The views expressed herein are mine and not those of the Peace Corps.



Useful Acronyms

PC Peace Corps
ICT Information & Communications Technology
PCT Peace Corps Trainee (pre-swearing-in)
PCV Peace Corps Volunteer (post-swearing-in)
PST Pre-Service Training
CBT Community-Based Training

Mapenzi mno

Mama Ismael’s daughter Maria failed her Form II exams. What this actually means is unclear–before two years ago it would have meant repeat the year or drop out; two years ago the government decided to essentially invalidate all Form II results and let everyone continue to Form III; but they may or may not have changed their minds again. That doesn’t really matter, she says, because she’s pretty sure Maria wouldn’t want to go back to school even if she could proceed to Form III instead of repeating Form II. Maria, she says, is distracted by matters of love. (“Unlike all the other teenagers in the world” I successfully avoid saying.) Mama Ismael explains it this way:

If you try to deal with two problems at once, one will become a snake. On the farm, can you farm with one hand and cook with the other? No. It’s not possible. Both hands need to be doing the same thing. Your thoughts need to be in one place. In the kitchen, if you’re cooking but thinking of something else, you’ll put sugar in the vegetables instead of salt. You have to pay attention to where you are, what you’re doing.

It’s the age-old complaint of the parent: there will be plenty of time to live! Focus on your studies! The world, says Mama Ismael, will still be there when Maria’s done with school. It will wait for her. But Maria doesn’t realize that; she sees a handsome boy and doesn’t understand that more are being born every day. So she’s neglected her schoolwork. She sleeps out, some nights.

Tanzanian parenting and schooling are interesting, particularly when contrasted with their equivalents in America. Although Tanzanian parents and teachers may have more control over the physical actions of the children, I think that American ones have more control over thoughts and behavior patterns. If the only discipline method you know how to use is physical, than the only control you’ll get will be physical control. The speech that Mama Ismael gave me (much longer than the one above, which has been abridged and translated for your reading pleasure) was what she clearly wanted to say to her daughter, but probably never will. “You should talk to Maria about it,” I told her, “try to explain this to her” and she agreed that she should, but I don’t think she will. As far as I’ve observed, that’s not how Tanzanian parent-child relationships function.

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