My Job Description

Konyagi and tonic anyone?

Lest you think I am simply sitting around eating ugali (corn mush) and sipping Konyagi (local gin), I’m posting the job description that Polly and I agreed to this week.  There are a lot of different tasks I’ll be working on in the next year and I’m sure more will pop up but this is already a pretty full slate. It’s a lot of work to run a good organization, especially in a challenging environment like TZ, and Sega is fairly understaffed right now so volunteers have plenty to do. Even though it’s the weekend and Friday was a Muslim holiday, I worked several hours on Friday and am working right now on a Sunday morning trying to get the financials for our poultry business sorted out so they can be shown to the chair of the board who will be here this week.

Swimming with Sega Pre-Form girls

Not much of my job has me working directly with the girls, however, so I am also teaching swimming once a week. We take a bus to the Morogoro International School because they have a pool and the girls are incredibly enthusiastic.  Few, if any, have ever been in a pool before although some have been in rivers so are more comfortable going under water.  Swimming is not a skill many Africans possess!

While I am having difficulty getting across the idea of kicking with straight legs and keeping arms from going all akimbo, it is a fun way to interact with them and many are starting to catch on.  I always enjoy it and am thrilled to have the opportunity to cool down.

Job Description for April Gilbert for 2013

R1)  Leadership Program Documentation:  Responsible for reviewing and summarizing the existing Leadership and Life Skills Program:

• Review and orient to all of the existing activities within the “Life Skills Program” at SEGA, assessing which ones are at the core of the program, and warrant being documented as part of the program.
• Create a summary sheet with a visual diagram, explaining the main components to outside audience (donors, NGOs, schools, NM and SEGA Boards).
• Ensure sources for materials used are clearly cited.
• Edit, re-organize, condense, or re-conceptualize as needed, in consultation with Director, VSO and Counselor as appropriate.

R2)  Organizational Assessment:  Through interviews with Sega staff and board members, provide organizational assessment with suggestions for improved management and governance:

  • Interview Sega staff and board in TZ and, possibly, NM board via phone to collect a broad perspective on what is working well and where challenges are.
  • Write up findings in form of an organizational assessment that will assist SEGA and Nurturing Minds to strengthen SEGA.
  • Provide on-call organizational consulting to headmistress and any other staff who request it on an as-needed basis.

R3) Poultry Business Consultant and Chairperson

  • Call and oversee bi-weekly poultry business team meetings.
  • Ensure agendas and minutes are produced for each meeting.
  • Ensure bi-weekly business reports and up to date financials are maintained by poultry business manager.
  • Build capacity of poultry business manager to ensure that revenue and expense numbers are kept and reported accurately and by improving his Excel skills for financial reporting.

R4)  Business Plan Development: Responsible for assessing viability of and developing business plans for a) Hotel and b) associated Tourism Services for guests at SEGA and c) Kiswahili, English or other Adult Learning Center:

• Form and Chair a Committee, leading the process of business plan development through a team of people including the SEGA Entrepreneurship Teacher, SEGA Director, Fundacion Paraguaya representative and 1 other SEGA Teacher to be identified.
• Working closely with Entrepreneurship Teacher, collect information necessary for informing business plan development
• Visit language school in USA River to see their center, gaining ideas
• Ensure ownership and buy-in of other SEGA members, through their participation in the committee and follow-up activities
• Integral to assessing viability and to each business plan will be Learning By Doing approach and profitability.
• Share progress regularly with, and gain input of, Nurturing Minds Chair and SEGA Board, in collaboration with SEGA Director, through attending board meetings of phone calls upon request

R5)  Entrepreneurship Curriculum Development: Responsible for supporting the Entrepreneurship Teacher to develop an experiential Entrepreneurship Program for Forms I, III, and IV at SEGA:

• Through commenting on written documents, observation of Entrepreneurship classes and follow-up discussions, support SEGA’s Entrepreneurship Teacher to make the Entrepreneurship Curriculum more experiential, and integrated with real life activities such as is done in the current Business Clubs model.
• Work with FP (Melissa) and Geoffrey to ensure the Entrepreneurship Curriculum and Business Clubs curriculum become one curriculum, spanning Forms III and IV.
• Research existing curricula (Aflatoun, Junior Achievement) and adapt/develop a “personal finance” module for Form I students to ensure girls learn personal money management. Link concepts of family size and planning children to the personal economy concept.

