The Ufani Primary School serves 230 boys and girls in the village of Bacho in rural Tanzania. Bacho lies about 100 miles southwest of Arusha, in northern Tanzania on the edge of the rift valley. The Ufani School lacks many basic educational amenities. A partial list of its most glaring needs includes glass for the windows, doors for the door-frames, concrete to cover the dirt floors, a roof over one of the classrooms, desks for most of the students, and real blackboards–the teachers have to paint portions of the walls black, but erasing gradually becomes impossible.
The history of the Karimu Foundation’s involvement with the Ufani School begins with a July 2007 visit to Tanzania by Don Stoll and his wife Marianne Kent-Stoll, high-school teachers in Santa Cruz, California. Within minutes of stumbling across the Ufani School, they knew they had a job to do. They carried only enough money with them to pay for the cement and the labor of local construction workers needed to finish a privacy shelter for a new set of squat-hole toilets for the students. But Don and Marianne promised the teachers and the villagers they would raise more money in California.
Tanzania’s government requires education for all children and pays teacher salaries. Yet government revenues are severely limited, so responsibility for building schools falls largely on the communities the schools serve. The building of Ufani School began in 2003 but has sputtered because very little money circulates through Bacho. Almost all residents live as subsistence farmers who acquire whatever small sums of cash they have from the sale of crop surpluses. Bacho supports only one shop, a tiny kiosk that peddles mainly soft drinks, beer, cigarettes, and toothpaste. Nobody in the village owns a car.
The government salaries of the school’s six teachers, all of whom live in the village, add little to the money circulating in Bacho. One day the senior teacher, Daniel Amma, invited Don and Marianne to lunch at his home. They found that Daniel, an intelligent man with a touchingly gentle manner toward his students, lived in a mud hut consisting of a single bedroom for himself, his wife, and their two young children, and of a sitting and dining room whose floor space was completely filled by a small table and a handful of chairs. The meal had been cooked outside, in an unwalled area covered by a thatched roof where the wives of Daniel’s neighbors also did their cooking.
The poverty of Bacho explains why construction of the privacy shelter for toilets had stalled until Don and Marianne arrived with $300 in their pockets. Even this small amount could not easily be raised by an entire Tanzanian village.