2010 – a new decade

January 2010:
Abasi returned to school and prepared for his final exams in February. There was another graduation ceremony in the middle of this month, and it didn’t look like Abasi’s parents would be able to afford the bus fare. We got this sorted. The camera still hadn’t arrived back in Tanzania and we began to wonder if it got “lost in the post”. More bad news. Abasi’s father couldn’t come to the graduation as his employers wouldn’t give him time off and he was also unwell, though the illness was not specified. However on graduation day the camera finally arrived and the graduation sounds like it was a great success with 15 relatives turning up.
However more problems. All the graduation pictures got deleted when Abasi lent the camera memory card to a friend, and then Abasi got malaria! This close to the exams this was a real worry.
February 2010:
Nothing from Abasi through most of February due, I assumed, to all the revision and exams. However I followed the progress of the exams on his Facebook page. Apparently Physics was of concern. During this quiet period I fulfilled my Africa passion by surfing African charity websites. I came across one that really impresses me called Village Africa operating in north east Tanzania. If I were younger I would have been on the next plane down helping out, but instead I made a donation in my sisters name. It’s a significant birthday for her in February.
I finally heard from Abasi in late February. He was having a lot of trouble with his email. His father continued to be unwell. It has been diagnosed and medication provided, but it has cost a lot of money. I remain concerned that Abasi’s father may not be able to support his family, so the responsibility would fall on Abasi and this would effectively rule out going to university…
March 2010
Well the exams were done and Abasi left school and is staying with relatives in Dar now. He hoped to get a temporary teaching job while waiting for his exam results and hopefully university. He needed his ‘O’ level certificates from his old school for this and due to financial constraints he has not been able to get them yet. We got that sorted, and he headed home to his family in the south of Tanzania. He headed off to his old school to collect his certificates and I imagine meet up with some familiar faces. Anyway he seemed to have a great time. Two lots of good news! Abasi’s father is responding well to treatment. I am very pleased to hear this. Living in the comparatively cosseted UK society I cannot begin to imagine how you survive in a country like Tanzania if the breadwinner is incapacitated. He has completed his medication and is due to have a check up soon. The second bit of good news is that the water connection is due to go ahead soon. Abasi had to dig a trench from the main water supply to his family house. He sent me a photo and I realised just how useful a JCB would be…
April 2010
The month started well. The water was connected. Abasi informed me that although the tap is on his familys property, it will provide water for more than 2 streets around, so there has been something of a celebration. Abasi was a little uncomfortable with receiving all the praise from neighbours for getting the water connected, but I told him that it wouldn’t have happened without him so he should enjoy it. I have to admit to feeling a little self satisfied myself!
In anticipation of Abasi getting into university he is taking an English course at the British Council in Dar. They have put him on the advanced course witch pleased him a lot. He appears to be enjoying the course and mixing with some different people. However in the middle of the month we got some bad news. Abai’s young brother had stepped into the cooking fire and badly burned his legs. Some years ago Abasi lost a younger sister through a similar accident, so we are very worried, but we can only wait for news.
Abasi continues to enjoy his English course and I sent corrections to his emails. He could really do with having a English speaker on hand for practice. I don’t know how we could solve that one. Anyway suddenly this was no longer an issue as the A level results were out and Abasi had not got the grades for university. He was off by a significant amount. What do we do now…
May 2010
I phoned Abasi and he was naturally very down. The only option appeared to be a diploma in medicine which he’s qualified for through his ‘O’ level results. However this would result in something like a health visitor or lab technician role and leaves little chance of him becoming a doctor. So we decided to do some research. I found a number of pre-medical courses at UK universities which are aimed at people who have not got good enough grades for the MD degree. Unfortunately they are only for UK residents. Abasi continued his English course though with less enthusiasm I suspect. The course lends DVD’s to practice with, but Abasi didn’t have a DVD player.
Earlier in the year I told Abasi I would consider funding a mains electricity connection for his family home in southern Tanzania, but only after we got university sorted. I decided that now would be a good time to progress this! We got the costings and I funded this and a DVD player. However due to a better than expected exchange rate Abasi was able to send funds to his father for the electricity and a water storage tank as well as buying an old PC for himself. I can’t fault his economic prowess!
I was unable to find a pre-medical course for overseas students in Europe that didn’t end up costing the price of a new Ferrari. However Abasi had more luck and found two pre-medical courses at private universities in Dar. While not cheap by Tanzania standards they were acceptable. So Abasi applied to his favoured one and we waited…
June 2010
The month begin quietly. We waited to hear from the university but we didn’t know when they would respond. We exchanged emails about Abasi’s computer and my new mobile phone and general day to day stuff. Unfortunately towards the end of the month one of Abasi’s relatives died after a battle with cancer and he was tied up helping with the arrangements. Still nothing from the university. Then the weekend before I headed off to Europe for a 2 week holiday they told Abasi he had been accepted. We also found out that the course started in 1 month and the fees had to be paid ASAP! So I dashed about like a mad idiot getting the transfers started and hoping I could complete them from various internet cafes around Europe!!
I had hoped Abassi could come to England for a few weeks before university to practice his English but the timescales didn’t allow it. Still I headed off on holiday feeling very happy that another hurdle has been overcome while Abassi waited in Dar for the funds to arrive…
July 2010
On my return from holiday I found that the funds had transferred satisfactorily and Abasi had paid the university fees. The only outstanding items are the food and accommodation for the year. Abasi will have to stay in an external hostel until November and then he should be able to move onto campus. We figured out roughly what that will be and I transferred the cash. Abasi should be largely set up for the year now.
He headed back to his home in southern Tanzania for a couple of weeks break with his family before university started. I got a text from his father to say the wiring for the electricity is complete. However some weeks have passed since this was done and still no sign of getting connected to the mains. The electricity company have a very poor reputation apparently and Abasi was going to have a meeting with them. No further news on that. Abasi should be returning to Dar to start his course soon but I heard nothing, so I waited…
August 2010
Abasi emailed me on the 5th to say he’s back in Dar and due to register at uni in a couple of days. Still no sign of the electricity getting connected at home. A hectic week ensued for Abasi as he got registered, paid fees and organised accommodation. Unfortunately he will not get a room until early September so will have to commute 40Km each way for a couple of weeks. He started the course on 16th and soon realised that a laptop would be a necessity. So we exchanged many emails discussing the various options and he settled on the one he likes. I encouraged him to get a slightly more expensive laptop than he needs as it was his 21st birthday towards the end of the month.
On his birthday I phoned him to wish ‘happy birthday’, and my wife and daughter chatted to him as well. I encouraged him to spend a little of the money celebrating his birthday, so he went out for a meal with a couple of friends and bought himself a few clothes. He also sent a little money to his family. I suspect he felt a little guilty at engaging in Western hedonistic ways!
I am slightly concerned that coming from a poor background he will feel inferior to other students. This is because the uni is private so all the students probably come from well off backgrounds. Still I hope a new laptop and some new clothes give him confidence. We will just have to wait and see…
September 2010
Well Abasi has now settled in and is studying hard, so communication is sparse. He sent me a number of photos of his room and the uni. The uni looks pretty good. His room looks a little harsh so I suggested he bought a comfortable chair to study in. I don’t know if he will. He has bought a one-ring gas stove for cooking as he says buying meals is a little expensive, though I don’t know what that means in real terms.
Towards the end of the month I got an update. Abasi’s dad is unwell again which is a concern. Added to this Abasi’s new laptop developed a screen fault and will take 3-4 weeks to fix, though luckily it’s under guarantee. He has had to spend more money on a hard disk backup to store his stuff while the laptop is away. He is a bit concerned about the money he has needed to spend, but I’m more concerned that this doesn’t become a distraction and I have hopefully reassured him.
In the last week of the month Abasi had to take some tests. This was my first real indication of his abilities since doing poorly in his A levels. I was quite nervous because if he didn’t do well his chances of passing the Pre-Medical and going on to an MD degree would not look good. He got B+ in both tests. I think I was almost as chuffed as he was…!
October 2010
I heard earlier in the month that Abasi’s dad was walking 6 kilometres a day to work as the bus fare would cost half his pay. This is fairly normal I imagine, but Abasi’s dad has a problem with his tendons and all this walking does not allow them to heal. With Abasi at uni, his dad is the only breadwinner so we get the bus fare sorted rapidly. The electricity company is still messing about. They have now said the wrong wire has been installed so they can’t connect the electricity. Abasi is particularly incensed as the company specified the wire!
However uni is going well. Abasi did an excellent Chemistry presentation and was praised for it by the teachers. That pleased him a lot. But I got an even more excited email later that week. Abasi and some of the other pre-med students had been chosen to accompany some doctors on a field trip to interview 200 patients on their health lifestyle. The pre-med students did the pre-screening questions and other checks before the doctors saw the patients. Abasi was particularly pleased to be called “Doctor” by the patients!
The electricity company manager called to say she needed another 250,000 shillings for the changed wire and 50,000 for herself. Yes, a bung, a backhander! Well if we want the electricity connected, this is the way it happens. So we pay up and wait.
Abasi got the result of a chemistry test last week. He was hoping for a high grade but did not even come close and was a bit down. I told him he is setting targets that are too high. The teachers at uni seem very good but he is trying to make up for a lot of poor quality teaching from his school years. I hope he doesn’t get to despondent this early. There is a long way to go…

