We flew out from the UK earlier this week for another return trip to Arise School. As always, there was that moment of great relief when we got through immigration at Kilimanjaro Airport without being asked to open our suitcases! Invariably, our cases are overflowing with items for the school. On this occasion, they included books, stickers, sports equipment, two laptops and knitted hats! Yes, the school is at an altitude of over 4,000 feet and it can be quite chilly here at this time of the year, as we are finding out.
We were back at Arise the following morning. It was good to be greeted by many of the staff we already know and new staff who have joined since we were previously there. The children were enjoying their morning break in the play area and ran to give us such a warm welcome. It is always so great to see their smiley faces. They had only returned at the beginning of this week from their month long school holiday and were clearly pleased to be back in the company of their friends after the break.
Once the children were back in class, we were able to do a tour of the grounds and buildings. It is the end of the rainy season and everywhere is looking so green. The plants and shrubs that were planted at the end of last year are already so well established. The birds of paradise and other tropical flowers are beautiful. There are bananas, avocados and papaya on the trees ready for ripening as the temperature rises over the next few months.
All three classrooms that were built last year are now in use and we were delighted to see that the base for the final three classrooms has already been completed. The oldest children are preparing to sit the first part of their national exams in November. When the morning break finished, they returned to their desks – arranged outside under the trees to ensure no copying! – to sit another test paper.
As we walked back to the office to start our discussions with Frank and Salome, there was a quiet buzz of activity coming from the classrooms. It is hard to believe that only five years ago, in a field in this remote corner of Tanzania, the footings for the first classroom were just being dug!