It was the same fate that brought me together with Ms Anna Mang’enya, who is the headmistress of Uhuru Mchanganyiko Primary School in Dar es Salaam. It should not be understood that Ms Mang’enya was a victim of the raging floods that swept anything in their path – hens, pieces of furniture, goats, human beings and what have you. I was not one either.
The floods made the work of Ms Mang’enya harder. In fact nobody found the going any easier because of them. Obviously those directly hit took the brunt of it, but there were those were not touched by it. Ms Mang’enya was not either, that is, she was not a flood victim. But her school was turned into a haven for the Dar floods victims and so she was affected directed even in a more responsible manner. By virtue of she being the host of over 400 miserable souls who floods had driven from their homes, she had the task that left her running around for hours on end.
As a journalist, I became interested of what became of the unfortunate people who had suffered such anger of Mother Nature and so Ms Mang’enya’s school became a prime objective of mine. That was how we met: I, a news hound and she, a host of people in distress. When I arrived at the school I found the headmistress seated outside by a classroom, talking with some of her teachers. Ms Mang’enya is a modest person and it is not easy to know she is the boss. In fact as I waited for the head of the organization who had invited me to cover their assistance to the victims, I did not know she had anything to do with the school’s leadership.
I sat down and waited for the man, but what better way was there for me to while away the hour than to engage in some discussion with the teachers? Unfortunately, the others left for some work and I found myself left alone with Ms Mang’enya.
That was when I learned she was the head of that school. It appears Ms Mange’nya is some trouble shooter. When Tumaini Primary School performed poorly the government transferred her from Uhuru Mchanganyiko where she was then – a couple of years back.
“I and my teachers worked out a programme that improved the pupils performance,” she told Reporter at Large. “Mathematics was particularly a difficult area.” Things grew bad for Uhuru Mchanganyiko. Performance dropped and in 2010 the school performed notably bad, taking a poor position in Ilala District mock national examination. She was transferred back to Uhuru Mchanganyiko. The formula she worked out did not look workable to some of her teachers. However, they sat down together, discussed it making some adjustments here and there. Eventually, it worked.
Ms Mang’enya says her work of teaching and heading a school is so demanding and. It cannot be an easy task given the variety of personalities she finds in her teachers. But it is their cooperation that at times consoles her. “Without their cooperation it would be impossible for me to achieve anything,” she notes. We talked and talked and smoothly drifted into the new task she now had on her hand of, so to speak, looking after ‘Msimbazi Valley refugees’ on her compound.
Running the school itself is a big headache; providing learning equipment, facilities, giving classes proper teachers, and solving requirements of the staff. “This one wants this, and that one wants that,” she says. “Something is missing, somewhere something is needed. Oh! It makes you crazy. I don’t know how president Kikwete manages running the country.” Now Ms Mang’enya’s work is even more difficult. With over 400 miserable people in her school, she has to move around more, attend to the needs of more people.
The school is home to many blind and deaf children. Many more children from the valley, some of whom may have never been to school, are at the school. Keeping the school is a heavier burden now and when schools begin next Monday, their noise during classes will be a deluge of its kind for teachers. How can Ms Mang’enya burst that bubble? She has no answer. Uhuru, the name of her school, means freedom. Mchanganyiko means mixture. And truly now the school is thoroughly mixed, but with less freedom.