Mr Cregeen and I had the privilege of visiting the East Meru Community Primary School (EMCS) in Tanzania, East Africa, over half term, an experience that will live long in our lives
The school was founded in 2011 by a former teacher of Range, Ian Horne. What makes this school so unique is that it is an English medium school, put simply, the children are taught in English, rather than in the local language, Swahili.
Getting to the school involved a challenging two hour drive, an hour of which is off road. An extremely tiring journey, but one we enjoyed, as it was so different from our normal trip to school.
We spent a couple of days at the school. The first day gave us the opportunity to see the amazing transformation that has occurred since the school was set up 8 years ago. From the initial converted cow shed that became the first classroom to an impressive array of 7 classrooms, an administrative building, a dining area, a kitchen, a hand washing area and a range of other facilities to meet the needs of the pupils and staff.
We visited classrooms, to meet teachers and pupils, also witnessing a lovely rendition of ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’ by the children in the Pre School Class. We met Mr Siphaeli who makes all the leather shoes for the pupils and Ndeta who makes the children’s uniforms. We joined the children and all enjoyed a lunch of slow cooked beans and ‘greens’ (leaves grown by the children in the school garden).
The main focus of our visit was the graduation ceremony of the Standard 7 pupils – 22 pupils who had successfully passed their National end of Primary School Examinations. All 240 pupils were immaculately turned out on Saturday, no mean feat when you consider the frequency of the heavy rains throughout the time we were there – the roads and paths were basically a quagmire.
Pupils were all seated and in place by 10am but dignitaries and other guests arrived as and when, so in true African tradition the occasion that was scheduled to start at 10am eventually got under way at 11.30. The ceremony included a vast range of performances, that included songs, poetry recitals and role play, from pupils from all the year groups; speeches in Swahili and English; lots of thanks and presentations of certificates and gifts (indeed Mr Cregeen and I were both given Maasai robes, which we wore with pride); and everyone attending the celebrations sat down to a feast fit for the proverbial king. A vast array of foods all prepared and cooked on open fire in the school’s kitchen.
After all the formalities, the party broke out. By about 3pm we had the opportunity to mingle with the pupils and their parents, who were so proud of the achievements of the children. The graduates all wore a presentation t-shirt listing all the names of the graduating class. They received special cards and garlands from their friends and supporters. Lots of photographs were taken of the children with their teachers and families.
We had a wonderful opportunity to join in with the children as they enjoyed showing us how to dance; I think we need a little more practice. They really enjoyed the very loud disco that continued for a few hours until the light began to fade. We left with smiles on our faces and happy memories that will stay with us forever.
The success and progress of the school and the children is all the more remarkable given that it relies entirely on donations. All children are individually sponsored by people and organisations from a variety of countries. The support given by Range High School continues to be invaluable. Each House sponsors children, along with personal sponsorships from many staff, and there are many different events held throughout the year that support the fundraising for each of the Range sponsored children.
If you would like to find out more about the school, and see more brilliant photographs from this special visit, please visit the links below or feel free to come and have a chat with me – Mr Whitehill.