17 November 2012

Tanzania: Alenaida - My Life Is About Educating Society


ALENAIDA Paul is a classic example of a few daring Tanzanian women who venture into a new subject only to emerge more passionate and competent than their 'teachers'.

From the way she authoritatively comments on issues in her region, one discovers that she is not one of those who wait for things to be done for them. She plans almost everything and takes the centre stage in implementation.

You may forgive her for being so go-getting. She knows what wananchi should get from a leader they gave their vote.

"You don't just vote and then it ends there, it should be a way of 'bequeathing' that person with responsibility.

He or she must report back to you promptly," she notes. At the moment, Alenaida is throwing her weight behind education and has adopt 'Kusoma, Kuandika, Kuhesabu', loosely translated as 'reading, writing and counting' as her motto. It is such a powerful working tool she is using to raise knowledge levels of the young and even adults who never got opportunity to attend school.

"I joined 'Friends of education' through a friend. It is now my turn to recruit hundreds to join institutions like HakiElimu," said Alenaida from her Muleba school at Kagondo in Kagera Region. She is arguably the mobiliser of her area, in an activism role which spans 3 years, 2 of which have been in advocating for better education in both schools and rural environment. She maintains that wananchi have to learn to find their way around their leaders.

"We need an informed population. We have a right to hold our leaders accountable. It's not about voting, because everyone with a voter card can do that. We need effective leaders," she says. We have to set our priorities and later be proud to say we have benefited from our leaders.

"Life should be about how we manage public money, our time and whom we consider our partners. I believe in planning and I don't like it when we choose leaders because we have to, it's got to be the right ones," she said On her rural community, she says, "Contrary to common belief, rural people are a diverse lot and their needs are always changing," she continued.

"Our leaders need also to be diverse and look into the changing needs of our people. Our diversity needs to be in terms of age, gender, cultural competence and intellectual capability." On a normal schedule, Ms Alenaida wakes up at 4:45 a.m. and after stretching for some minutes, the first thing is to pray and prepare her day ahead.

"I pray, write down my plans for the day and ask God to bless them," she says. Born and raised in the same village, Alenaida joined activism as soon as she became a teacher. She focused on education four years ago. Deputy head teacher at Kagondo A Primary School, the 38-year old mother of three has put in her stride to mobilize wananchi in her area for civic education lessons, largely hinging on their priorities and interests.

She joined activism for education in 2005, after visiting a friend and found a paper material explaining what the institution does. That was in 2005 and she subsequently requested for forms to join the 'Friends of Education' forum. She then got number 32,678 and asked for communication material from the institution to spread out the 'education gospel'. This year a seminar for educationists in Bukoba is what she pays tribute to.

"That is the time I got to understand what the education agenda really meant," she says. She was elected to be the secretary for her region's group at a meeting of 38 Kagera Region facilitators. At a meeting in February, they were told that forming groups, would have more impact on society.

"We performed well in the recent regional music competitions." "We recently got more forms from education institutions and we have recruited 70 more Friends of Education across the region," she says. There are 33,000 friends of education countrywide, so their recent recruitment has pushed up the number."

But then I thought to myself, we may get members but will they understand what being a 'Friend of Education' is all about? "I was invited to meet writers for education in May so that through us, the public can get to know whether teachers attend school and be informed on how public funds are used," says Alenaida.

She subsequently wrote a letter to her municipal council director to explain what the concept was all about. "We subsequently met him and made an arrangement. He gave us a go ahead to visit schools and follow up on how public funds are spent," she says.

Her first news item was when she wrote about a school of the blind at Kagondo B Primary School. She pins her stories on public posts, trees, poles among others. "I love education generally and it should be upon us to hold accountable every word that comes from a politician's mouth on all these sectors," she notes.

Part of the groups that follow up implementation, also form School committees, that follow up on how public funds are used. Interestingly, most members of her civic group are on school committees in the area.

An example is a recent development where most pupils were delaying to arrive at school in the morning and when she came from the Hakielimu seminar, she was able to sensitise parents where she asked them to stop sending children to wells before they come to schools in the morning.

As deputy head teacher at Kagondo A Primary School, Alenaida Paul told 'Daily News on Saturday' that since they have 363 pupils, the capitation grant they get is slightly over 300,000/-. Her basic rule for success? "Be assertive without being apologetic on issues of public interest. It's a way our society can get out of the closet."

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