On March 17, 2020, schools in Tanzania closed for 3 ½ months and students were sent home. Students returned to the classroom on June 29. Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative (GLAMI, formerly AfricAid TZ) is working hard to ensure the Scholars in its Kisa Project and Binti Shupavu programs and their peers at its 40 Partner Schools in Northern Tanzania are staying safe and can refocus on their education by providing handwashing stations, soap, masks, and other safety items.
For many, the lockdown was a time of contemplation. Not surprisingly, for our Scholars and Mentors, it was also a time for self-improvement. These young women are an ambitious and self-motivated group. Here are a few essential “life lessons” learned in quarantine by Kisa Scholars, their parents, and Kisa Mentors. It is reassuring to hear their positive outlooks at this historic time.
School holidays in Tanzania are usually a maximum of one month, so the quarantine period became the longest period of time since leaving for secondary school that our Scholars were at home and spending time with their families.
Monica, a Scholar from Mwika Secondary School, says that it reinforced the fact that her family is beside her through thick and thin. “Apart from my biological family, I am also glad that I have been in touch with my Mentor and that she has been communicating with my family too about my well-being and studies. This has taught me to invest in meaningful relationships in the future.”
Precious, a Scholar from Kifaru Secondary School, shares that she learned practical things such as planning and using her time well. She says that her stay at home tested her self-discipline more than ever. “The first days after my school closed, I was sluggish and wasted a lot of my time. As the days passed, I realized I was developing a bad habit by not spending my time intentionally. The next morning, I wrote down my to-do list, which included studying and doing home chores. The next two months, I was more effective and spent my time well without supervision. I held myself accountable and also took time to analyze myself and plan my future life goals.”
Scholars were not the only ones needing to adjust to a “new normal.” The girls’ parents also faced the stress of navigating life with reduced incomes and uncertainty about the future.
Regina is another Scholar from Kifaru. Her mom says she has learned to constantly think outside the box and not wait for things to fix themselves. Kisa Scholars learn resourcefulness and taking initiative in their curriculum, so like mother, like daughter! “Being a small catering business owner, the pandemic has made it hard for my business. My customers do not come along as they used to. I was comfortable with my business as a major source of income, but this season has taught me to think of other sources of income that I am working on.” Regina has been helping her mom build one of her other businesses, which is a clothing shop. She also has been going to the library with a friend to keep up with her school work.
Maria is a Scholar from Kibosho Secondary School. Her mom shares that she has learned to manage stress and stay hopeful. ’’I never thought of preparing myself for times like this. This pandemic has brought a major shift in my work and family life. At some point, everyone in my family was so worried about what will happen next. Working in the marketing field, a big part of my job was physically meeting my customers. We closed offices at the end of March hoping to be back soon but the situation kept getting worse. I had to take some days to calm myself and learn how to manage the stress and also give my family hope that everything will be okay.”
Kisa and Binti Shupavu Mentors
During the pandemic, one essential action is staying informed with facts from reliable information sources. This helps not only our staff, but all the Scholars and families they communicate with.
Magdalena Kitinya, Kisa Project Assistant Manager explains, “I have learned a lot about health issues, which has been helpful in answering the Scholars questions and supporting them with necessary materials to study while at home. My own experience of working from home has been good. I am able to destress by exercising during breaks and I have pursued my hobby of learning to cook new dishes.”
Quieting the mind is also very important. Evaline Saitoti, a Binti Shupau Mentor says, ‘’At first, I found myself being more fearful than informed. The reality is, the pandemic situation has been devastating, but I have learned to direct my energy to what I can control and not let fear take over me all the time. In my thinking, I had to come to an agreement with myself about how I talk to myself, being kind and gentle to myself. I spend much of my time in my own mind, so I have to make sure it’s a good place.”
Another Binti Shupavu Mentor, Flora Meena, also pays attention to self-care and has been reflecting on all the lives around the world the pandemic has taken in 2020. “I have learned to be intentionally grateful for the gift of life and health by being responsible for my physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. I have been taking time to listen to myself about how I feel and to meditate and direct myself to being better. It has helped me to check on my Scholars and their parents and my friends to know how they are doing.”
Many other GLAMI Mentors have been utilizing their ample time alone and working from home to gain new interesting and marketable personal and professional skills.
Kisa Mentor, Florence Thomas John, took an online course through Niajiri (Swahili word for “Employ”) platform. The four-week course taught personal skills self-awareness, resume and cover letter writing and creating your own “elevator pitch.” Florence says, “I was surprised that I got more out of the class than I expected and I am glad I took some time to polish my professional hard and soft skills. I will be able to share what I have learned with my Kisa Scholars when we are back in the classroom too!”
The coronavirus pandemic has been one of the most challenging situations that life can present to us. We all need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, stay positive, and keep pushing through. The leaders that are developed through the GLAMI programs are learning the resilience lessons that will enable them to stay focused on their long-term goals… for better days lie ahead!
Partner organizations AfricAid and GLAMI have shared many girls’ and women’s voices during the COVID-19 global crisis. We invite you to read them: Corona Diaries Series
Aikande Muro was a Kisa Scholar in the Class of 2014 from Makumira Secondary School. After volunteering doing data entry for the organization during university holidays, she joined AfricAid TZ (now Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative, or GLAMI) in 2017 as a Kisa Mentor and was promoted to Senior Kisa Mentor in 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounts and finance in the business sector from Mzumbe University.
AfricAid mentors secondary school girls in Tanzania to complete their education, develop into confident leaders, and transform their own lives and their communities. We equip girls to overcome challenges and reach their full potential because educated girls create lasting positive change. The outcome is proactive, resilient, and socially-responsible girls who secure better jobs, raise healthier families and increase the standing of women in society.
Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative (GLAMI) is AfricAid’s program implementation partner in Tanzania.
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