As previously mentioned, Ali, my guide for my tour of Zanzibar, was not the best. Everything seemed to be geared around his needs. Instead of taking me to all the places we discussed…the universities, townships, the beach and the nature reserve, we dropped in at a few of his friends houses without explanation . It quickly became clear that this was a ploy for me to part with my money, as all of his friends kept telling me how skint they were. I’ll share anything I have with anyone, but not a bean if I feel I’m being used. Ali looked pretty miffed that I didn’t part with any cash and had to slip folk a few bob himself. He was a helpful tour guide in some ways though, pointing at a melon and saying ‘look, a melon” and at a cow saying “that is a cow” (I kid you not). David Attenborough must be shitting himself. I wouldn’t have minded as much if he was a cheeky loveable rouge, but he was a conniving, obvious little smart arse. Full up with the lid on, as my grandma used to say, and certainly not how I had been treated by anyone else in Africa.
Eventually we ended up at his old high school, again so he could talk to some of his old mates who worked there. I saw my opportunity and wandered away from this self-consumed nut and chatted to some teachers. They allowed me into a classroom to talk to the students. This could have been any high school classroom in England. All the swotty lasses were at the front, working hard on a science problem, and most of the lads were at the back being rowdy and chucking stuff. I asked if I could have a kick-a bout and was told I could, for five minutes, but not on school grounds. There was a bit of land to one side of the school I could use. No sooner had I asked one or two students to play than around 40 of them were following me out of the school gates !
A minute later we were having a brilliant game, girls v boys, 15 v 15 (at a rough estimate). I had been told by one of the teachers that over 90% of people living on Zanzibar were muslim. It was quite a sight to see those 15 young woman in full flight today, their white hijabs flowing in the breeze as they took the fight to the boys. They scrapped valiantly and laughed and shouted all the way through. The lads had a bit too much for them though and quickly took a 3-0 lead with some well placed shots. I encouraged the women to pass more instead of just wellying it, but they just ignored me and ran about everywhere having a great time. I joined in for the girls team and the old magic returned for about 6 seconds, beating four before my back-heel was cleared off the line. I asked three of the boys to join the girls team as by now there were more of them. This resulted in a couple of quick goals to bring the score to 3-2, but hope faded as the boys ran out eventful 4-2 winners. What a good laugh. No animosity, no daft tackles, just great fun. A colourful, loud battle of the sexes played in a fantastic happy spirit. By the time we’d taken photos and chatted, at least half an hour had passed. I was in the bad books and narrowly avoided detention for running over time.
As it stands, there is no universally free education for secondary school age children in Zanzibar. If your parents cannot pay then that’s you snookered. Its sad and totally outrageous in 2018, with all the natural resource wealth which Tanzania possesses, that it cannot guarantee all of those happy, tiny tots I’d met earlier at the kindergarten the chance to explore their potential beyond age 11.
For those who do complete secondary school, the future is not much brighter. University fees exclude the majority of school leavers, with most going back to their families; some to work but most, according to one of their particularly pessimistic (or realistic) teacher’s, to ‘remain idle for the rest of their lives” due to the system and lack of prospects.