The Power of Education: Witnessing Change in a Village in Tanzania
As we drove into Igoda, I could hardly believe my eyes. When I left in 2011, most of these houses had grass roofs. A motorcycle was still a novelty, to be exclaimed over by children. Little one-room shack shops had just started to pop up along the main road.
This little village in the mountains of Tanzania had undergone a transformation. Now, signs of new affluence were in evidence everywhere: new buildings, new tin roofs, new beautiful, big shops selling fabric, fresh fruit and even toothpaste. And there were cars, CARS parked in front of houses.
Village Schools Tanzania
Village Schools started building a school in this village in 2005. They partnered with the villagers, who donated the land, carried rocks, made bricks, did everything they could to give their children a chance to go to school. When missionary teachers came, they gave what they had: their education and their time. Four years later, the first class of students graduated.
God blessed the project, and more schools were built. More children had the chance to go to school. Many went on to get good jobs in other areas. Some stayed to help build more schools. Some continued their education and then came back to villages as teachers.
The influx of teachers and students from other areas brought more business to the village. The missionaries who lived at the school and the students started visiting the sick in the village, started sending them to get tested for AIDS. People abroad sent donations so these people could take a bus to town and get ARVs (antiretroviral drugs). A former student trained as a nurse and came back to run a clinic right next to the school. Everyone calls him “Docta”.
There are still poor people in the village of Igoda; there are still sick people. But the truth is obvious: God used education in this place to bring renewal. Through the power of education, people’s lives were changed. Children have more options and grow up to help build their communities.
Education is Powerful
I tell this story, because that day I got to witness the power of education firsthand. I was blessed to see something that teachers rarely get to see. In the United States, we know that education is powerful and that it can have a big social impact on people. Those of us whose calling is in education work in the belief that our work can have an impact. We know this in theory, but most of the time it is difficult to see the progress. We tell ourselves we are planting seeds, but we don’t always get to see the harvest. On that day it was easy to see the harvest. This is what I learned:
- Education empowers young people to have more choices for their futures. A higher level of education gives students more career options. A higher level of knowledge helps students to make more informed decisions about their health. Students will have the chance to become teachers or entrepreneurs instead of having no choice but continuing the same work their parents and grandparents have done to eak out a living.
- Education influences families. Whether it is an elementary school student talking to his family about learning the importance of handwashing or a child reading out loud to her family, education helps families grow and learn together.
- Education touches everyone in the community. Students’ achievements bring pride to their community groups such as churches, extended families, and neighborhoods. A group of students bent on cleaning up their town or making sure their neighbors get tested for AIDS can bring new life to a community.
- Education builds economies. In the village, the vendors started adding more school supplies. New restaurants opened for students and teachers. It took a few years, but the economic growth is obvious. At a national level, education among the younger generations provides growth and innovation.
Having been both a student and a teacher, I know that in the United States we do not always appreciate the opportunities we have to further our education. It is important for us to remember that the same principles that are true in a small village in Tanzania are also true here. Education is powerful. It gives students choices in life and empowers them to make changes in their communities and in the world.
Education is a Gift from God
The Bible contains good evidence that God loves learning. After all, when Jesus went missing from his parents as a child, they found him in the temple, reading scripture and talking with the teachers. Similarly, Jesus’ disciples called him “Rabbi,” which means teacher.
In my life, I know that education was a gift I was given and took for granted until I became a teacher. I just happened to be born into a family that values education and had the resources to support me. I know that there is nothing about me that makes me more deserving of this gift than anyone else in the world. In fact, this is what led me to my decision to teach in the small village in Tanzania. How could I not share the gift that I’d been given?
As a teacher, I hope my students are able to recognize that the education they receive can empower them to make choices about their futures, whether they are big choices or small ones. I hope they know that receiving an education is a gift. I hope that when the time comes, they will have the opportunity to make an impact on their families, their communities, and the world.
Mrs. Griffing continues to work as a teacher at Enlightium Academy while living in Tanzania. Enlightium Academy is an accredited online private Christian school which offers the comfort of a homeschool education environment.