R6)  Transactional Sex Module:

• Get up to speed on subject of transactional sex among young women in Tanzania and East Africa.
• Collaborate with Laura of University of Minnesota and Ana of Sega, at a minimum.
• Develop an experiential learning module on the subject that includes a discussion of transactional sex, its dangers, alternatives to it, and relevant negotiations techniques.
• Find guest speakers to discuss personal experiences, approaches, or research.
• Use role-plays and case studies to create experiential learning environment. Include workshops with boys or young men so that role-playing is more realistic.


Into The Mountains

At the waterfall with some locals we met.

Yesterday, I joined a group of volunteers and some Tanzanians on a hike into the Uluguru mountains to a waterfall.  It was a beautiful hike and, along the way, we saw the homes and farms of people living there.

Morogoro from the Uluguru mountains. Sega school is in Mkundi which is in the far distance.

Once we’d climbed a bit, we were able to look back at the growing town of Morogoro with an approximate population of 300,000.  Since almost all the  buildings are single storey with the exception being a few hotels and some two storey businesses in town, growth results in sprawl and the town is expanding out toward Mkundi, where the Sega school is located about 10km from the town center.

View from our hike up the mountain.

There were many banana, avocado and mango trees, small plots of green peppers, green onions, and cabbage and at the higher elevations, strawberries, blackberries, rasberries, and gooseberries.

Young woman carrying…

The residents have dirt foot-paths, which become steep and narrow further up, on which to carry goods to and from town which they do daily, taking produce to market each morning and bringing back what they need from town in the afternoon or evening. It’s a tough existence but at least the hill dwellers get plenty of exercise.

Tanzanian women have no tradition of exercise, whereas the men play sports and appear on average more fit even though the women have traditionally done most of the hard labor at home. The women see being fat as a positive and attractive thing and mothers worry if their daughters come home and have lost weight. The concept of exercise and health is gaining some ground here but I think they still regard us westerners jogging, hiking, and doing yoga as rather strange.  After we returned, I asked one of the female teachers who lives here on campus, whether she liked to hike and she said she wouldn’t know as she’d never been (and didn’t seem to have any interest either).

Our guide’s uncle in front of his home.

The homes are made either of wood branches with mud over them or of bricks made out of the reddish earth.    Most roofs are corrugated metal.

Mud brick side of a home.

The color of the earth here is a defining feature of East Africa and the orange-brown dust permeates clothing, feet, and covers all surfaces in a fine grit.  The native populace does an amazing job with their clothes, however, as most people’s attire (including our school girls’) appears nicely washed and pressed with the whites actually white even though laundry is done by hand, in buckets, and ironing is achieved with non-electric irons filled with hot coals!

Under the waterfall.

I did a lot of sweating on the way up even though it wasn’t THAT hot. It made the time in the refreshingly cold waterfall even more fantastic once we got there after about two hours of fairly steady uphill progress.  When we first arrived, we were the only ones at the waterfall but after awhile, I heard a noise above us and, looking up, saw a group of young Tanzanian fellows on a trail coming down.

I noticed that one had a camera and was taking a surreptitious picture of us mzungu women (foreigners) in our bathing suits. This amused me since I’d been photographing throughout the hike and had asked several colorfully clad women if I could take their pictures always to get a head shake meaning no. Apparently, young folks enjoy having their photo taken but the older population often doesn’t want anything to do with it.

Mustafa’s mother.

On the way down, we met some of our guide’s relatives including several nephews, a neice, and his mother.  Many adult Tanzanians, including most of the teachers at our school, still live at home, most likely because they don’t have the funds to rent or buy their own home. Of course, this has become more common in the U.S. during this recession but then our homes tend to be a lot larger than those of the Tanzanians who are generally living in one or two rooms, often with an outhouse used by many people in a compound.

