Student Textbooks

Three young men sit in blue chairs reading newspapers. Behind them, a large group sit at chairs and tables reading. At the back of the room are metal bookshelves with books.

There are many primary and secondary schools in the villages that surround the new Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center (LCRC). All of these schools lack enough of the government-issued textbooks needed so that each student can read their lessons, study, and do their homework. Right now they do their best sharing the available books—sometimes twenty or more sharing a single book for a subject. We think they deserve better. The LCRC was built with rooms specifically designed to store and distribute textbooks for the local schools; all we need now is the money to buy them.

Our strategy is to collaborate with the district education office to match government purchases of textbooks in district schools, especially in the Nyegina area. The goal is to maximize the concentration of books in a school to lift the school higher in multiple grades at the same time, hopefully leading to better learning outcomes. As schools have more books for students, teachers can shift from teacher-centered to student-centered learning, thereby improving test scores and graduation rates, especially from primary schools.

Latest Project Updates

Sunday was R&R

Sunday was an R&R day for the group. We have been going nonstop since landing in Nairobi. The day was relaxed and blessed with beautiful weather (75, mostly sunny skies, nice breeze, low humidity).

I spent the day supervising 2 technicians who came from Mwanza to repair the 6 microscopes damaged in transit to Musoma. The first 4 were quickly fixed, but the last 2 need more work. They are confident they can finish repairing them Monday morning.

Ended the day at Tembo Beach Hotel restaurant with discussion of final days in Musoma. Bonus was that Raymond Kisarula, the owner, was there and heard my voice. He came over to say hello. Raymond was instrumental in getting the M.Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center finished, including the beautiful comfy chairs for reading newspapers (NOT the standard Musoma chair model that EVERYONE uses). He also got the computer labs building constructed in record time. I urged him to get out to Nyegina to see the kids coming into the library everyday to read books and study, especially the 4-6 year olds! Maybe on Tuesday….

Woman reads a magazine in the reading lounge at the M.Nyerere Library at Nyegina

Checking in the donated microscopes

The students each brought a 2nd checked bag filled with 2-5 microscopes for donation to area high schools with laboratories but no equipment. With 33 microscopes, we should be able to give 2-3 to several schools. The rough handling by the airlines resulted in about 5-6 needing some level of repair. We have found someone who can repair them (we hope). We will be inviting headmasters to the M.Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center to receive their scopes next week. Many thanks to the First Lutheran Church in DeKalb, volunteers at DeKalb High school who retrofitted them, and to the students for lugging them in airports, buses, and hotels!

Pictures of the presentation will be next week.

Kurt Thurmaier (aka Baba Anna) inspects a microscope brought by students as a 2nd checked bag.

Microfinance Groups Find the M.Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center

Thursday was dedicated to learning about microfinance in Mara Region. We visited Tutejenge and FINCA offices in the morning, learning about how they lend money to borrowing groups and individuals (for FINCA). We also were able to sit in the beginning of a borrowing group’s weekly meeting with Tutejenge.

In the afternoon we met with borrowers at the M.Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center. About 45 borrowing groups from UMABU villages and members were represented and it was a fascinating experience. At the end of the session, the borrowers were invited into the library stacks area where they found the collection of books about business. As you can see from the picture, they were very interested in what was available to help them learn how to improve their businesses. They were eager to see what was there, and we invited them to please tell Moses, the librarian, what books they wanted to see added to the collection. TDS will do its best to meet those requests.

Nyerere LCRC librarian Moses Deogratius shows the UMABU borrowing group members the business collection.

Unexpected Benefits of NGO Visits (by Kayla King, MPA Student)

As we have travelled around to the different NGOs throughout the Musoma region, many of us wondered the information’s worth, and why we weren’t spending more time with the Ngyena school children, developing our personal programs, and working hands-on. But as we’ve met the NGOs, I have seen students create parnterships with parallel NGOs, brainstorm new ideas to create sustainable programs, and understand the innerworkings of nonprofit organizations in Tanzania.

