Mtandika is a large village in the dry Ruaha river valley, 400km west of Dar es Salaam and 100km east of the District Capital of Iringa. It is a very poor village, depending on the sale of onions to traffic passing through on the main highway from Dar es Salaam to Zambia, 500km to the west.
The local Roman Catholic Teresina Sisters (Teresa of the Little Child Jesus), who were founded by the Italian Consalatas, are trained in Iringa as teachers, doctors, nurses etc to help the poorest of the poor in the area.
One of their missions is at Mtandika, where the Sisters run the Primary and Trade Schools, a Hospital, a Clinic and an Orphanage. Diocesan funds in Iringa are very small and little is available to help with the Sisters’ work in the village. They thus depend to a great extent on donations from overseas. There is also a government run Secondary School [Lukosi] in the village.
Sister Barberina Mhagala
One of the prime movers in the Mission is Sister Barberina Mhagala. In the early 1990s she was Headmistress of a very successful Primary School in Iringa. Because she was so successful, she was moved by the Bishop in the mid-1990s to develop the Primary School in Mtandika. This she also did very successfully until she had to retire a few years ago at the Government’s statutory age for teachers of 55. The Primary School now has 550 students and a very good academic record. By UK standards the facilities are still very basic. The classrooms are dark and dusty with the minimum of teaching aids. Exercise books are of poor quality and not all students have money for books and pens. The six or so teachers live in mud huts in the Mission grounds. Having said that, the facilities have greatly improved since Sister Barberina moved to Mtandika and the exam results are now some of the best in the country.
Mtandika Trade School Background Information
Since she retired from being Headmistress of the Primary School in 2005, Sister Barberina has been developing a Trade School at Mtandika to provide skills training for girls who are either orphans or have no fees for secondary education. Sister started by building a classroom and dormitory for the Trade School girls who were given sewing lessons and learning to make garments to sell. This activity has attracted funding from Tadworth Overseas Aid Trust [TWOAT] from 2006 who pay for part of the salaries for the teachers at the Trade School.
Because many of the children do not have homes locally, accommodation is critical. So Sister then built extra accommodation blocks, not only for some of the girls attending the Trade School but also for some 80 girls attending the local Lukosi Secondary School. By 2008 Sister Barberina had completed the main classroom and accommodation blocks for the girls. She had also built a 70,000 litre water tank and provided solar lighting in the existing blocks.
Cooking and eating was still carried out in the open air and in addition a staff accommodation block was needed. So in 2008 Sister started building a dining room/general purpose hall, a kitchen block and a final accommodation block. These were all complete by 2011.
The girls are taught to be as self sufficient as possible and grow their own food and rear animals in the school grounds. Having said that, certain produce still needs to be purchased in Iringa and in 2008 Sister purchased a second hand pick-up to enable her to transport items more efficiently than by using the local buses.
Water supply is critical as water is not only required for every day purposes at the school but for irrigating the shambas [allotments].TWOAT have also helped with this aspect, early on funding the digging of a shallow well and providing a hand pump and later on funding the provision of pipes when water started to be pumped from the nearby perennial Lukosi river, some 500 metres from the Trade School, using a petrol pump. However this depended on Sister having sufficient funds to be able to purchase the petrol. Therefore at the end of 2010 it was decided to purchase a solar pump and this was installed by March 2011.
As well as supporting Sister Barberina in her capital expenditure, some 10 of the children at the Trade School and 30 at Lukosi Secondary School who cannot afford the fees, for whatever reason, are being sponsored in amounts varying from £120 to £250 / year respectively. Education is essential if Tanzania is to fully develop its full potential and anything is possible given the opportunity. One example is the case of Flaviana Charles, one of the orphans from Mtandika. Flaviana went on to get a Degree in Law from Dar es Salaaam University in 2002 and in 2010 received a Masters in International Law and Human Rights at Coventry University. She has now returned to Tanzania and set up her own law practice helping the less well off. Several others who have been sponsored are now teaching. Several of the more recent students who have been sponsored are now starting out on university courses.