Tag Archives: School

T + 365 (A year in Mwanza)

A year has come and gone since we left the UK. We flew out on the 22nd August 2014.

It really does not seem like a year. In many ways it seem like a lot less – the fact that we have been able to FaceTime /Skype family and keep in touch with friends via social media means that distant as we are geographically we have felt close. The world has truly got smaller in the last few years.

In other ways it seems like we have been in Tanzania for ever. Life is so different here. It’s not just the weather – an eternal summer – whether dry (as it is most of the time) or wet (as it is occasionally). Generally a more relaxed lifestyle a more outdoor life and a more sociable life. Eating out is cheap and much more part of life here. Wages are low but housing comes with the job so money goes farther. It has enabled us to travel: Serengeti, Zanzibar, Rubondo, Uganda earlier in the year and our recent journey south through Tanzania,Malawi, Zambia and Botswana have given us great adventures and amazing experiences.

In fact you don’t have to travel far to get amazing views in Mwanza – Wag Hill, Malaika and Tunza are but a few miles from here.

Teaching here has had  it’s share of frustrations (what job doesn’t) but I don’t regret a moment. The work-life balance is so much better than the UK, the students polite, respectful and hardworking in the main and I work with a great bunch of colleagues.

As we reach this milestone – it is a time of transition here – new colleagues are arriving this weekend – just as we did a year ago. Many old colleagues return this week, but others have left for other jobs across the globe, so school will change. I wonder what colleagues were thinking a year ago as we and a bunch of others arrived!

Power cuts, low water pressure, poor roads, a lack of reasonably priced quality chocolate, cheese and bacon are major negatives but actually day to day life is fairly normal and you can get quite a lot here if you look. We are lucky compared to some that we get relatively few power cuts.

The wildlife is amazing here- not just in the Game Parkscolourful birds and  lizards in the garden, monkeys at school.

We love our house and the compound garden.

No one can predict the future and certainly the sliding Shilling and upcoming elections cause concern in some of the local ex-pat community. For us the lack of a job for Anita, following a chance to do some maternity cover this past six months, makes it difficult to imagine as much travel in the year ahead. We will just have to see.

Looking back it’s been a great year and I am confident whatever happens year 2 will be just as amazing – even if it’s different.

End of Year

Today is the last day of term, the year has shot by. The students left yesterday but staff are in today. Those leaving are clearing out, those staying like me are tidying up. 

So for me it was a chance to tackle the cupboard in my room. It brought back memories of clearing out my office a year ago. 

There are a number of colleagues departing this year (the nature of International Schools with two year contracts I suppose. Qatar, Thailand, Uganda, Australia, Romania, Netherlands and the UK are all on the list of next destinations for colleagues.  

The year has flown by. I have achieved a year without absence for the first time in many years (possibly only the second time ever!). 

A year of teaching ICT – in many ways the same as ever but in so many ways different.

A year in which no child has been openly defiant, no child has sworn at me- these two are occurrences sadly unheard of in the UK.  A year of well behaved and eager students, hot weather, wet or dry. A year of monkeys in the playground, exotic birds in the trees, new computers, old computers, power cuts and generators. 

So the term is up and holidays about to start. You can follow our Summer travels on a new blog Victoria to Victoria

Drive Home from Work

Now that we have a car we have begun to explore Mwanza on four wheels. It was particularly useful last week when my wife was admitted to hospital with Malaria.  Whilst we don’t always drive to and from work preferring to walk, there are  occasions when we do. Here is the route to and from work which is bumpy to say the least. Much of the ‘road’ gives an off-road experience and it is vital to have a four-wheel drive.

Snapshot 2 (20-06-2015 18-14)

Here is a video of our route home from work.

Grey, Green & Glossy

Outside the staff room on the branch of the tree a Hadada Ibis;grey, green and glossy.

Bat on the Balcony

This afternoon at the end of lesson I noticed something tiny on the ground just outside my classroom door. I almost mistook it for a piece of rubbish. Then a student pointed out it was a bat. I thought the creature was dead but it wasn’t. I carefully picked it up by a leg and put it on a ledge fearing it would be crushed in the lesson changeover. 

I could see it’s chest beating but it lay motionless playing dead perhaps. It was on it’s back so I thought itmight be better on it’s front – you never know with bats?  

 After the lesson changeover and as I had no lesson myself,  I decided that it might be better on some foliage so using paper transferred it to a nearby tree. It remained motionless but breathing throughout.  When I looked two minutes later it was gone. Flown, dropped, alive, dead. I will never know but it was interesting to get up close to this unusual mammal if only for a few minutes.  

