Dear Katoke Supporters,
In this edition I share with you some experiences from my recent 6 week trip to Katoke, some reflections on achievements in the past 12 months.
Form 6 graduation
The highlight of our first week at KLSS was the exciting Form 6 graduation – a five hour event with singing, dancing, a presentation, followed by an African luncheon of rices, matoke, beans, chicken, beef, cabbage and watermelon. As the first Form 6 to graduate from KLSS it was a very special occasion and the joy and gratitude of the students and parents was evident throughout.
Head of School, Rowena Bragg, set the tone of the graduation telling form 6, “You are fine young men and women who display qualities of leadership and maturity that will hold you well throughout your life. The theme for this graduation is Education to Serve. Education is a right for all but quality education is a real privilege and at this school you have had that privilege. An education that is beyond just passing exams, an education that teachers the character skills, the knowledge, even the wisdom to navigate life. As Christian people you know that life is about service to others.”
Danebank and Katoke Trust sponsor teacher workshops
Workshops for School Principals and teachers were also held during our visit. As part of its charter KLSS is a lighthouse school for education in this part of Tanzania and all school leaders and teachers within travelling distance were invited to the workshops which are sponsored by Katoke Trust and Danebank School. The 31 leaders and 56 teachers who attended were enthusiastic and grateful for the program which seeks to lift the quality of education. The Teachers College and 15 schools were represented. In the evaluation over 90% said the usefulness of the program was good or excellent.
‘Care’ and ‘grow’ projects flourish
During our visit, much of our energy was directed to KLSS. The school is doing very well despite some challenging circumstances like extended periods of rain and power outages in recent months (How quickly we were reminded of some of the blessings we enjoy back in Australia like a regular electricity supply!) But our last week at Katoke was spent visiting and resupplying health and agriculture projects – Malaria and AIDS prevention, vanilla and palm oil growing – starting a farm project and giving support for students to study at various levels from primary to university. We are delighted by the progress of projects:
- Malaria prevention.Incidence of malaria has greatly reduced across the Kagera region. Very few student cases are now reported and cases have dropped in local villages. A recent study indicates a drop from 41% to 9%.There has been a government program to spray houses for mosquitos and our own provision of education and treated nets at subsidised prices has had beneficial effect.
- HIV/AIDS. The incidence of AIDS has reduced greatly with much better understanding of the disease and its prevention among villagers. Our annual education HIV program among youth has contributed to this.
- Agriculture – Vanilla. Farmer uptake has been the ultimate criterion for success of our vanilla growing. Two years ago 53 farmers in three nearby villages had taken up vanilla but now there are 251 farmers so its use as a cash crop is growing steadily. There are some 1,250 families in these three villages so it has a way to go but the early users are being well rewarded with the price per kilo to the growers nearly doubling in the past 12 months – from Tsh 12,000/- ($A8) last year to Tsh 20,000/- ($A14) this year. Our program is conducting field days for local farmers who are interested in starting up or for growers who need advice.
- Palm Oil. This project is doing well with fruits so good that local people have begun to steal them! Palm oil has been grown for many years in the area but the improved variety we have introduced yields a much greater volume of oil. Local people use the oil for cooking and lighting. We now have to put a secure fence around our two small plots so we can get the fruits and begin propagation and distribution.
- Farm Project. A long held proposal to start an agriculture project at Katoke has been delayed due to uncertainty over the use of land. However, that has been now been cleared up and so we have commissioned the building of a farm workers’ house on a suitable site to provide security for the crops and expect to begin planting bananas and vegetables when the next rainy season begins later this year.
What we have learned along the way
It is very gratifying to see these long planned projects bringing good results. We have learned that developmental change does not come by trivial means or in a short time, say a three or five year project. The vanilla project was launched in 2005 and palm oil was first planted in 2007. There have been years when it seemed that these projects would come to nothing but supporters from Australia have stood with us and we have continued to promote them. We are now seeing good fruit of that persistence.
Our Master plan revealed and is underway
We are most grateful for architect Geoff Deane’s (from NBRS+PARTNERS) generous and skilful contribution to develop a Master Plan along with valuable expertise of our building committee here in Sydney, the local school principal and other stakeholders. Geoff visited the School in 2015 to develop the plan. The plan has been approved by the Katoke Trust executive management team and will be implemented from 2016 onwards. Our building priorities for the next 12 months include:
- Staff accommodation
- Boys’ dormitory
- Classroom block
So that we can continue our building program we are urgently looking for people who would consider taking on a volunteer role at Katoke-Lweru Secondary School:
- Expatriate building volunteers: required to oversee the proposed building construction;
- Accounting/business administration/bursar;
- Teaching and support staff
It’s been a wonderful year in Katoke and we are so grateful for all our supporters in Australia and abroad. Thank you for sharing in this great endeavour and we look forward to partnering with you in the next 12 months.