5 October 2012

Tanzania: School Children Rejoice to Relegate Dusty Floor to History

MANY pupils of public primary schools surrounding North Mara Gold Mine seem not to believe that their chronic problem of sitting on a dusty floor in classrooms is now a thing of the past.

African Barrick Gold (ABG) which operates the mine donated over 1,000 modern desks to 10 public primary schools near the mine recently. The donation came a few days before Standard Seven pupils sat for this year's national examination on September 19 -21. But Sabato Samwel , one of the pupils, who sat for the exams at Nyangoto Primary School, described the donation as both a bad and good news to him.

" I wish we had these nice desks earlier because we have been sitting on the floor for many years. However, they will enable us to write our exams next week," Sabato, 14, said shortly after ABG handled the desks. The donation was made at a colourful ceremony held at Nyangoto Primary School located a few metres from the mine.

But it was a happy moment for lower class pupils, who started sitting on the desks outside the classrooms during the handling over occasion.

"I have been sitting on floor for along time. Now I have a desk. I am indeed happy to do away with the dusty floor," Neema Patrick, 12, told the 'Daily News', seated with colleagues at a new desk.

A section of children conveyed emotional messages when they sang to entertain the handing over occasion that was attended by Tarime district leaders, local leaders and a number of North Mara Gold Mine officials. "For sure we have had a hard time and we thank ABG for seeing the problem of desks and responding positively", the children repeatedly sang.

A critical shortage of desks has been a major concern on the development of primary education in public schools adjacent to the mine, a situation believed to have triggered the mining company's intervention through its ABG's Maendeleo Fund initiative. The majority of pupils previously sat on a dusty floor, a state that badly affected their performance and health.

Nyangoto and Matare primary schools, for instance, both together had 1,962 pupils and faced a shortage of 452 desks, a problem that condemned the schoolchildren to sit on the floor for years. The assistance has impressed teachers of the schools, prompting gratitude from them. The desks will play a significant role to improve learning environment of the children most of whom come from poor families.

"We thank the mine for desks and we will ensure that the desks are well taken care of so that they can be used to achieve the intended goal," Nyangoto primary school head teacher Mr Ghati Keraryo said.North Mara Gold Mine General Manager (GM) Mr Gary Chapman said 10 public schools would benefit from the donation made possible by ABG's Maendeleo Fund initiative.

"Today we are happy to handle over 1,050 desks to 10 schools around the North Mara Gold Mine site and this is to show some positive benefits the local communities," Mr Chapman pointed out in his brief handing over speech.The North Mara Gold Mine chief told the children that they would now not be sitting on floor any longer. "The assistance cuts shortage of desks in schools and pupils will no longer sit on the floor", the GM said.

Tarime District Commissioner (DC) Mr John Henjewele welcomed the donation, predicting that they will help to uplift academic performance of primary school children in the area. "This is a historical event and it is testimony that there is good relationship between the mine and surrounding communities," the DC said when officiating the handing over occasion.

The mine has been experiencing frequent conflicts with the local communities but the situation is reportedly improving. Heavy investment by ABG in provision of social services in the surrounding villages is said to have significantly reduced tension between the mine and the villagers.The Canadian miner has started coughing up millions of money to finance various projects as part of honouring Village Benefits Implementation Agreements (VBIA) signed between the mine and seven villages late last year.

The 10 million US dollars deal (about 16bn/-), is now witnessing construction of new public modern primary and secondary schools and rehabilitation of rural roads among other things.This makes ABG the first and the only company that has started implementing various promises mines make to local communities. Most of such promises often remain on paper for years.

The ABG was officially inaugurated in 2002 by retired President Benjamin Mkapa. Since then it has been operated by several giant foreign gold mining companies. They included Afrika Mashariki Gold Mine (AMGM), Placer Dome Tanzania, and African Barrick Gold.

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