The ten University of Edinburgh students taking part in the Swahili Summer School have now been in Tanzania for a little over a week. This is an intense period of studies organised by Tom Molony and Steve Kaye, CAS lecturers. The students arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital, on 25th July. The next day they flew to Mwanza, Tanzania’s second city on the shores of Lake Victoria. After Sunday lunch they continued to Butiama, the final destination and their home for the next four weeks. In Butiama they were greeted by their host Madaraka Nyerere, a son of ‘Mwalimu’ (teacher) Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania. Butiama sits at an altitude of around 1,400 metres above sea level (higher than Ben Nevis!), and is populated by the Zanaki ethnic group.
The daily routine in Butiama starts with breakfast at 0800, followed by the first lesson of the day at 0900. After a short tea break at 1100, the students are split into groups for tutorials and conversation practice with Gaudensia, Grace and Saidi, experienced Tanzanian Swahili language instructors from different parts of the country.
So far the students have mastered: greetings in Swahili (there are many!); numbers and time; and food and market vocabulary. They are also now competent with the past, present and future tenses in both the affirmative and negative forms. Their first examination took place on Friday morning. The teachers were positively surprised by the fast progress of all the students. This is a reflection on both the quality of those who were selected for this Summer School course, and also the remarkable effort that each has put in to learning Swahili language.
After lunch on weekdays the students have the opportunity to rest and/or do their homework. In the late afternoon various cultural events have been arranged. The first activity this week was a visit to the shops in Butiama, where some of the students took the opportunity to play draughts with a local champion. Others put their basic Swahili to the test by buying mobile phone credit. Later on some evenings the students have taken part in dancing, drumming and singing lessons, given by John, a teacher from the neighbouring Sukuma ethnic group. The students will have eight dancing, drumming and singing lessons in total, with the aim of them performing a show before they leave Butiama.
Another visit to the village was to meet students and teachers at Butiama A Primary School. The schoolchildren sang ‘Tanzania, Nakupenda kwa Moyo Wote’ (‘Tanzania, I love you with all my heart’), to which the unprepared University of Edinburgh students replied with an under-whelming rendition of ‘Flower of Scotland’. This was later redeemed by a rousing performance of ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’.
On Wednesdays the students and teachers visit the local market. This week students were split into groups of two and were tasked with buying different fruit and vegetables for the group meals. The coming week’s purchases will include buying basins for hand washing clothes. Zawadi, our local guide, gave a clothes washing demonstration today. Students also dyed pots that they have been making this week with the assistance of two potters from the nearby village of Busegwe. The potters – a grandmother and her step-daughter – have learnt the craft from their ancestors, and usually sell their wares at the weekly market in Butiama and in Busegwe. The students’ pots will be fired on Tuesday.
This weekend’s excursion was to a settlement called Bujora, near Mwanza. The students visited the Sukuma museum and watched, and in some cases participated in, local dances. One dance involved a large python. In addition to learning aspects of local culture, in the late afternoons students also play sports – rounders is a favourite – and in the evenings they watch films. Amongst those movies they watched a Swahili language dubbed version of ‘Kirikou and the Sorceress’, an animated film based on a West African legend. Mariah has now assumed the name ‘Kirikou’. The other students have been given the following local names, which they use with varying degrees of enthusiasm: ‘Amina’ (Molly), ‘Baraka’ (Ryan), ‘Furaha’ (Lauren), ‘Jasiri’ (Saskia), ‘Malaika’ (Josie), ‘Neema’ (Jenny), ‘Pendo’ (Mairi), ‘Pipi’ (Emily) and ‘Warioba’ (Blair).
By Tom Molony (Senior Lecturer in African Studies)