iSTEP Tanzania


Posted on: June 15, 2009

Hello to the BIG WORLD out there. Its almost 3pm in Dar Es Salaam, and that means traffic is about to kick into full force. Tons of cars coming from all over the city, way too many dala-dalas, some bajajs, and bicycles transporting tons of goods to the major markets around the city. Nevertheless, the ground team says YIPPPIE because we are not stuck in traffic and we continue to work hard and enjoy this beautiful city and the vibrant culture and people of Tanzania.

So you are all probably wondering why this blog post is titled yippie. Well, in the States we understand the word yippie to have several different meanings. I’m using this word in the context of an exclamation that is typically used to express one’s delight, excitement and/or happiness.  The word yippie has been stuck in my head since a teacher, that works at one of the schools we are working with, sent one of team members on the ground a text message saying yippie; he was really happy to have met us.

Students eager to answer questions in the class during our lesson

Students eager to answer questions in the class during our lesson

…I promise this blog post is going somewhere. So, Bea and I spent most of last week on the field conducting interviews with school teachers. It was really exciting and challenging at the same time.  By the end of the week we were pretty exhausted. On Friday, the tech leads followed us to the two different schools. Hatem and I went to Mlimani, while Bea and Brad ventured off to Uhuru. They had a great time interviewing the head teacher of the Blind School.

Hatem and I arrived at Mlimani school around 10am. We sat in the teacher’s lounge for a bit. Mind you it was a very modest room, with a few tables and chairs and no lighting. It was the last day of school and we could see the teachers were excited for a much-needed break. With 60+ teachers at the school (about 19 teachers are inactive, so really 40+ teachers) and 1,500+ students, its safe to say that the teachers were overwhelmed with the amount of work they had to do. Most of the teachers at this particular school teach at least 4 different subjects, and usually have 60+ students in their classes. There you have it,  a bit of background on the teachers at the school.

When we went to the school last Friday, I was really interested in learning more about the students at the school. I didn’t want to just come in and amuse them with our fancy cameras, take pictures of them, and then call it a day. I wanted to learn their names, their ages, favorite past times, etc.  A few minutes after socializing in the teachers lounge and waiting for a teacher to arrive (so we could return some books he lent to us), we walked outside and started doing a bit of exploring. Hatem started talking to some of the school boys and they loved speaking English. One of them messed up a sentence or two–when he was asked what grade he was in– and the other boys laughed at him. 😦 I like their competitive nature. Right away, I could tell that the children were eager to learn. We began taking some pictures and more kids swarmed in our direction. They wanted to be close to the camera. The teachers permitted the rowdiness for a couple minutes, and then told the kids to go back to their classes.

Hatem and I were starting to get excited and eager to interact with the kids a little bit more. Eventually, the teacher we were waiting for arrived and took us to his Grade 5 classroom. I counted about 40+ students in the class. Pretty good attendance for the last day of class.  As soon as we entered the classroom, all the students stood up tall, shining brilliantly in their white and blue uniforms, they greeted us with a loud and uniform “Good morning, we are happy to have you!” I got goosebumps hearing that; the students were very polite. Their teacher told them a little bit about us. He spoke in Swahili the entire time; he had better command of the students when he spoke Swahili. Hatem told them all about Jordan and even drew a big world map, and the students asked questions about our University and the teacher facilitated the conversation. I am not the greatest with geography, but when I said I was from Nigeria all the students said they knew where that was because our countries are on the same continent. 🙂 They asked us a couple more questions, and then the teacher left us with the students because he had to go and attend the final teachers meeting before the prize day parade.

WOW! We had the classroom all to ourselves!!  So many eager eyes starring at us in anticipation for us to teach them something new. So, I picked up a piece of chalk and began to write relatively simple English words that came to mind (teacher, apple, girl, boy…) They recited the words confidently. It was all too simple for them, so I started to ask them more complicated questions. The students enjoyed being selected to come up to the board and answer questions. I loved seeing really shy students get engaged when I would ask them to fill in the blank to a sentence like. I like to eat ______. As a side note, many of the students liked to eat a lot of foods that I hadn’t heard of.  The liked ugali, makande, beans, meat, chicken and chips. They wanted to visit local places (we recorded some of them on video, unfortunately I don’t remember the names of the places), but there was a young boy that wanted to visit Paris (I hope he gets to go someday). I learned so much about them from this activity. Hatem videotaped a lot of it. I had them recite a lot of the sentences, because their teacher said that they really don’t get enough practice with dictation.

