricia Immaculata, ra
Iguguno Community - East Africa