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

Project Summaries

NIU MPA student Kayla King developed a PPT show for the farewell dinner in Musoma. It has a quick summary of the work of each student group on the TDS projects underway. The link is to the file on Google Drive.

TZ18 Projects Summaries PPT

I don’t know if this link will work, but Kayla also took a video of my microscopes presentations to the secondary schools. She rotated the phone camera so you may need to tilt your device 90 degrees to view the files.

Video A: Microscopes Video A

Video B: Microscopes Video B


Farewells and Reunions

Pooja and Candy get a farewell pic with very friendly Afrilux staff.


Travel Day to Mwanza: after a delayed start and a very slow driver (1 hr longer than normal), we missed our tour of Bugango Hospital. So we spent a leisurely late afternoon and evening at the Tilapia Restaurant in Mwanza, famed for their fish dishes. The highlight, if one can call it that, was when a golden eagle swooped across the table and snatched the fish on Fr. Kazeri’s plate! Buzzed right past Thurmaier’s left ear and it happened in 2 seconds or less! It was quite the excitement. It kept coming back for more! The staff is apparently used to this and waved arms and then burned incense sticks on the railing to the lake, which helped for a while but not entirely.

A bonus was spending time with Mary Okeyo, former NIU Swahili teacher who obtained her MS. In Education from NIU in 2016. The best reunion was that one of her former students, Sierra Turner, is on the study abroad this year, and they were able to catch up after some long hugs!

Happy reunion of Sierra Turner and her NIU Swahili teacher, Mary Okeyo (MSED ’16) who is back in Mwanza with her family.

Also able to spend time with Mw. Boniface Luzangi, former headmaster of Nyegina Secondary, who is defending his master’s thesis today (21st June) about counseling and advising are better interventions for students who are struggling with mental health problems than the standard practice of treating them as discipline problems and using punishments.

Final Project Day of 2018 Trip

SWM President Peres and Secretary Anna pitch their new water filters for sale at the TZ18 farewell dinner (19Jun2018), with Frank Patrick (UMABU) translating.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018: This was the final project day for the 2018 TZ study abroad. Most students were in Nyegina for the meeting with the officers of UMABU, and then the presentation of the microscopes to the various secondary schools that had laboratories (but lack equipment). We provided at least 2 microscopes each to secondary schools in Tarime, Butiama, Nyakatende, Mugango, Etaro, Mkirira, and Nyegina.

Then the afternoon was spent finishing presentations for the farewell dinner, with about 25 invited guests, including partners that the students had been working with in their projects and others who have been supporting the projects and the M.Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center. Each student group made presentations, and the Safe Water Mugango Project included a sales pitch by the president and secretary of SWM (Peres and Anna). That was a big hit. They were very confident and clear about why each person in the audience should buy a filter. Also in the audience was the District Executive Director for Musoma Municipal Council, Flora Olongo. She was excited to see the women open their own business and promised to get them a booth in the Nane Nane Day exhibition, and another. Peres and Anna (and the NIU Students!) were very excited about this important marketing opportunity. It was a very good ending to the Musoma leg of the 2018 program.

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.