On Your Marks!

Today is the Isamilo International Swimming Gala. This annual event involves schools and swimming clubs from across from across Tanzania for two days. 

As staff many of us are involved in timekeeping. There are strict rules and there are three timekeepers per lane. The middle time is adjudged as the official time and as judges it’s important to be accurate especially in the shorter races. 
                It’s hot out here so plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a must in the baking Mwanzan sun.          

Monkeys On The Roof

Today was the first of six practical exams I will invigilate over the next six working days. These two and a half hour exams are mind numbing. So in the silence I contemplated my next blog post. This is written below in the form of a poem conjured in my head at the time. There may be others.

Note the monkey image was taken back in September.

They love to run.
They love to leap. 
From roof to roof.
To tree to roof.
A proverbial herd of elephants.
In fact a troop of monkeys.
Above my head.

Above my head.
As I sit in the silence.
No other sound.
But monkeys.
Running, leaping, jumping.

Only in Africa!

Morning Sweep

Each morning on the walk to work we pass through another local Tanzanian school. The children brightly dressed in purple and yellow, are working away with little brushes, home made out of palm branches, they sweep the paths around their school. The patterns on the soil following a sine curve in the sand. Leaves and some rubbish is collected into sacks which are deposited elsewhere.

Then at 7:30 the gong sounds and they rush to lessons; some stragglers running to get there on time.

Hot Runnings

I must be mad and though I’m not a dog I’m definitely English, furthermore although it wasn’t the midday sun, here on the equator it was strong enough. So why did I go running?
Continue reading


It’s mock exam fortnight here at Isamilo. Week one has just ended and week two follows. With two year 11 groups It has meant a lighter week’s timetable but with it has come the most dreaded task of a teacher Continue reading

Guest Post – Life Comparisons: UK and TZ

This is a  guest post  by Bex

I am a student in a school in Mwanza and have been a student in various UK schools. This new school is a lot smaller than my previous school and the amount of people in my year group in the UK are the amount of people in the of Secondary. Despite it being smaller and the lessons being shorter, School runs from 7:55 until 3:15 whereas in the UK it was 8:30 until 3:15. This means we have more lessons, 5 a day is now 7 a day. Lessons are signaled to a close by a large bell which is rung by various year 8’s although it is often early. Lockers are bigger here although you have to bring in a padlock and key to keep it secure, but in the UK we had designated lockers and were given a key. We are also allowed to take bags around with us but in the UK we were only allowed to take books needed for the lessons you had before break or lunch.


My New School Grounds


Monkey on the Compound

Because of the school being that much smaller it allows time for being social. I have made friends with people in various year groups – not just my own – younger and older. I mix a lot with the other children on the compound and we play games like my version of Cricket, and climbing trees and many other things.

Birthdays (30)

My Birthday

My life in the UK was boring, hardly seeing friends and forever relying on technology. Although I do use technology I prefer to do things outside and talk with people. I am older than most of the other children who live on the compound so I normally see it as my job to look after the younger ones.

Our House

Our House

I love living here it’s so different to my old life – I feel much better and much more relaxed and all the holidays that I have been on are so much more than I ever had in the UK.


Weekend Away at Wag Hill

Day 3 Serengeti  (419) - Copy

Elephants in the Serengeti


Star Fish on the Beach in Zanzibar


Prison Island Zanzibar



I hated the idea of coming here, I cried and did not want to leave at all, but I came and I am so glad I did. I like it here more than I ever anticipated. I obviously miss my friends and family terribly but this is an experience that can never be repeated.


Goodbye to Family

Old Friends

Old Friends


The Show

Tonight is the final performance of this year’s school production, “the Importance of Being Earnest”. This comedy play, written by Oscar Wilde stars among many leading characters our two children. For my daughter it’s her first major role. For my son it follows on from a minor leading role in “The Hunchback of Notredame” at his last school.
The first night reviews were good and with both getting praise from colleagues.
We’re looking forward to seeing the show and will hopefully post some pictures after the performance (after 7:30pm GMT / 10:30pm local).




Upper School

Since there is an extremely loud disco going on nearby and I’m highly unlikely to get any sleep soon another blog post.
Today has been a hectic day with a variety of social activities to fill up 12 hours from 10 ’til 10 of which more another time.
After Saturday School I did have an hour before the Border Patent’s Visiting Day Lunch. So I decided to do something Inhad never managed to do so far and explore the school grounds. In particular those parts on the hill. Our school is built on a hill and above the pool area there is a Cricket Area and above that a Netball Court. On the other side above the football pitch there are Tennis Courts and a Squash Court. Then a wild area of trees and scrub which lead up to a water tank on top of the hill. This wild area was remarkably peaceful and gave some great views of the Lake. Loads of butterflies too. A great place to sit for half an hour or so.





