by James Conard
Kowak Girl's Secondary School is an all girls boarding school located at the parish of Kowak. Kowak is a rural parish with the Town of Musoma 50 miles to the south. Musoma is a port on Lake Victoria. Bishop Justin Samba Bishop of Musoma Tanzania resides in Musoma To the north and east of Kowak is the small town of Tarime 25 miles away and where we have our Post Office. Tarime is 10 miles from the Kenya border. Kowak has no telephone but we hope to have one by the end of the year The progress on telephone service has been very slow. I have applied many times since 1980. At present we are connected to Musoma by short-wave radio call.
Kowak Girl's Secondary school began Form I in 1992 and had the first graduation of Form IV in 1995. The School year of Forms I to IV begins in January and ends the first week of December. The school year of Forms V and VI is from July to the following June. A "secondary" school is comparable to high school in USA. Forms V and VI are called "High School" and is somewhat like a Junior College. Anyone who finishes Form VI with high marks is qualified to enter the University of Dar es Salaam or in USA or England. Of course, qualifications, space, and money is always part of the conditions,
Forms I to IV have a bias or specialty in Domestic Science. This means that besides all the other subjects the girls must also take cooking and needle work. In Tanzania all secondary schools must have a bias or specialty such as commerce, agriculture or domestic science. Subjects include English, Swahili, mathematics, religion, history, geography, chemistry, biology and physics. The students have a very heavy schedule from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. with breaks for food and free time, work or sports from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. before returning to study from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Kowak does very well in the yearly national exams from Form IV. Kowak was 43rd out of 656 schools in the nation in 2000.
We began Form V with a bias or specialty in arts (H, G, L,) History, Geography and English in July, 1999. The first graduation of form VI will be June 2001. At the end of August I must build two duplex staff houses for teachers and a dormitory for 60 students. With the completion of these buildings we should be able to open Forms V and VI in sciences chemistry, physics and biology With the completion of this phase of construction, there will be 320 students in Forms I to IV (two streams of 40 students each) and 120 students in Forms V and VI. There will be thirty students in arts and thirty in science in Form V. The same again in Form VI. There will be a total of about 450 students in Kowak.
The school is administered by the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa from the Diocese of Musoma. At the present time, we have five Sisters in administration and teaching. The Headmistress and her assistant are both graduates from colleges in USA. Also we have many African teachers and one Peace Corp member on the staff. As we increase subjects and classes we will increase the teachers. That is the reason I must build more teacher houses.
After graduating from Form IV the students enter Form V in various schools or can try to find work. From the class of 1998 about 50 went on to Form V in other schools. That is the advantage of running a good school with quality results. In time we expect the students to be teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers and office people. Last March I met a graduate of Form IV who was finishing her second year in Law at the University of Dar es Salaam. Another who was 1st or 2nd in 1997 is studying in India to be a doctor. There is a very good reason to study geography as geography teachers are hard to find as the mining industry pays high salaries for anyone knowing geology.
To enter the school, all applicants must take an entrance exam. Last year we had 550 take the exam to enter Form I. We choose them by their marks from all over Tanzania. Poor girls and rich girls are accepted. We try to find full or part scholarships for the poor girls.
In our District of Tarime very few girls go beyond Primary school. As in all countries, education is expensive for the parents. This year the tuition and board is 180,000 Tanzania shillings. At 800 TS. to $1.00 the school fees (tuition and boarding) comes to $225.00 per year per student of Forms I to IV. In Forms V and VI tuition is 250,000.00 TS. or about $310.00. The two greatest expenses are teacher salaries and food. All the yearly school expenses must come from school fees, either from parents or scholarships. The grants for construction have come from various sources but mostly from Maryknoll. Without Maryknoll, Kowak Girl's Secondary School would never have been started.
Tanzania is a very poor country, one of the poorest five in the world. Under these conditions there are not enough schools, neither government school nor private schools. Nor are their enough school supplies, books and teachers for existing schools. Yet without education Tanzania will have a difficult time to raise itself up.