Helen Paul
Chapter 01
Chapter 02
Chapter 03
Chapter 04
Chapter 05
Moza Helen


I'm Helen Paul and was born in England many years ago. I am already retired. Our association is called 'Sisi Pamoja - Gemeinsam mit Pemba Island e. V.' Pemba is a small island off the coast of Tanzania. The history behind our association; as I said, I was born in England and later became a primary school teacher and educational psychologist. At some point in time I thought I would now like to travel, that must have been in the mid-80s, and then I travelled around the world for a whole year. When I returned it was clear that I didn't want to be a tourist any more but wanted to live and work alongside others so as to get to know them properly and to some extent be integrated. I then applied for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), a volunteer organisation in the UK, and ended up in Zanzibar. I was there for two years and supported teachers with methodology and educational psychology. That was long before Zanzibar became overrun with tourists and at that time there was absolutely no plastic on the island. A few years after having returned I had another contract but this time on the neighbouring island of Pemba where I organised in-service training for primary school teachers of English alongside Moza Said Salum who I got to know there. I returned to Pemba from 2012 to 2014, again with VSO. After that friends said that we should set up an association here. So we did that eleven years ago. We support a few specific projects. My friend Moza now has a private nursery school called Star Nursery. It's important to know that pre-primary education is compulsory on the islands but the conditions are far from ideal. Star Nursery is the best nursery school on the island. We support this institution which in the meantime has one hundred students. The students are there for two years and have to learn Swahili, Maths, English, Arabic as well reading and writing. We have a sponsorship project so that local disadvantaged children can be supported financially. This is paid by sponsors in Germany. One committee member, who is a lawyer, is responsible for this project. We also support two remote schools which are extremely disadvantaged where there is no electricity or running water.

When we run workshops for pre-primary teachers and teacher training, I always used to take the money in cash, hidden in my bra, with me. The funds that are donated are used one to one in our projects. We pay for the flights ourselves. Everything is invested in the projects and that is one reason why people donate. We pay for bits and pieces here and there, for example 25 Euros for paper but that is minimal. I have already mentioned Moza and she lives in Chake Chake the main town on the island. Moza and Zainab, who used to work for the pre-primary school department on Pemba, helped plan and run the in-service workshops because there are on the ground and know what the teachers need much better than I do. They talk to the teachers to do a needs analysis by asking the teachers 'What do you need?' The workshops were then led by the three of us. The teachers were able to make their own teaching aids. We dealt with topics like storytelling and practising how they, as teachers, present the stories with the students in the classroom; as well as short dialogues, different aspects. It's really enjoyable when we go the schools and see how the children speak English. It's important to start early with language learning.

In our trainers workshops always had one or two other trainers to support us with the workshops: A workshop lasts from Monday to Friday, from the morning to the afternoon. We involve advisors and pre-primary inspectors from the ministry so that the whole system is involved and the initiative comes from our partners and not from us. We support the work financially which is good as the ministry does not have sufficient funding for that. It helps that I can speak Swahili and am well-known on Pemba, and many people have known me for many years. I'm the 'Bibi', the mother. I have a house which is next to Moza's house. We do the workshops in my house as there is enough space and we can save money in that way. Moza is responsible for organising the refreshments during the workshop. We pay for that as well as the bus fares for the participants.

One of my early experiences on Unguja (Zanzibar) was in 1984. I met an elderly man in traditional clothing. The story was like this; the man greeted me one way and I replied and there was a different greeting and a third and fourth - at least; each time I could answer and add something - the man said - 'Well she really knows Swahili'. This is because greetings are a real ritual there. Everything is a bit slower. But the culture has radically changed since 1984, over the last 40 years - really changed. Islam has become stricter Pemba is 99% Moslem: but tolerant and friendly and the people are really happy when you can speak Swahili. If you are ill you are visited. I feel at home there and have made friends.

You need to learn Swahili. Many people on Pemba cannot speak anything else. You are more a part of the society if you can speak the language. If you don't have a common language there is no real exchange and you can seem impolite. You cannot read between the lines. In Swahili the passive and causative forms are used much more than in English or German which means that messages are not always so direct. You need to work out how communication works and as I said you need to be able to read between the lines and that's really fascinating.

transcript by Helen Paul