A background of Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania was founded in 1964 when the country of Tanganyka (the land of Tanzania on the African continent) and Zanzibar (the island of Tanzania) merged together. Prior to this, Tanganyka was governed by Germany, and then Great Britain after World War I until independence was proclaimed. Juluis Nyerere was the first president of the United Republic of Tanzania.
The political capital of Tanzania is Dodoma; located in the centre of the country, it’s an 8 hour drive from Dar es Salam, the former capital and today’s economic centre.
Tanzania has a population of 55 million (UN Data) and the official language is Swahili, English is also widely spoken as it is taught from nursery school. The main religions practiced are Christianity (44%), Islam (30%) and animism (26%).
Tanzania is regarded as a stable country in Africa. Since its independence it has been at war only once, against Uganda, in the late 70’s. Today it is also a host state to thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries at war (DRC, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda). The country is divided into multiple districts such as Gairo, and its political system is multi-party. The current President is John Mugufuli, from the Party of the Revolution (CCM).
67% of Tanzanians live from agriculture. Poverty remains a great challenge as 70% of the population lives under the poverty threshold. Indeed, 72% of the working population (76%) lives on less than $3.10 a day
Moreover, only 21% of the population has access to electricity in urban areas and only 7% in rural areas.
According to UNDP, Tanzania has a (very) low human development percentage.
The literacy rate is 70%, which is quite high compared to other neighbouring countries; this was increased post-independence when Nyerere applied a social policy that was partly centred on education.
A background of Gairo
The town of Gairo became a district in 2013 and is located in the Morrogoro region on the Dar es Salam – Dodoma road. It represents a high transit point.
Today, Gairo counts between 30’000 and 35’0000 inhabitants and comprises of both Christians and Muslims.
It is a rural town, far from the main cities, with arid lands and very little access to water. There are seven public primary schools and three public secondary schools of which one is advanced level.
Poverty in Gairo is very high and has diverse impacts on daily lives:
- Water: A lack of water access represents a great challenge for the population. There is one – seasonal – natural water source coming from a river in the mountains and there are some public wells accessing groundwater. Both sources are difficult to access and are not considered safe.
- Food: Due to the dry climate causing arid lands coupled with the lack of water, agriculture is difficult and consequently food prices are high. The main productions in Gairo are maize, potatoes and sunflower. The most widely eaten dish is ugali, a paste of maize flour mixed with water and sometimes coupled with beans.
- Electricity: Tanesco is the only public electricity provider in Tanzania, costs are high and average at 160$ per month. Over the past three years the provision in Gairo has improved however electricity remains irregular and can often be interrupted for several days.
- Health: Due to the level of poverty and the problem of distance, access to medical care remains very difficult. Health related deaths in Gairo are mainly caused by (high rates of) HIV and Aids, Tuberculosis, Malaria and maternal and infantile fatalities. The latter is partially due to a lack of medical care, food and hygiene. Children born in hospitals receive a free polio vaccination and malaria net; however the nets are often not taken care of or are misused.
- Education: There are ten governmental schools in Gairo. However their rates compared to other public schools in the country score quite low. Attendance by both teachers and children can be very low due to the expense and distance from home. Furthermore during the harvest season children help in agriculture and consequently do not attend school. The Bethel Centre offers nursery school to an estimated 100 children and welcomes 250 of them at least once a week to provide a meal and teach general knowledge.