While visiting Global Resources Alliance, Taran Black, a 4H Career Pathway member, asked owner Madaraka whether he would consider a partnership. The partnership would offer surrounding 4H clubs the space and materials to create a tree nursery. Then the students would sell the trees to turn a profit for GRA. The students would gain important reforestation, entrepreneurial, and volunteerism skills, while Global Resources Alliance earns a profit and spreads awareness of their programs. Another student, Zach Kalk, a social entrepreneurship student working with Safe Water Mugango, built a relationship with PCI Global to partner and sell the water filters made by the seven women running the program. Zalk hopes to work with PCI to provide schools with a clean water supply while teaching the women of Safe Water business sustainability.

These stories are just a few of the ways the visits to Tanzania’s NGOs have provided brainstorming, networking, and relationship building to the NIU students. With this knowledge, we apply our theories into practice to work towards providing sustainable education to children throughout the region.

Projects, projects, projects…

Wednesday was a project day for everyone. We have multiple projects underway that involve the NIU students as teachers and advisors.

Two students are teaching primary and secondary teachers how to use XLS for grade books, WORD for writing exams, and internet for finding supplementary materials for classrooms.

Four students are working with an UMABU staff member to enhance the Career Pathways program that uses 4H materials for hands-on learning with primary and secondary school clubs.

Three students were working with the Safe Water Mugango project to help the women owners update their business and marketing plan.

One student is working with the librarian at the M.Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center.

Another student is working with science teachers from various schools to develop a STEM enhancement to secondary school curricula.

Another student is documenting project engagements and assisting with logistics.

The chatter around the dinner table suggests that everyone was excited to be engaged in their projects and eager to help their local partners.

More to come…

Career Pathways Participant Quote

Career Pathways Participant Quote

We recently received a quote from a participant in the Career Pathways program. Here’s what Anna Masatu, a form three student (junior) at Mkirira Secondary School had to say about the program.

“The hands-on activities we’re learning in the career pathways after-school program are a fun way to learn science. In fact, my grades in science have improved since I joined the program. It’s been interesting to learn about the different career options in agriculture, and my family and I have enjoyed the vegetables that my classmates and I are growing in the school garden.”

TDS and Education Systems Center at NIU will be hosting a fundraising event to support our joint Career Pathways program on November 19, 2017 in Chicago. Learn more and buy tickets at

TDS partner preps new water filter facility







Safe Water Mugango – a TDS and UMABU partner that creates innovative water filters from ceramic pots – is finishing construction of a new facility where women will operate the business.

TDS has been able to raise funds for the startup costs and training to support the organization. Safe Water Mugango will improve educational opportunities for Tanzanians, especially girls, because women won’t have to spend one to two hours of their day fetching water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and irrigation, which prevents them from attending school.

UMABU, a Tanzanian community-led organization in the Bukwaya region, has supported water-focused projects in the past to improve its communities because Tanzanians often lack access to plumbing and clean water. Many Tanzanians, usually girls, walk sometimes up to 10 miles to the nearest water source to fill up buckets and carry the heavy water back home. The water will often come from a dirty water source like a pond.

President of Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa Kim Mesiaki has been training the women to operate the facility by teaching women how to test the filters the water runs through and learning how to make the ceramic pot filters out of local ingredients.

The concrete floor was recently laid down, and now Kim Mesiaki and his team are installing windows and finishing metal work.

The organization’s objectives include:

  1. Prevent water-borne diseases in children.
  2. Improve the health of families.
  3. Sustain a business run solely by Mugango women.
  4. Create jobs so families can spend money on expenses such as education.

To read more about how the ceramic water filters work, go to Safe Water Mugango’s website.

Donate money to TDS to continue to support Safe Water Mugango.

Clubs teach Tanzanian students about career paths

During the summer break, about 95 students from Nyegina Primary and Secondary School and Mkirira Secondary School are participating in the 4H Career Pathways Clubs to prepare for graduation.

Program Coordinator Gabriel Magita has been working hands-on with the students to ensure upon graduation students know how to apply their skills to a career successfully.

“4H Career Pathways Clubs are intended to create self-awareness for students and enable them to choose the best career for their life,” Magita said. “The benefit of the club is to see changes to our people by teaching them to solve problems for themselves.”

In the clubs, the students participate in income-generating activities such as gardening or soap-making to earn money and learn a trade job.

“The clubs aim to ensure that students are able to stand on their own upon graduation,” Magita said.

