Tourism students and washing success

I have done so many things in the last few days and the fun and consultation continues. I will write an entry about my fun weekend in a few days, but today I want to talk about the wonderful students in met at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA). On Thursday, I had the privilege of listening to several students in the first year of their three year tourism program give presentations about various project ideas they had to either increase tourism or support local people through tourism or both. I learned a lot about the island of Ungujaa (what they call the specific I island I am on) and Pemba (the other main island that makes up Zanzibar. There are some other small islands that have mostly animals and a few have tourist spots.

The students were practicing their English and working on the differences in writing a quality powerpoint versus an academic paper. In addition, they were working on speaking extemporaneously more and not reading the powerpoint. Understandingly, giving a presentation in your second language, you feel nervous, especially with a native speaker in the room.


I was incredibly impressed by the students and the knowledge they were able to present in English and the ability to talk about topics without reading. In addition, I was also extremely impressed by the classroom pedagogy and the ability of the students to give peer review and recognize their errors in spelling, organization of the powerpoint, and pronunciation. I would have been much less confident if I had to present on my field in Swahili to them. We talked qualitatively about ideas to strengthen their ideas and I was able to give some advice as a tourist who had done some of these things or experienced similar tourist attractions.


Finally, I feel triumphant because I successfully used the semi-automatic washer. The steps included 1) filling the washer water and a little soap, 2) running the wash cycle 3) rinsing the clothes (see below)


4) putting them in to spin, and


5) making sure the water drains properly while spinning (and after the wash cycle).


Then, I hung them on the roof clothesline to dry in the sun and got to see this beautiful view.


Beautiful views

As promised, here are the pictures of the State University of Zanzibar Tunguu campus. It is so sunny and beautiful. These are the big academic and administrative buildings.



This is the library.


Here is the view from the library.


They also have a resource room of various materials to support the teaching of children with special needs in their inclusive education program. They have had a lot of computers and braille machines purchased from a grant for the room.

 IMG_2420 IMG_2419 IMG_2418 IMG_2417

The students made this fabric poster with different practical skills that people participate in their community. It is hard to see in the picture, they have sewn buttons on the fabric to be the braille letters for the words in the pictures. It was a class project and so clever and a great use of cheap, locally available materials.


Yesterday, I met the Vice Chancellor, the DP of Academic Affairs and the DP of Administrative Affairs. They were very nice and welcoming. I was particularly impressed with all their support for the programs and the active work they are doing to improve the university and all the work with different partners around the world. In addition, they are taking advantage of technology and using many resources online. The campus has good wireless and wired internet in the offices.

I have also noticed subtle cultural differences between Zanzibar and other places in Tanzania I have been. While I realize that I have mostly been with Tanzanians and in situations where I am a professor, when I have been out in the market or walking by a very popular football match, I did not feel harassed. I have not been in downtown Stone Town yet, where many tourists are, but there is just a different feel here so far. Hopefully this weekend I will get out and do some exploring in Stone Town or on the beaches of the island.

On the way to the university one day, we had to stop and pull over because the second vice president was leaving his house to go to the airport or into town. The motorcade and stopping of traffic was the same procedure as in the US and rather orderly.


Rooms with a view

Just a brief entry today.

This is my office space at the university.

 IMG_2408 IMG_2409

This is the dean’s office at the university. Look at that fantastic view.

 IMG_2412 IMG_2413

Tonight I wandered down the street near my house and found milk and toilet paper. Then I found a café that caters to Americans and Europeans with a fantastic sounding breakfast on the roof. I plan to try this on the weekend. They have juices included and the juice here is fantastic. Yesterday I had hibiscus juice that looked like a berry juice and my colleague had tamarind juice that was a burnt orange color.



