(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 160-161, Note the Copyright!)
About 30 million people live in Tanzania. Numerous languages are spoken by over 129 tribes. On the mainland most of the population are Christians or follow nature religions. Julius Nyerere, known as “Mwalimu”, a teacher who led Tanzania into independence and is regarded as the Mandela of East Africa, persuaded the people to adopt a common language, Kiswahili. This decision surely contributed to the harmony in which the many tribes now live together, a harmony so sadly missing in neighbouring countries. The name of the former capital, Dar es Salaam, is significant too; it means “gateway to peace”. English is taught as the second language in all schools. The country is incomparably beautiful and stretches from the coral coast around Zanzibar to the Usambara Mountains and Kilimanjaro. 25% of the country is occupied by nature reserves such as Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
With its 884,000 square kilometres, Tanzania is rich in minerals that are still scarcely being exploited. In the 1970s the government nationalized the economy. Thereafter a period of mismanagement and corruption finally led to catastrophic impoverishment. A change to a more liberal course took place in the 1990s, but this led initially to even greater unemployment and a polarization between poor and rich. Now there are clear signs of an economic recovery.
Education, however, is still in a bad way. The state has insufficient funds to pay the more than minimal teachers’ salaries which often happens months in arrears. Although many parents no longer send their children to school, classes with a hundred and more children are not rare. This is why more and more private schools are being founded, since the rich want a good education for their youngsters. Most such schools are built up as commercial enterprises and run accordingly (1).
The Hekima Waldorf School
“Hekima” is a Kiswahili word meaning “wisdom”. The founder of the Waldorf School in Dar es Salaam in 1997 hoped that the basis for this capability would be laid there. The school is located about 10 km to the north of the centre of the city in the Msasani Beach district. Its two-storey building has space for eight classes, is solidly built and surrounded by about 5,000 square metres of most beautiful garden.
David Lynne and James McCulaugh, former pupils of Wynstones Waldorf School in England, brought the impulse for Waldorf Education to Tanzania when they went there as voluntary aid workers. David and James taught at the Dogodogo Centre for Street Children run by Rashidi Mbuguni and at the Mayflower School where Adeline Mlay was head.
In conversations with the two former Waldorf pupils, Rashidi and Adeline got to know about Waldorf Education and became very enthusiastic. So the decision was made to start a school in Dar es Salaam. Among the founders of this new school were owners and workers at the country’s first private media concern “The Business Times”, and also Rashidi Mbuguni, Gertrude and Richard Nyaulawa, Adeline Mlay and Richard Mandara.
The state cannot provide any support
The kindergarten teacher Fundiwa Mndende opened the kindergarten in 1997 with 6 children. In the following year Irmgard Wutte from Nairobi, Kenya, took on Class 1 with 10 children. In July 1997 Peter van Alphen and Ann Sharfman of the Centre for Creative Education in South Africa started a training course for 14 Tanzanian teachers, and these have now taken over the teaching. This newly-founded Waldorf School receives no support from the state which is struggling to finance its own schools. Owing to bureaucracy and lack of understanding by officials, registration and accreditation are taking longer than expected.
So far the Waldorf curriculum has not been adapted to local cultural traditions. This is to be done when the teachers have become more familiar with Waldorf Education. Tanzania has a rich artistic heritage that can be taught at the school, and the traditional communal life of Tanzanian villages can provide the basis for a new form of school community.
The newly-founded school faces three problems: lack of trained Waldorf teachers; finding parents who not only want a good school for their children but also understand and support Waldorf Education; finding the finance to keep the young undertaking alive. Public opinion in general regards Waldorf Education as a marvellous idea. But there are some opponents for whom school simply means learning to read and write. Many parents are puzzled by a practice that does not teach reading and writing until Class 1.
A learning process based on community
There are great possibilities for Waldorf Education in Tanzania where many parents are looking for a good education for their children. It provides answers to some of the country’s developmental problems in that it offers an integrative, holistic education which promotes creative thinking and other creative skills so necessary for the future.
What is remarkable about Waldorf Education is that the community forms the foundation for every learning process. Other development aid initiatives strive to separate the learning process from reality and make it abstract. Waldorf Education, on the other hand, involves the whole of society in the learning process, thus becoming a centre for development that can spread out into the whole of society.
1 Christoph Eisele, Darmstadt, Germany. “A travel report”, October 2000.
Studied management and finance. Worked with UNICEF and USAID. Adviser and co-founder of the Hekima Waldorf School in Dar es Salaam.