This initiative helps to establish a career path for Tanzanians and reinforce the importance of getting an education. The term “4H” stands for Health, Head, Heart and Hand which Magita explains represents better health, clear thinking, good decision making and working and supporting themselves and their families financially.

TDS Board Member to discuss technology with Tanzanian teachers

TDS Board Member to discuss technology with Tanzanian teachers

Jason Michnick (right) and Dr. Kurt Thurmaier (left) pose for a photo before they zip-line in Machakos People's Park in Kenya last year.
Jason Michnick (right) and Dr. Kurt Thurmaier (left) pose for a photo before they zip-line in Machakos People’s Park in Kenya last year.

Jason Michnick, Tanzania Development Support Board Member and Economic Development Planner at the City of DeKalb, will be traveling to Tanzania in early June to meet with the teachers that participated in the 2016 TDS/NIU training and discuss how the training has impacted their efforts in the classroom.

During the TDS/NIU training, Nyegina teachers volunteered their time to learn how to use computers and the Internet to better teach their students. These computers were setup in the Nyegina Resource Center so teachers could seek up-to-date information and share it with their students. For some of the teachers in attendance, this was their first time using a computer.

“As an economic developer, education is the foundation of growing a local economy,” Michnick said. “Seeing the challenges of providing a quality education in Tanzania made me want to get involved in the education-technology sector. Providing teachers with technology, and training them on how to properly incorporate it into the classroom, has potential to provide tremendous amounts of new resources not previously dreamed of by children and educators.”

Michnick will also be leading a focus group to gain feedback on TDS’ plan to create a mobile education lab located in the Nyegina Library. To do this, he will meet with the district education officer to discuss TDS’ projects and lobby support from the Tanzanian government who can establish and fund Internet connection in the area.

The remainder of his time in Musoma will be spent meeting with TDS partners to check-in on other projects. This will be his third trip to Tanzania, where he will travel to Musoma, Mwanza, Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar, but his girlfriend’s first time traveling to Africa. Michnick said he is excited for his girlfriend to experience everything Tanzania has to offer. Their trip starts in Nairobi, Kenya, where their plane lands, so Michnick said he is also very excited to see the friends he made while living in Nairobi.

“And Zanzibar!” Michnick adds. “I am excited for drinking on the roof of Maru Maru and watching the sunset, and then eating Zanzibar pizza.”

Michnick started volunteering with TDS while he was a student at NIU in 2015 and stayed involved as a volunteer which eventually led to his role as a board member.

Thursday (23 June): Grand Opening of LCRC

Children get their first opportunity to read the books in the children’s room of the new Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center (June 24, 2016).

It is hard to capture in words the emotion of stepping into the new Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center in Nyegina at the grand opening after the ribbon was cut and the doors opened. The shelves stocked with books, the children rushing to the children’s room to look at the books, the excitement of the distinguished guests–including the district commissioner–that this is a “world-class” library and community learning center.

JeanineBookGiftMosesEach of the volunteers and students had purchased a Kid’s book in Swahili language to donate to the library for its new collection, and Mama Anna (Jeanine Thurmaier) was pleased to present an English-Swahili dictionary and a reading book (she is pictured reading the title to the crowd at the opening ceremony). DSC02335

All of the tutoring that TDS/NIU volunteers had done with the area high school teachers paid off handsomely. As the district commissioner toured the newly opened facility, teachers were at the computers in the teacher resource room and were showing him how they were accessing the internet to find maps for teaching geography better, soil chemistry worksheets, and much more. He was really impressed, and he was caught by surprise at how comprehensive the LCRC is and how it can serve area students and teachers in many different ways. His speech of nearly an hour had the audience in rapt attention as he pounded away at the theme of information leads to knowledge, and knowledge gives one the power to change his or her situation, the community, and Tanzania.

Madaraka Nyerere, also a guest of honor at the opening ceremony, stressed that Tanzanians needed to be donating their time and talents to the library to make sure it was effective as a learning center, and not just an empty building. This was a theme echoed by Dr. Thurmaier (aka Baba Anna) in his remarks (delivered in terrible Swahili), and in the remarks of the district commissioner. Madaraka also donated Tsh 100,000 to buy new books for the library. The wonderful celebration was concluded with a delicious community meal.