….But the lessons learned are for a lifetime.  This is what we at Toa are coming to grips with as schools in Tanzania remain closed just as we look ahead to the traditional month-long “winter” break from mid-June to mid-July.  We still have no clear idea of when they will re-open though most other aspects of Tanzanian life have remained, or returned to, normal.

Last Friday on the May payday, Deputy Director Augustino Valerian and our accountant and legal guru, Kalpit Solani, met with the 29 Tutors and Head Tutors, Tutor Leader Hyasinta Macha, Office Manager Navo Stanley, and Assistant Deputy Director Ema Mnubi to discuss the way forward if schools stay shuttered.

We have agreed, sadly, that if we cannot return to our work in the classroom once the public school holiday is over, it will be necessary to reduce salaries temporarily to ensure that we will have enough capital for the rest of the year and beyond.

Though our fundraising team has been exceptionally successful in sussing out grant opportunities, making the applications, winning multiple awards last month, and participating in #GivingTuesdayNow as well as other small campaigns, we are very cognizant of how the events of 2020 will negatively affect fundraising in 2021.  We know we need to squirrel away some nuts now so as to not be flat-out later.

Therefore, Toa leadership – in conjunction with the board of directors – has made the difficult decision of what to do in case we are out of school for the long haul.  By taking these measures, we are hoping to keep the project alive for the future and preserve each and every staff member’s job with salary and benefits.  I personally am hoping to tack on some additional perks when the pandemic abates and we get back to regular work such as health insurance (with dependent coverage for the tutors’ children) and some small across-the-board raises for the inevitable post-COVID cost of living hikes.

Still, it stinks.  No two ways about that.  Empty school grounds that used to overflow with noisy, excitable pupils….  Football fields with nary a player….  The headmaster’s office locked and bolted….  Toa tutors masked and uncertain what the future holds….  And countless numbers of children in a country of 56 million people with no access to education whatsoever for nearly three months.  This is public primary education in Tanzania right now.