In July 2011 I had the privilege of travelling to the Katoke-Lweru Secondary School, on the western coast of Lake Victoria,Tanzania. I went with other educators and my family, to conduct professional development with and for principals and teachers of East Africa. As part of our visit we took part in a debate on globalisation with the senior students of Katoke-Lweru Secondary School.
Numerous citizens in the Katoke-Lweru region experience poverty. Wolfgang Sachs noted in 1992 that ‘poverty’ should be renamed as either frugality, scarcity or destitution. A frugal life is a positive and respectful one, where the person chooses to be poor. Scarcity results from flood, fire or other disaster. It brings about poor conditions for a time, but a plentiful harvest or economic turn for the good can end the troubles. It is the grind of destitution, relentless systematised powerlessness, that destroys people.
In the Katoke region some people experience destitution. Their harvests are small and the prices they receive for them are low. Regular meals are not guaranteed, medical care is limited, education is relatively costly.
I should not have been surprised that the topic for our debate was Is globalisation harmful to the younger generation? These teenagers live in a community that wonders why their hard work does not reap rewards. They also see the possibilities that open markets bring. I should also have not doubted the capacity of these students to consume and construct knowledge. It was clear from the discussion in the debate that these young people want to participate fully in the new global community. They are self-disciplined and they argue with clarity and feeling.
Education is certainly essential to the future of this region and the principal and staff at Katoke are doing an outstanding job. It is, however, very difficult for these Tanzanians to improve their economic standing. Even though Katoke is one of the best resourced schools in the area, the strange structure and order of subjects in the state curricula, the fact that students change from learning in Kiswahili in Year 6 to learning in English in Year 7, and the limited access they have to resources, all counts against them.
At the present time, only a few are able to matriculate to University.
PLC Sydney students are seeking to develop positive and reciprocal relationships with the students of Katoke. We hope to send our first team of parents and students there in 2013. The task of building a school that changes the outcomes not only for the students who attend it, but for local citizens, is a long and arduous one. It will be years before significant numbers of graduates return with their skills to the western shores of Lake Victoria. Associate Professor Alan Watson received the Order of Australia last week because of his work alongside local educators such as Pastor Habimana, and principal Mr Sid Moir in establishing Katoke. He is the change he is seeking to see in the world. Katoke is a project shared by churches, universities and citizens in both Tanzania and Australia. It is a young and vibrant school, and Associate Professor Watson is a worthy recipient of the honour he received on 26th January, 2012.