“We come from TechBridgeWorld!” The student recited the sentence so loud and clear. They had a bit of trouble pronouncing tech, but they learned so fast and again I got goose bumps just hearing them say TBW. We didn’t bring anything with us to give to the students. We brought them our undivided attention, and a sincere desire to learn more about them. I believe the students and their teacher saw this and responded positively.

“YIPPIE!” The students learned the word YIPPIE last Friday. Although their teacher had sent the word in a SMS to us a couple weeks ago, he hadn’t shared the word with the students. I must admit that it was a bit difficult to communicate with the students because their understanding of English was limited, but there was one student that spoke English exceptionally well and she really helped me translate a lot of things. She was so cute. She would say things like, “Ugali is a type of food that we eat here in Tanzania. It is also called Stiff porridge.” She was awesome! So, I proceeded to write the word Holiday on the board, then I wrote school, and then I wrote Monday. With those words “Holiday, School, and Monday” I was able to piece together a question for the students about whether or not they were coming to school and Monday and they all responded emphatically, “NO!”

I then taught them the word/expression, “Yippie”. I looked silly at first then the kids caught on once I started saying yippie after they answered a question right or solved a fairly difficult math equation. The kids began to say yippie without being prompted. After a while, they began to get a little rowdy and started jumping and moving around while saying yippie. I quickly tried to put together some semblance of order, so that their teacher didn’t come in and get upset. They really loved saying yippie, it was another way of expressing their happiness. The cool thing about that “teaching” experience with Standard 5 at Mlimani School in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania is that the children were just like other children that I have worked with in day camps in the US. They wanted to learn new things, and they were happy talking about games that they liked to play, their favorite foods, and other things like that.

The students had a ball while Hatem got some video footage and took photographs, and I allowed them to come up to the board and answer questions. After the class, the students quickly ran out to the parade and some even requested to take special pictures with us. We watched as one of the head teachers announced the top 10 students in Standard 4, and we were especially proud of them because we felt as if we had connected with the students and now we were sharing in their joy. After the ceremony, we returned to the classroom where Mr. Sipto gave out their final reports. I could see that the students were eager to open the reports, but they had to wait until they arrived at home. For a quick moment, I had a flashback to the time when I was in primary school in Nigeria and we received our report cards–it was an intense time to say the least. There was one student whose report was misplaced, and he began to cry. 😦 I really felt sorry for him, but of course the teacher had everything under control and put together a new report for him. After the students received their reports, we all went outside to take pictures before we said our goodbyes for the holiday. While we were snapping the pictures the students were screaming yippie, and then other students that were outside around us began to scream yippie. Wherever I went after that, at least one student would see me and jump and scream yippie.


On our walk back to the UCC, some kids saw us and screamed yippie. I guess we really made an impression on the students. More than anything, it made me happy to see that they learned another way to express their joy and excitement as children! The relationship that we have created with the school over the past 3+ weeks, will allow us to begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see the bigger picture of their needs and where we can be of assistance with our proposed literacy games project.


  • For Dan’s birthday that was yesterday!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAN!!!
  • For the inspiring work that TBW does all around the world, and that we are doing here in Dar Es Salaam
  • For my amazing team members here in Dar, in the States, and in Doha: Anthony, Bea, Brad, Dan, Emily, Hatem, Shakir
  • For the spectacular TBW admins: Bernardine, Sarah, Freddie, and Ermine
  • For Eric Beda, and the rest of the UCC staff
  • For our cooperative partners in the 3 communities we are working with.

Until next time,

Your Sista from Dar Es Salaam


3 Responses to "Yippieee!!!"

Such a cute story, and wow, those teachers really must be overwhelmed that school is almost as large as my high school back home!

What a wonderful story!

What a great experience! Would you mind if I posted a link to your blog on the VIH website?

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June 2009
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