Our annual trip to TZ: the adventure begins!
I recently returned from a lengthy visit to Tanzania just in time to celebrate the holidays at home. I would like to share with you, over the course of a few newsletters, my TNSP-related activities. First, I would like to remind you how the sponsorship program operates.
What does TNSP do?
We sponsor female nursing students at selected nursing schools in Tanzania. The three-year program leads to a diploma in nursing and, following successful performance in a national examination, the graduate receives the dual designation of registered nurse and registered midwife. Students are chosen by TNSP for sponsorship at selected schools based on financial need and expected ability to complete her studies.
What does the sponsorship consist of?
Typically we sponsor students for the second and third year of their studies. There are exceptions where our sponsorship may start with the first year or we may only sponsor a student in the third year. Such exceptions are based on financial need for specific students. The sponsorship pays for school fees (including health insurance and dormitory), a small amount of pocket money and an allowance for food. Costs vary somewhat by year of study but are in the range of $875 per year.
How does the sponsorship program operate?
Members of the TNSP Board of Directors travel to Tanzania annually and visit partner schools to select students. When visiting a school, we review student files with a focus on the autobiography written on their entry. The schools typically have 150-175 students who are housed on campus. The staff is also a source of information – they often learn about individual students who are in need of assistance.
Once we have identified students we would like to interview, we meet them and invite each student to complete an application which is followed by a one-on-one interview.
Money for sponsored students is generally sent to the school bank account. The school distributes money to individual students based on our detailed instructions.
We believe that our approach for selecting students for sponsorship has worked well. To date, more than 150 sponsored students have graduated and are working in the community.
Our contact with students
As part of the application process each student agrees to send TNSP a monthly email, updating us about their academic progress, clinical experiences, activities at home when between semesters, etc. All student emails are answered by a member of our Board who is a retired nurse practitioner. Following graduation some students maintain in contact.
Earlier in this letter I mentioned that on occasion, we will sponsor students during their first year of studies. I would like to tell you about such a student that I met during my recent stay in Tanzania.
Rose is currently 22 years old. Both of her parents are alive. Her father has six wives and her mother is the youngest. She describes her father as being old and having many children. The family consists of small farmers, raising crops for food and selling any excess for other needs. In 2012 she completed O-level (first four years of secondary school) but her scores on the national examination were very low and would not allow her to continue her studies to A-Level (Advanced level of secondary school, two years).
I should mention that students in rural schools face additional challenges, such as absent teachers or instructors who are unable to teach certain subjects, a lack of text books, and a lack of laboratory equipment for science subjects. In addition, students who have not paid their fees may not be allowed in the classroom. Girls are especially disadvantaged because they are expected to do various household chores (cooking, washing clothes and fetching water). Distance from the school also has an impact. Rose asked her parents to allow her to re-take O-level but was told that they did not have money for school fees. So, she decided to work for one year to earn the required sum. She worked on a tea plantation harvesting tea leaves and in 2013 she enrolled at a private school. She went on to graduate in 2016 and was eligible to continue to A-Level.
She first went to Dar es Salaam and worked as a domestic helper for a partial year, earning 200,00 shillings (less than $100). In 2017 she enrolled at an A-Level boarding school where the principal allowed her to stay at the school without paying any additional fees because of her financial situation. She graduated A-Level in 2019, applied for admission to a diploma nursing program and was assigned to a school we visit each year in Mbeya. When she arrived in Mbeya she got a job as a live-in housekeeper/nanny with minimal pay. To enroll at the school, she had to pay a certain percentage of the fees to start her studies. She accomplished this by talking to various church groups and asking for donations.
When I met Rose at the school, she was obviously quite distraught. She was not wearing a student nurse uniform but was wearing her secondary school uniform. In talking to her I learned that she had no money for various essentials. I scheduled a meeting with Rose and the principal to make a list of necessary items and their estimated cost and left enough money to cover the total.
Rose is an example of a student who we will sponsor for three years.
When visiting a school, I enjoy taking the students out for dinner. Fried chicken and chips with garnish on the side is the usual treat and fruit juice (no more soda). I try to make it interesting for the students with a few door prizes consisting of flash drives, scarves and a nurse’s dictionary. Here are photos of a few of the happy winners:
We are grateful to the Zonta Club of Berkshire County for the collection of scarves they donated!
I would like to thank all of you for your support of these young ladies. I know that each of them is grateful for what you have given them.
I should add here that your contributions go towards supporting students like this.
In particular, I pay all my own travel expenses and expenses related to entertaining students.
Tony van Werkhooven, Treasurer
Tanzania Nursing Scholarship Program