Saturday School

After over three months here Anita and I thought it about time we visited Saturday School.
This is a charitable outreach by the school into the local community providing free education to local children. Each Saturday Morning the school opens it’s gates for two hours to provide lessons in a range of subjects including English, ICT, Art as well as sports such as Swimming, Football, Basketball.
These activities are mostly run by students who plan and deliver the lessons assisted by a very few teachers. The students seem to enjoy the classes and most come back week by week to do things that otherwise they would possibly never get to do.IMG_9514.JPG






Charity Fair

Today was the date in the Calendar when the school holds it’s annual Charity Fair in aid of Saturday School. IMG_9472.JPG On Saturday mornings Isamilo opens up it’s facilities on to local children to provide free education, including computing and English as well as swimming. The Charity Fair is open to the whole community and each tutor group runs a stall. Other stalls are run by local artisans or by parents, The visitors pay s modest entry fee and then buy tokens which are used as tickets for the various stalls. Unfortunately, Anita (Malaria) and Bex (UTI and Amoeba infection) were both too poorly to come do it was just Matt and I who went. Matt was helping to run the “Sponge The Teacher” stall, of wich more below.

My tutor group ran a stall whereby people paid for water balloons which were then thrown at members of the group. A hit gave points which led to receiving a bookmark or sweets.

My role was to wander through the event making sure things were OK (which they were). Which gave me a good chance to see all the different activities. Other than this there was the “Sponge The Teacher” stall in which I participated. This was great fun but very wet. A token bought 3 wet sponges aimed at your head which peered through a hole in a board.

The day finished off with a raffle. I had bought a single ticket – Peach 66. I so wish I had got a strip as Peach 65, 67 and 69 all came out of the bucket. Even so it was a great afternoon and the rain held off until after 6 when we’d finished.

A Comprehensive Change

As we approach half term here (1 week today). I thought I’d reflect back on the first term and the differences between being here in a Tanzanian International School and a British Comprehensive.

Continue reading

Living In Harmony

Isamilo is a school with a wide range of ethnicity and nationality.As I wandered around the playground on duty today I was struck by how harmonious things were. The playground was as noisy as any I’ve been in and the littlest ones were madly dashing about as per usual (the school runs from 5 to 18). What was interesting was to see the groups of children across the playground. Wazungu (White expatriate), Wahindi (Indian Tanzanian), Tanzanian and Arab (Omani Expatriate), all intermingled. In the UK my general experience was that students tended to segregate. It’s nice to see a more harmonious approach here. I think it is reflective of the general peace found in this part of the world. Tanzania seems to my early eyes a stable and peaceful country. Whether it is or not the peaceful co-existence of Hindu, Muslim and Christian is good news at Isamilo where the students seem quite comfortable with their differences and happy to be friends.

The Tree At The Back Of The Classroom

The tree at the back of the classroom provides shade and is a popular resting place for the monkeys and birds. Or rather it used to, for today it has gone.
Following heavy rain early this morning the tree (rotten through at its base) crashed on to the road outside – luckily no one was injured. It was a big tree and must have been there many years. The view from the windows has enlarged markedly, but it was a shame.IMG_8945.JPG
The whole road was blocked and as a result staff and students were delayed. Within half an hour or so half a dozen or so Askaris (watchmen) were at it with machetes and an axe and were carving at the wood.

By lunch the road was clear with the remaining trunk left leaning over the fence – to be cleared another day. All this without the aid of a chainsaw.

For those who might wonder, no students were harmed in the taking of these pics, snapped during a non-teaching lesson, at break and while students were engaged in research activities.


Staff Room Visitor

T+ 16

Following from my earlier post. I came across this chap as I entered the Staff Room during a free period this morning.



IMG_8726-0 IMG_8728-1

He didn’t stay long though.



I wonder what the monkey thought as he  sat there – what was it that drew him – was the the chance of a free meal of something or other or just inquisitiveness. He sat for a moment in the tree gazing back through the window and then with a great bound lept up into the tree and was gone.

Monkey Business


It’s not every day that you come out of the Staff Room and encounter a troup of monkeys bounding across the roof, or look out of your classroom door and see the same monkey troop sauntering through the grounds and opening up the rubbish bins for food. Such is life here at Isamilo School. In so many ways my daily job is as ever, bar the aging technology. However, you really feel you are in Africa when you see sights such as these.