A Model Tanzanian School Matron

To celebrate Maji Safi Group’s five-year anniversary, we are continuing our series of guest bloggers from the Maji Safi Group (MSG) community. Our second guest is Angelister Mwinuka, matron at Katuru Secondary School in Shirati. MSG has been working with Katuru for several years now, and Angelister Mwinuka has been an extraordinary partner in breaking the silence about menstrual hygiene and bringing awareness to the importance of school attendance. In March this year, MSG opened Female and Male Hygiene Clubs at the school. The clubs will continue the positive changes and the more welcoming school environment MSG’s programs have facilitated.

We hope you enjoy reading about Angelister Mwinuka’s inspiring experience and knowledge.

1. What changes have you seen in students at Katuru Secondary School since partnering with MSG?

Since MSG started, we have seen an increase in attendance rates, and the girls have learned how to keep themselves clean at all times. We now have supplies to stay healthy, like water and soap, and we have extra pads if students need them. Since MSG came, girls are in class more, and fewer girls have asked for permission to leave and go home because of menstruation. I have also noticed that more girls are passing their exams. Additionally, as a school, we have started small income-generating projects, like farming vegetables, to help pay for feminine supplies like pads and soap, so the products are continually available.

2. What changes can MSG bring to schools in Tanzania?

MSG can bring a big change. If people learn about WASH and their bodies, it will help prevent diseases. Students and parents will know more, and they will be able to work better because they are healthy and don’t have to spend money at the hospital or stay home sick.

Healthy students are also able to sit in class for longer, concentrate better and therefore, perform better.

3. In your opinion, what issues have menstruation brought to Katuru students?

During menstruation, female students are not comfortable, and they are embarrassed to be at school around boys. They have pain during their period, which makes them stay home from school. They feel even more uncomfortable when they don’t have the right supplies, and they feel more comfortable at home since there is no place to change their pads at school. If they stay at home because of pain or lack of resources, they miss the lessons. This causes women to have lower passing rates than men.

4. What are the things that schools in Tanzania really need?

There should be enough education about menstruation to explain that it is not a disease and to help young women understand themselves better. Schools should have enough supplies to enable girls to stay in school during their period (pain meds and pads), and schools should have enough water and clean toilets. It is important that the girls have a place to wash their hands and get dressed, so they look nice when they come back to class. There should also be enough education for women and parents and more attention on how to educate girls and keep them protected while they go through puberty. It is often their parents who decide to keep them at home, and then they miss classes. The parents need to help support their children, so they can reach their potential.

5. In your opinion, what are the ways MSG helps people in the Rorya District?

MSG brings new ways to spread education, so the whole community gets the necessary knowledge and makes changes to the environment. When people understand how to prevent disease, they can see opportunities for change all around the community.

It would be great if MSG could also teach outside of the Mara Region because people would live in a healthier environment, and it would help the economy. Hopefully, MSG can go to Tabora and Dodoma and even Dar es Salaam, so people can understand their own health and help build a healthier country.