Aug 2014 visit by Dirk Juttner
"Polepole" - Slowly
Things in Africa move slowly. There are obviously many reasons for this, but it is also good to realize that this has advantages on a continent full of problems, many beyond human influence, like the climate just to mention one. No wonder some parts of Europe are so densely populated!
I spent the first part of my visit this year in Masasi, where I lived for a few years just over ten years ago as a USPG missionary working with the diocese. The changes there are mainly a result of the increase in population, as the town is growing following the building of the bridge over the Ruvuma river, the border between Tanzania and Mozambique; another reason being the discovery of gas below the sea near Mtwara, the next big town.
As a result of the exceptionally heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding, life may well become difficult in the Masasi area some time next year as this year while the rice harvest was good the maize harvest was very poor, and maize is the staple food on which most of the population depends.
The Local Authority has forced CMM Sisters to give up some of their fields for housing due to the extension of the town. On the way to the convent from the main road there are now enormous reservoirs for the supply of water to Masasi and Nachingwea. A few days after my visit the President came to open the plant, built by China, like so much of the infrastructure in Tanzania. Sadly, the Chinese employ very few of the local population for such projects preferring to use Chinese labour, which is a pity considering the high unemployment figures, especially among young people. Each year 900,000 young Tanzanians enter a job market that is generating only 50,000 to 60,000 new jobs!
The girls’ hostel to be built at the CMM Motherhouse should by now have been started following the unusually heavy rain that brought the traffic to a complete standstill for a few days. The ground has now dried. However, though the new water supply is nearby the pipes from the main supply to the site are not yet laid. It still needs Local Authority approval! After a final revision of the plans and the organizing of supervision of the building work hopefully there should be no further delay.
As in my visits over the last four years, after my time in the Masasi area, I went with Dr Max the Swiss physician to Sayuni in the South West Highlands where we were able to see for ourselves the progress that has been made at the CMM dispensary. A new building, to be used as a Laboratory and Maternity unit was nearly finished. As it was only 8o C at night, while during the day it only went up to 27o C, the number of patients was low. In the cold season people do not suffer from many problems, which is clearly not the case in hot months. In March for example, at one point there were 45 children who needed to be kept in the sick bay due to the state of their health, which created problems for the 16 beds in the two wards opened last year.
Back at St Nicholas’ Church in Ilala, Dar es Salaam, where the CMM Convent is, we visited the Sunday School run by the Sisters, with some 200 children. Many of those are there every Saturday and Sunday. If the Sisters can afford it, or a generous donor offers help, they give them a meal during the day. When we arrived on the Sunday afternoon the children were playing football, girls as well as boys, in a courtyard surrounded by high walls, which seemed more like a prison yard. There was so much dust stirred up as the children ran after the ball that often one could hardly see it. Later on the children sang some hymns and songs for us, praising the Lord for all His love and all His marvelous deeds. One felt that their singing, like all the dust they were kicking up, was going up to heaven.
The Junior Seminar in Rondo, a secondary school, is doing well. The diocese is planning to add Forms V and VI, which will take it up to high school level. The new dispensary however was not yet in operation at the time of our visit, though I understand it will be opened later this month.
The window frames and supporting timbers of the beautiful chapel in Rondo are being eaten by termites, the roof is leaking and it is generally in a poor state. One can only hope something will be done soon before the beautiful glass panes start to crack.
While in Mtandi I visited the primary school, which has 1,500 children on the roll and incorporates the blind school at Mtandi, which has 52 children, fourteen being Albinos. Special facilities for these handicapped children are almost non-existent.
At the school for children with severe learning difficulties in Lulindi there was a new headmaster. The previous head who had led the school admirably for over 20 years had retired. Children come there from as far away as Dar es Salaam, 662 km away. The school buildings and the facilities were fine with everything in good order, and they were busy trying to raise money for an additional boys dormitory as there are more children to be taken in.
In my visit to the Health Centre at Lulindi I was amazed to learn how much Dr Issa achieved in an operating theatre using a kitchen table and the bare minimum of equipment.
Although mobile phones work well within the country with one or other of the mobile phone companies, messages abroad, in both directions, often do not get through. Some people even have a phone with two or even three phone company providers to ensure they get a signal. In Tanzania even the transfer of money is widely done by phone. Since outside the main towns the internet reception, including the cheapest option which enables one to email without access to the web, is as poor as it was many years ago.
The nursery school of the CMM Sisters in Newala is doing well, with impressive displays of the letters of the alphabet, numbers and animals in English on the walls of the classrooms.