A new island adventure

Today marks the beginning of a new adventure. After about 26 hours of travel, four airports, and a suitcase that didn’t arrive with me, I was delivered to my studio apartment for next 2 ½ weeks. I have learned about two communities in Tanzania so far. Now, I am going to learn about Zanzibar. For those of you who don’t know, Zanzibar is an island off the southern coast of Tanzania. It is truly a tropical island and the weather reminds me a lot of Hawaii. Zanzibar is the yellow island. Map courtesy of

This morning while I was waiting for the driver, I was first soaking in the sun, but then thinking about the sweat rolling down my back. We haven’t had that kind of heat in Boston in a long time. It was refreshing after the winter we have had. I am here for 2 ½ weeks at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) learning about local early childhood settings and supporting them in the development of a new diploma program in early childhood teacher education program.


Today I spent getting oriented to the university (which has a beautiful campus with wonderful landscaping) and I will provide pictures later. I got my modem charged up with GBs, a new phone number, and a few groceries for dinner and breakfast.


I will leave you all with these wonderful pictures of apartment. I have all the modern conveniences I would want. There is even a washing machine. I am still not sure how to use it but I will share that experience too.  IMG_2401IMG_2404IMG_2405

The view from my balcony. I am right next to a fish market with very fresh fish this morning. Tomorrow I go to the university to work on the curriculum document.


To label or not to label? That is the question.

One of the topics that I have long been contemplating in my work around disability in Tanzania is the ramifications of identification and labeling and the specific words used by teachers and students about disability.

This past week I presented a poster about the words used and the themes around the understanding of disability in this community. One of the important pieces that was not included in the poster, but developed in my thinking as I discussed the understandings of disability was the fact that teachers and parents have seen their children grow and develop through the supports of the program and they are overcoming some of the negative labels. Because of the progress on educational outcomes, children are seen as academically and socially capability. The key question for me is: Can they overcome or challenge a label of a disability in a society where it is not accepted or do they have a better chance for overall success if they are just overcoming labels such as slow learner or lazy. I am in no way saying that the kids we are working with do not have developmental delays or learning disabilities, but are those labels useful in this context? DADD Poster 2015

The poster is attached here for your interest. If you are a researcher or someone who wants to cite information from this poster, please give credit and use the following citation:

Stone-MacDonald, A. (2015) Identification and Labels for Young Tanzanian Children: An Examination of Labels for Children with Intellectual Disabilities. Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities International Conference, Clearwater Beach, FL,  January 22, 2015.


Long overdue post on the joys of Legos for all ages!

IMG_2339 (4)This is a very long overdue post from my trip last summer to Tanzania. I was working on a poster about this study for a conference next week and realized that I had not done this post yet.


Last year before leaving for Tanzania, our friend Dave at the Lego store wanted to help out. He very kindly donated a big shopping bag full of Legos of regular shaped bricks to The Toa Nafasi Project for the children. His kindness and generosity were greatly appreciated by myself and Sarah, but more importantly by the children. They had never played with Legos before but absolutely loved it. We did it when we had some other visitors so that we had a lot of supervision and support.


You will see children of all ages building and having fun.

The kids were so creative and I am sure it contributed in some way to developing problem solving skills and their overall academic development. Here are some wonderful pictures.


The Legos continue to be a source of fun and learning for the children and teachers.

Exploring more of Tanzania near Moshi….Lake Chala

I am very happy that Sarah’s visitors and and the Eid holiday offered me the opportunity to do two touristy things I had not planned on….kayaking on Lake Chala and doing a day hike on the Marangu route of Mount Kilimanjaro. Mike and Sofia C and Phillip P were my young companions and adventure partners.

On Tuesday, we drove out to Lake Chala, about an hour from Moshi, and we went kayaking on the lake and Sarah and the parents relaxed and read in the gazebo above the lake. You can see it in some of the pictures.

The video below gives you some idea of the view and the walk down to the lake dock.

The dock was straight down below the gazebo area and the pictures in the video do not do justice to the steepness of the path. We were definitely not mentally prepared for that.

Phillip (left) and Mike in the kayak.

Phillip (left) and Mike in the kayak.

Sofia and I shared a kayak.

Sofia and I shared a kayak.

