The Red Dirt

Playing "in and out the bamboo forest"
It’s always hard to tell how much progress you have made as a teacher from a given day.  These children, especially the children that have been with us for years now have grown so much and are unrecognizable when compared to years ago.  But day to day you teach the material, give assessments, sometimes the children do great and other times they don’t.  You just kind of hope, pray, do your best and then try harder the next day.  As a teacher you do have evidence of learning and success in moments.  If you are lucky you see the “light bulb”, a new hand raised high and waving or you witness the children teach each other.  Here in Tanzania it is the same as America, but with one exception.  You can truly see the evidence of a successful day when you wash your hands and see the red dirt swirl down the drain.  

Mt. Kilimanjaro watching over Francis and Mack
Africa is dusty.  These children play hard and they get dirty.  The children here are constantly craving individual attention that they are missing from their lives at home, as they often get lost in their large, sometimes extended families.  Many students will never know what it is like to read a book with their mom or dad or even give them a hug before bed time.  So when we play and learn together “dirty” just happens.  From the moment we enter our school grounds the children are high fiving, holding, hugging, playing, and grabbing at you just for a single moment to share together.  I hear the calls of “Sir” and “Mr. Terry” constantly, every day, all the time.  They want so badly to be educated so they can become a doctor, teacher, pilot or whatever, but many times they just want someone to care.  As Matt mentioned before they are vulnerable, they want to be loved, cared for and to be educated.    The one way I see progress in every day is through their smiles and their complete understanding that this school is here to help them.  That I am absolutely sure of, because today like yesterday and every day before I washed the red dirt off my arms and had proof of their caring wash down the drain. 
Since I have been on school grounds I have been very busy with the many needs of the hotel, guests and the school.  One of my big goals is to really continue to shape the school's expectations and rules.  I can be tough at times when it comes to education and the "kesho/tomorrow" response doesn't work for me, luckily we have an incredible head mistress in Mama Shayo.  She has been throwing me into any class she feels needs help and I have had the pleasure of setting a new school rule and expectation.  Children are now required to address all teachers, adults and other students in English at all times on school grounds.  The only way they can learn is if they are totally immersed in the language and this rule will hopefully make that happen.  Of course this is a big change for them, especially since Swahili is their primary language.  The greatest evidence of it's success today was when I heard the children commanding each other "speak English!"  So now they are jumping rope, playing catch and playing soccer screaming "here" "throw to me" and "kick it" and keeping each other honest about speaking English! 

The boys are showing how excited they are
 All of us at Stella Maris are anxiously awaiting the many amazing guests from St. Joseph so we can show off all our progress and new rule.  They are going to be arriving over the next few days, which means a ton of work will be done constructing two entire classrooms as well as visiting with the children over the next two weeks.  We are busting at the seams in our school and desperately need two more classrooms now...as well as a lunchroom, headmistress office, storage room and teachers' office, but for now the two classrooms will help greatly.  Luckily for us the people of Tanzania are nothing if not resourceful.  For all of us here we know there is no better time of year than when St. Joseph comes to visit, help, pray and play with all of our children at Stella Maris!

Praying before heading home
Today I feel a little better than most days.  We are all so excited to welcome our friends from St. Joseph.  We know that in only two weeks they will build classrooms and transform our school.  It will also grow closer to the image that everyone at St. Joseph and the Mailisita Foundation envisioned when starting this project.  I am also proud knowing today I was able to witness a strong and promising change in our school culture to become a true English Medium School.  A school focused entirely on immersing and helping the children learn more English.  But as always at the end of the day my favorite moment was still watching all the red dirt and evidence of caring and love wash off my hands and arms from all the children our school helped today. 


  1. Hi Mr. Mulligan! How are you doing in Africa? It's really hot here in Libertyville - it was up to 106 degrees yesterday. I wonder if it is hotter here than in Africa? We all hope you are doing well and hope you are having fun.


  2. Hey Leo! I am doing great, thanks so much! I heard that it is super hot in Libertyville! Right now it is much cooler in Tanzania, than there in America. Right now it is very dry, because we did not get very much rain this year, which is not good for the crops. We are hoping for some more rain to help the crops, but it's the winter right now so its only about 80 or so during the day. Thanks for your prayers and well wishes, I am doing very well and all the children are doing very well. I will be sure to tell them that you said hi!

  3. Hi Mr. Mulligan! It sounds like you are having lots of fun and have a lot of special kids in your school. The hot spell finally broke but it is very dry and the grass is all yellow where I go to summer school. It is supposed to get hot again but not as hot as before. I heard on the news the corn crops may be in big trouble. I'm cleaning my desk and looking at lots of things I made in 1st grade and wanted you to know I was thinking of you. Stay safe.
    Love, Willie

  4. Thanks Willie I am having lots of fun. I am glad it has finally cooled off in America. I hope summer school is going well and you are able to take lots of science classes. Sorry about all the grass there, but yea you are right, the crops here are in big trouble. All the farmers are worried about their corn and lots of our children depend on those crops. Almost all of our families are farmers, so they are struggling. Our meals at school are now more important than ever! Thanks for thinking of me and being so nice to leave me a comment, I am always super excited when I see a comment!