By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Through connections with Quad-City-area Catholic schools, students at Amka Afrika School in Babati, Tanzania, will now be able to learn English a little easier and have a place to sit and study.
Ann McConachie of Downers Grove, Ill., and Linda Meadors of Moline, Ill., were part of an African safari earlier this year that led to this cultural exchange opportunity.
Meadors said when planning trips she likes to blend culture and education. So she arranged to make a stop at Amka Afrika school, which had recently moved to a new site. The school had been in a Catholic church building, but the parish was going to start its own school. So, the founders of Amka Afrika and students’ parents hand-built a new school.
“There are two rooms and a roof. That’s it,” said McConachie, a former school teacher in Illinois.
The two women and others in their group spent time visiting with the students and their families and learned that the native language is Swahili. But this school is pushing English at a young age.
Among the people the Illinois women contacted upon their return to the United States was Teresa Williams at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport.
“They heard we had a new basal reading series for our kindergarten through fifth-graders,” said Williams, the K-4 academic support and Title I coordinator at All Saints. “Ordinarily we try to donate (textbooks) to a school in need, sell them, and if all else fails – recycle them.”
Since All Saints didn’t have any leads on what to do with its old books, it agreed to donate the series — which includes teacher and student editions, workbooks, assessments and grade-level readers — to the Tanzanian school. Whatever the school does not take will be donated to a school in Haiti, through another contact Williams received after this process started.
Meadors, on a visit to All Saints last week, said Swahili is spoken primarily in primary schools like Amka Afrika. English is spoken in the secondary schools. “English is used at the government level because the area is formerly a British colony,” she said. “The three teachers at the African school are anxious to learn and improve their English,” McConachie said. They want to teach English.
McConachie said Amka Afrika has 22 students ages 3-12. “After our safari was over I stayed on for a week at the school. Of course I fell in love with the kids and the teachers.” She plans to return in January for three months to help the teachers in Tanzania use the donated materials from All Saints.
Desks, chairs and other items were donated to Amka Afrika from Jordan Catholic School’s former Sacred Heart site in Rock Island, Ill. Vern and Loma Wegerer of Moline, Ill., were on the trip with McConachie and Meadors and arranged for the donation. All items were delivered to Chicago last week for shipment Aug. 31 and arrival is anticipated in November or December, McConachie said.
Williams is excited that Amka Afrika would like to start a pen pal program. She invites other schools in the diocese to consider participating in the pen pal program, which would assist the Tanzanian students in practicing their English skills and allow American students to learn about life in Africa.
“If possible, we would also like to investigate additional needs they may have at their school. It would be great if we could offer them help throughout the year,” Williams said.
McConachie said donations of books and other school supplies are still welcome. Schools may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.