I've just finished my first day here at HakiElimu- I'm relieved and quite exhausted! I definitely feel like an "outsider" but I think it is only because the watercooler language is swahili instead of english. I am taking it upon myself to learn the basics right away; as a "mzungu" I'm thoroughly conspicuous, so perhaps a little language skill will help me to "blend in" (ha, yeah right).
Anyway, a bit about the organization. In Swahili, "haki" means "right", and "elimu" means "education" - thus, the name means, "right to education." And there you have the basic foundation of the organizational initiatives. The mission states that:
"HakiElimu will work to realize equity, equality, human rights and democracy in education by facilitating communities to transform schools and influence policy making, stimulating imaginative public dialogue and organizing for change, conducting research, policy analysis and advocacy and collaborating with partners to advance common interests and social justice..."
For an NGO, the entire operation is highly organized and efficient with a well-established, effective bureaucracy at the core. I spent most of the day pouring through Annual Reports, budget analyses, "information sheets," brochures, working papers, newspaper articles, research reports, and a variety of other publications- it is extremely apparent that HakiElimu has a remarkably positive presence in not only Dar, but the entirety of Tanzania. For a closer look, here's the link to the website: http://www.hakielimu.org. I am working in the Information Access/Community Governance department, which focuses on the dissemination of information to the public. Basically, my department's main focus is to keep both key audiences and the wider public better informed on educational, democratic and human rights, national/regional/local policies, as well as cultural and legislative developments. Thus, greater general public interest and "more creative and vigorous debate" will be generated and the wheels of progress shall turn for the betterment of all mankind!
No such undertaking is done so easily, however. Back in November, HakiElimu began to investigate (and constructively criticize) newly implemented government education reforms...much to the chagrin of the Minister of Education. This man was apparently quite insulted by the suggestions- so much so that he banned HakiElimu from any involvement in field research...ie, we can't go into any actual schools, ever. Ruth said that "HAKIELIMU IS BANNED!!!" headlined every newspaper in the East Africa region. Now, with a new Minister of Education, we are just waiting for the punishment for unlawful something or other to be lifted, so that we can release the loads of contracted research done during our exile. Anyway, it is all very scandalous and interesting.
So, my first day of work was very educational, to say the least. My initial projects include an analysis of the national budget then condensed into "information sheet" form- (this will be distributed to the public by the thousands! ah!)- a new poster design, lots of information compiling, organizing, weeding out and rewriting, photo and image archival (woohoo!) and other such things. I'm pretty excited but all of the number and statistic heavy reading makes me a little sleepy. Then again, that could just be the jet lag...