We also saw a typical Tanzanian public school which was eye opening in its spare lack of facilities.  Apparently, teachers frequently simply don’t show up or they show up but sit outside the school building while the students sit inside, informally striking because the government neglects to pay them.

Typical Tanzanian school room.

It just made me realize once again how lucky the girls at Sega are to have a fully functioning school with teachers that care and facilities that are usually sufficient for their learning needs.

Overall, it was both a fun and informative outing.  I hope to be able to take a hike like this at least once or twice a month.

What is Sega and why am I here?

HOW THE HECK did I end up volunteering for this particular organization in Africa and what am I doing here?

What is Sega?

The Sega (Secondary Education for Girls’ Advancement) School is a residential secondary school for bright, motivated Tanzanian girls who otherwise would not have access to secondary education due to extreme poverty.

Founded in 2008 and located in Mkundi near Morogoro in central Tanzania, there are currently 150 students boarding at the school, 90 in Forms 1,2 & 3 (Grades 8-10), and 60 students in two transitional remedial classes.  Sega aims to be educating 200 girls at the school by 2015.

Polly Dolan

Founder Polly Dolan, originally from Pennsylvania, has lived in Africa since 1996. Based in Morogoro with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, she directs the school along with a Tanzanian headmistress. Before starting Sega, Polly worked for CARE for several years.  Anxious to move from project management and consulting work to something more hands-on, she concluded she could make a difference educating girls and Sega was born.

Two primary sources of funding for Sega are Nurturing Minds, the US based organization started by Polly’s sister Tracey, that raises funds from US donors, and USAID, the US government agency that makes development grants overseas.

Who are Sega girls?

Girls eating lunch in the big banda

The girls at Sega are a lively bunch. They come from the Morogoro and Iringa areas, many are orphans who are cared for by grandparents or relatives, and most have been out of school for at least a year, frequently because their guardians cannot pay school fees.  A few are already mothers.  They range in age from 13 to 19.  Each day, I’m greeted by girls saying “Good morning Madam April, how are you?”

How I found Sega

It’s a classic networking story!  I attended a conference at Stanford on Global Development and Connection Technologies where, standing in line for lunch, I mentioned to a woman from the State Department that I was looking for a way to teach negotiations to girls or women in a developing country.  She suggested I speak to the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the State Department.

After some emailing, a person in that office referred me to the chairman of the board at Nurturing Minds. He felt my experience fit perfectly with what Sega needs right now given its stage of development and plan to start several local businesses to help the girls learn about business and entrepreneurship and to support the operating expenses of the school.  Sega hopes to be self-sustaining, both financially and environmentally, within 7 years and is implementing a “sustainable schools model” spearheaded by a non-governmental organization, Fundacion Paraguaya.

What am I doing here?

There is lots to do so I’m already busy after only a week. My first assignment is documenting the Lifeskills program put in place over the past year in case other schools want to emulate it. It’s an impressive counseling and mentoring based program designed to increase the confidence, decision making and communication skills of the girls.  The goal is that each  gain leadership qualities that will encourage them to become leaders in their own communities and country. From what I’ve seen so far, it certainly surpasses anything I’ve seen in U.S. schools.

At my desk in the teachers’ lounge

Soon, I’ll start interviewing staff for an organizational assessment of management and personnel issues the school is facing right now.

I am also chairing the poultry business committee and, in so doing, am learning all about egg marketing and inventory. Also, we are discussing how to integrate the business into the curriculum to make it real for the girls.

Once I’ve made some headway on the above, I’ll start doing market research to enhance business plans for other businesses the school is considering including a small hotel on site and an adult education business in town.

Accomplishments and Challenges

Sega has not yet graduated its first class of girls from Form 4.  That will happen in December of 2013.  However, national test results so far show Sega students far surpassing students from other schools.