The path down to the kayaks

The path down to the kayaks

The area of the lake where we kayaked

The area of the lake where we kayaked

If we had gone to the left at the far end of the lake we could have kayaked into Kenya. But, it was really windy on the water and we all had trouble controlling the kayaks. Also, because they were the kind you sit on top of, we were all wet and sweaty from effort and dusty from the road to and from the lake, so we all needed a shower when we got back. I was glad I had worn light fabrics that dried easily.

What a busy week and the promised video

Greetings, my faithful blog readers. We have had a fun and eventful week with many visitors. When I first met them on Saturday, family and family friends of Sarah, they were visitors to the project and to Tanzania. By the end of the week, I felt like a part of their families. We shared many adventures and experiences this week which I will write about later. We spent two days at school meeting the children and doing different activities. We had two days of holiday for Eid when I got to go on a day hike on the Marangu route up Mount Kilimanjaro and go kayaking on Lake Chala. Both of these activities I was not planning on, but was thrilled to get to do them. We also had one rest day in between to plan activities and recuperate from our adventures.

To entertain you all until I complete some of my blog posts, please see Sarah’s blog about the paper bag puppets and the Makerena. Yes, there are videos of me doing the Makerena.


The beginning of the visitors

On Friday, we had three visitors from the International Association of Special Education (IASE). The Toa Nafasi Project are a volunteer project site for the organization where members can come to see the project and volunteer their time and expertise as current or former special educators to support the work. Mary Gale Budzisz, the former president and coordinator of the volunteer projects and Dr. Iris Dower, current IASE president came and were taking in all the activities and the students.


She escaped my picture, but Meghan Gallagher, a special education assessment specialist in the US was also in the group.

The teachers very much the day and appreciated the praise for their work and the suggestions that were given. One suggestion was implemented right away, we rearranged the desks so that they were in a semi-circle. Because we are bringing in larger groups for the opening meeting of each group session, the larger number of kids required a different arrangement so all children had good access to the teacher and the board and the teacher could see each student well.

After school, we went shopping for some new classroom supplies for the teachers and students. I am most excited about the new individual chalkboards we got so that all the students can participate individually doing what the teacher is doing on the board or give their own answers before the answer is shouted out.

This week, we have more visitors, some of Sarah’s family and friends of her family. We have been hanging out with them over the weekend and they are very nice. I am sure they will be featured on the blog sometime this week.

Multiple ways to the same goal

Teacher training makes me so happy! I think it is so much fun to see the teachers really get it. Last year I taught our first teacher Veronika about using number lines and teaching kids to start from the biggest number and count up and she understood, but had not necessarily seen why that was better than their traditional ways. Traditionally, the kids will see a problem such as 5 + 3= and first count 5 bottle caps and then count 3 bottle caps and then count all of them to arrive at 8.

Teacher training time

Teacher training time

We are working on getting the kids to start at the bigger number (5) and just count out 3 bottle caps and add on 6, 7, 8 to arrive at the answer or to use the number line and start at the 5 and jump up 3 places to get 8.

counting for math in the traditional way

counting for math in the traditional way

Today, we went over these techniques again. When she worked with individual children, she showed them this new way and told them she wanted them to try this new way to find the answer faster. They didn’t understand at first, but she stuck with it and worked through their confusion. I know that it will take awhile for them to adapt, but it was fascinating to see how they realized that it could save the children time and work towards the automaticity of their basic facts. When a different teacher was working with a child and reverted back to the traditional way, Veronika encouraged her to focus on the new way and offer him more than one way to find the answer.

Counting using the new way

Counting using the new way

Because they teach small groups of children, we have instituted a “morning meeting” or a whole group instruction time at the beginning before the students do their individual work in their notebooks. We made a calendar and the teachers are doing calendar and counting and days, month, year activities at the beginning of every group. On literacy days, they are reading stories and working on word building and on math days, like today, they count the number of students, desks, and windows in the room and identify shapes and colors from cards and around the classroom.


The students also really enjoy these new activities and are so much more animated and excited to do calendar or stories or counting their classmates. It was really fun and gratifying.

A student excited to be at the board participating in class and giving their answer

A student excited to be at the board participating in class and giving their answer