The Path To Here…

The path to here…
In 1971 I left South Africa to return briefly to the UK before going to Canada to work. Travelling with my friend Pete we flew up through Africa making various stops. One of these was at Arusha in Tanzania to see Mount Kilimanjaro. We ate at “Jumbo Snacks”, a café run by a guy from Hounslow and we slept in dormitories at the local church run by a New Zealand vicar. I’m not sure we actually met any Tanzanians, but the place stuck in my memory.

October 2008:
My daughter went on a school trip to Tanzania. Her school has links with a school near Dar es Salaam. Each year some of the students go to Tanzania to visit the school. They also visit an orphanage, spend the day with the local maasai and do some of the tourist thing. Due to the cultural differences and the inexperience of youth the UK students didn’t always empathise with the situation of the Tanzanian students. However my daughter got on particularly well with one rather studious student we will call Abasi (not his real name).

March 2009:
The UK students raise money through cake sales and other activities to bring some of the Tanzanian students to the UK to experience life at the other end of the scale. Among these was Abasi . It turned out that we would be hosting Abasi for just 3 of the days the students were in the UK. Abasi was polite and respectful. His English was good with some quaint turns of phrase. He was good company and discussed a range of subjects at length. He is the oldest of 3 sons and a daughter. He took a photo of our dishwasher! His only ambition was to be a doctor. He would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning studying for his A levels. When asked if we could buy him a present, he asked for a memory stick to store his school work, done on an old virus ridden laptop donated by the UK school. We gave him 2 memory sticks and some antivirus software. He left but he stuck in my memory.

April 2009:
We got an email from Abasi thanking us for our hospitality. I responded by asking how his studies were going, and the email exchange that followed slowly opened up a story of the difficult path to university Abasi had ahead. This contrasted quite dramatically with my daughters journey to the same goal.

May 2009:
As Abasi has no regular access to the internet I agreed to track down information for him on Tanzanian universities doing medical degrees. I find it strange that it is easier for me to find out this information from the UK than it is for someone so much closer. I found 2 universities that do degrees recognised by the World Health Organisation. One is a public university while the other is privately run. A rough estimate for the 5 year course produced costs of £6,000 and £20,000 respectively. In discussion with Abasi I found that his family are already a year and a half behind with his school fees, so university costs cannot even be contemplated. The debt is £52!

July 2009:
I am beginning to understand why Abasi studies so late into the night. It appears that the teaching even at a good school is quite random. Teachers often do not appear, prefering to teach privately where the pay is much better. Abasi is learning the sciences but rarely gets to see or perform experiments. It mainly comes from reading books. On my birthday this month the contrast between what I had and Abasi didn’t hit me. I decided he need the chance to achieve his ambition.

August 2009:
Abasi had his 20th birthday this month. This was the fourth year he was away from his family on his birthday. However his school fees were cleared and he was spending the holidays getting extra private tuition. I sent him a little extra to buy himself a present. He sent this to his father so that his younger brother could continue school.

September 2009:
Abasi did his mock A level exams this month. So not a lot of communication. He did well at O level so I’m hopeful…