Granted, the public schools in Tanzania are in poor shape with an out-of-date curriculum and teaching style, inadequate facilities and materials, and teachers who frequently don’t bother to show up for class, so the bar is not high.

Sega, however, is a class act with dedicated teachers, attractive facilities, and significant supplemental programs while still following the uninspired national curriculum so the girls can sit for their national exams (O levels for all followed by A levels for some).

Despite the many challenges of educating girls who have little to no support from

Yesterday’s sunrise

home and no history of education in their families, Sega will ensure that most of its students have a far superior start in life to what they would have had without this opportunity.

Do you know of other organizations with similar missions or people that I should know about?  I’d like to network with anyone who might have insight or knowledge relevant to my work here or to the school in general. Let me know of any organization or person I should know.  Or post a comment or send me an email just to say hi!

Kwaheri, April


First Impressions

It is Sunday afternoon and I’ve been here in Morogoro since Wednesday afternoon.  A lot has happened in a very short time or at least it feels that way to me.  This is certainly the first moment I’ve had to sit down and write.  When I arrived Wednesday midday after a 4 hour drive from Dar es Salaam, I spent the afternoon with Polly Dolan, the founder of The Sega Girls School. She had me over to her home, gave me lunch, and then took me to look around the school and into town.

Cloth vendors in Morogoro

That evening, I moved into a rented house in Morogoro to live with Fran, an Aussie volunteer who’s been here for two years. On Thursday, while Fran and I were taking a class of girls swimming (the first time for many of them and many were scared to put their face in), the house was broken into and many of Fran’s things were taken. Amazingly, I had locked the door to my room so I did not lose my computer, cameras, and other items that could have been stolen (although they did get my bottle of scotch from duty free – darn!). This was the 3rd time in the last year (foreigners are always a target) so I decided I’d rather live at school, on the outskirts of town and guarded by four Maasai tribesmen. The rental house has guards too but, in this case, that was insufficient.

Two maasai guards (left and right) and gardener (middle) at rental house where Fran lives and I thought I was going to live.

On Friday, I moved to the volunteer house at the school and am now settled in here.  Both water and internet are rather scarce but, unlike in town, the solar system seems to provide uninterrupted electricity so that is helpful. The setting is beautiful with the Uluguru mountains nearby and there are two other Americans, Alice and Nancy, living here both teaching English, one with Peace Corps and the other having arranged it on her own like me.  Another volunteer, a Canadian woman, is arriving next week so I have some built in company.

On Friday evening, Polly and her daughter Martha, age 6, Nancy, and I went to an expat hangout in Morogoro for dinner. I met many others who are working here including folks from Canada, Ireland, Paraguay, and Trinidad.  It’s fun to be around such an international crowd as well as the Tanzanians themselves.

At the Sega School with mountains in distance

So, back to my first impressions.  The lack of infrastructure is startling (even more so living without it instead of just observing or reading about it) and just managing the mundane chores of daily life takes a lot of time and energy. The orange dust is everywhere and in everything.  Garbage is burned instead of collected (I’ve been breathing the smoke all day from burning of the weeds the girls cut today), water is intermittent and must be treated. The school hopes to be wired soon but currently we all use “dongles” to access the cell phone network with our computers which is both slow and unreliable (making a blog a bit of a challenge). Luckily, there is usually a nice breeze out at the school so I’m not fainting from heat yet, though it is warm and sometimes muggy.  And the mosquitos are small and quiet so bug bites happen but aren’t nearly as upsetting as those big, mean, whining Canadian mosquitos are. Of course here they might be carrying malaria but I am trusting my meds will protect me.

One of the Sega chicken coops

The first business the school started is poultry and they have just started selling eggs so I’ll be learning all about that and eating lots of farm fresh eggs while I’m here (we need to adjust the feed to get better color yolks).

It’s amazing to finally be here and I’m excited to delve into my work this week. There are plenty of both organizational and business development needs waiting for my input so I will slowly dip my toe into this young organization to see if I can contribute.