Thursday, February 3, 2011

Christopher the Mwalimu (Teacher)

Teaching at Mtoni Secondary School

Being at Mtoni was great.  I mean a brief visit and introduction turned into a two and half hour discussion/lesson, but I learned a lot from the students and I hope they learned just a little bit from me.

The plan was for Shannon and I to go to Mtoni and introduce ourselves and what we're doing here in Mwanza.  Mtoni (Mwanza) and Clarke Road (London) are sister schools and have had a partnership for a few years.

The first class we visited was a Form 4 (the highest Form for 14 and 15 year olds) science class with about 60 students.  Not only were there 60 students, but they only had desks for about 25-30.  Two to a desk was the norm, three was not unusual, and some students even had to use their textbooks or laps as makeshift writing spaces.

Albert, the assistant Headmaster, told us that there are about 1000 students and only 14 teachers.  Understaffed, but the teachers are dedicated and work hard at what they do.

After the usual introduction and telling the students that I'm from Canada, in every class I was in, I got the same question: "how are you from Canada?"  One student couldn't grasp the concept that I wasn't Tanzanian and that because I was Black, my roots and ancestry had to be from Tanzania.  Instead of giving a long winded explanation, I decided to ask for some chalk and give a brief history lesson on the Slave Trade, colonialism, and immigration to Canada.  Basically giving the background of how Black people - not just me and my family - came to live in the Americas.

Not many people know where Barbados is (funny because I saw a man in the gym today wearing a Barbados shirt), and since Rihanna and Drake's "What's My Name" is so popular here, I used both of them to situate and highlight my Canadian and Barbadian roots.  Go figure that one  of the most popular songs out here in Mwanza is from a Bajan and Torontonian.

Good news is is that I've been invited back to do a series of formal lessons to each class at Mtoni.  I'll be gearing my discussions (because I'm learning just as much from them as they are from me) to the age level and level of english competency.  English is first taught in Form 1, while Form 4s have a much better, and often fluent, grasp of the language.  More visual aids for the younger students, and much more in depth conversation and analysis for the older pupils.

One big thing I learned about our Canadian society is how small minded we are.  We assume that everyone knows about Canada/North America.  Our way of life, our culture, our history.  Things like "there are Black people in Canada? And how did they get there?" seem like such stupid and asinine questions.  But say we flipped the script and I was to ask a Canadian where Tanzania was or what language they speak, I think we'd both realize we have a lot to learn from each other.

Maybe I should become a teacher like my sister, my mother, and my father.



  1. ... maybe you should! You just might realise after being in Mwanza that teaching is something you want to do!


  2. Professor Taylor...has a nice ring to it. :-)

  3. Been saying it for years!
    And teach school-aged children, not university-aged children.

  4. Question is, can you teach every child that information about every country in the world, and then get them to remember it when they grow up? You can teach facts but it's much more useful to teach empathy, mutual understanding, and the curiosity to learn about others, instead of fearing and taking advantage of others. It's also a much harder task... are you up to it?

  5. Man, Elaine, we call those people parents ;P

    Parents should be teaching their children empathy, mutual understanding, and the curiosity to learn about others. If you're not ready, or are unwilling, to teach a child the basics of being a decent human being, you have no right to be a parent.

    So to answer your question: no, I'm not ready to be a father, lolol.

  6. well for once you know how us small island ppl felt :P Where's that place? lol