November 2010

Abasi has been very busy studying, taking tests and doing presentations. I am very impressed with the university. They seem to be pushing him hard but are being supportive as well. He got an excellent biology result, and did a couple of very good presentations. However chemistry is still his nemesis. He only just passed his latest test and was very down about it, but it was an improvement on the previous test, which is always good!

Abasi sent me some photos. He gave a presentation where some marks were awarded for appearance. Abasi wore a black suit he got for his birthday and apparently was something of a hit. He has a refreshing pride in his appearance and could have passed as a “city type” in any bar in London!

Finally we got the news that the electricity had been connected on his parents’ house. I was beginning to think this was something I wouldn’t see in my lifetime…

December 2010

Abasi spent the first half of the month studying for yet more tests. They certainly seem to make them work at his university. His laptop adapter decided to die on him so that involved another trip into town. He did his tests mid-month and then headed home to southern Tanzania for the holidays.

We sent the family a little cash for a Christmas present and they purchased a TV, DVD player and a sizable satellite dish. In an emergency I imagine you could house a small family under the dish, but it gives them over 50 channels. Abasi sent some photos of the dish being installed and of the family sitting round the TV. I expect conversation will be stifled for some time until the novelty wears off! Still with the electricity now connected, the youngsters can study more easily in the evening.

Well that rounds off a rollercoaster year. From the lows of the ‘A’ level failures, malaria and his fathers illness to the high of the pre-medical course, we are all looking forward a better year in 2011. But through all the problems, the joy for me was seeing Abasi deal with the issues. This year the boy became a man…