It is a little over two weeks until the Gallery Project launches the ‘Rise Up’ exhibition of photos and stories from the incredible people at the Kigamboni Community Centre. So, I thought I’d share a sneak peek with the story of someone we were lucky enough to meet during our time in Tanzania: the very inspiring and very charismatic Jackson.
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There was a time when 16-year-old Jackson thought he may never get an education. He lost his father when he was just a baby and soon after his mother become feeble with illness. At eight years old he went to live with his brother and sister-in-law. Though he was enrolled in school, he missed many of his classes and quickly fell behind as his sister-in-law felt that Jackson’s time would be better spent selling soaps at the local market. For three years he taught himself what he could using borrowed textbooks and reading the notes his friends had taken in class. When he was 12 years old his aunty moved him from Arusha to live with her in Dar Es Salaam where an administrative error again prevented him from attending school. Eventually his aunt heard about the Drop Out School program at KCC and after just one year Jackson was able to pass the entry exams and start mainstream school, where he quickly became top of his class. He still returns to the centre every day after school to attend drama and English classes and spend time with his friends, who he calls his “KCC family”.
The Kigamboni Community Centre was founded by a small group of Tanzanian youth who had faced the issues of homelessness, poverty, family conflict and lack of education. Their dream was to allow every child to share their unique talents with the world in order to make a better life for themselves. The first step was to ensure access to education for children who had dropped out of formal schooling. Run entirely by volunteers, KCC’s ‘Drop Out School’ offered hundreds of students the opportunity to study math, Swahili, and English in order to re-enter formal schools. While this primary education program was running, they had a near 100% success rate of placing the students back into mainstream schools.In 2011 the Tanzanian government informed KCC they could no longer continue their Drop Out School program as they did not have qualified teachers. The program was moved to a different area and qualified teachers took over. However, the government has announced that in January 2013 this program will end. With the cost of employing formally trained teachers out of KCC’s reach, hundreds of children will be left without a means to re-enter school.
According to the 2011 Millennium Development Goals report, Tanzania has almost achieved its goal of universally accessible primary education. The budget for national education in Tanzania has tripled in the last decade, with trillions of dollars being poured into building new classrooms and employing more teachers. As a result of these measures, school enrollment has increased drastically to around 95%. However, a recent Uwezo study of education in Tanzania indicates that the increases in enrolment do not necessarily equate to increased learning and academic success. Although school itself is free, the cost of uniforms, textbooks and transport is still too much for many families and most Tanzanian children still struggle to get an education. The grim reality is that students regularly miss classes so they can look after sick relatives or work and make money for their family. The study found that after two years of primary school, the majority of children cannot read basic Swahili or English or even do basic mathematics.
For now, KCC continues to provide English lessons, social education, preschool classes, acrobatics, traditional and modern dance, drama, Netball, soccer, computers and health. Perhaps most importantly, the centre also gives children a sense of confidence, belonging and hope for the future. Nassoro, one of the original founders and the acrobatics teacher, says, “KCC gives children a big chance because it is bringing everyone together to share what they know and what they can do.” Jackson certainly believes that without KCC his life would have been very different. He imagines he would never have gotten an education and may even have ended up on the street. Now when he talks about the future a wide smile spreads over his face, “I feel strong now. I know who I am and what I want to do. At KCC I met people with bigger problems than me and realised anyone has the power to build their own life.”
The Gallery Project aims to raise enough money to pay two qualified teachers to work at the centre and ensure all the students have the opportunity to get an education. For more information on the Gallery Project, please go here: www.galleryproject.info.