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An Example Woman

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by MwanaFalsafa1, May 24, 2009.

  1. MwanaFalsafa1

    MwanaFalsafa1 JF-Expert Member

    May 24, 2009
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    Erick Kabendera
    Mwajabu Possi, an associate professor in educational psychology at the University of Dar es Salaam, remembers taking a walk with her albino son a few years ago when she heard a child calling out for her mother to come and see a ‘mzungu’ child.

    When the child’s mother finally emerged from her house to see the Caucasian child, she was seemingly amazed to learn that her child had mistaken an albino for a mzungu because of his skin pigment.

    Instead of patiently correcting her child, the mother instead told the child that the boy he had thought was a mzungu was actually the ‘devil’s child’.

    Mwajabu says she stopped and asked the mother what she would feel if it was her child who was called names.
    “She said she had not wronged God to give her an albino child,” recalls Mwajabu.

    When a parent has disabled children such as hers, Mwajabu says encountering such experiences is normal. It could come from a woman who thinks she will never give birth to an albino or an expectant mother who doesn’t want any contact with an albino child, fearing that it would bring bad luck to her and eventually afflict her child with the same disability.

    When Mwajabu gave birth to her first child in 1978, the newborn was an albino but she accepted the baby knowing that she was the right woman to care for such a child.

    “I am a specialist in special needs education and I have at least some financial stability, so I could take care of the child. I believed God had his own reasons for giving me such a child,” she says.

    She gave birth to another child, a daughter who is not an albino, and then a third child who is albino, but Mwajabu says having two albino children didn’t make any difference in the way she treated her kids.

    She says they are all hers and she is very hurt when people say bad things about them.

    As her two albino sons were growing up, Mwajabu says she would make sure that every person who visited her home saw the children and interacted with them.

    “Both families, my husband’s and my own, accepted the children when they were born…. We wanted our visitors to understand that our children were like others,” Mwajabu says.

    She is now glad that both children are grown up and have made her proud. Both are graduates in law but the lastborn is in South Africa pursuing a master’s degree in law and the firstborn is a lawyer in Dar es Salaam.

    Two years ago when the first cases of albino killings were reported, Mwajabu’s lastborn was studying at Mzumbe University in Mbeya and Mwajabu had gone there to visit him.

    Students heard her asking for him and became curious to know who she was to make sure she was a good person, because people with albinism were in danger and the university community had taken up the initiative to ensure albino students were safe.

    Stories of albinos being hacked to death were particularly disturbing to her sons, says Mwajabu.

    She says having such children has shaped the way she leads her life. For example, she goes to the market once a week to make sure that their nutritional needs are catered for.

    “Albino children need food with vitamin C, so I have to cook for them or supervise how the food is cooked to make sure everything is okay. This is part of my life and I cannot avoid it,” she says.

    Had it not been for her caring husband, Mwajabu says it would have been difficult for her to look after her children on her own especially when she would travel outside the country for different programmes and further education.

    She spent four years studying for her PhD in the United States at Ohio State University, and her husband stayed with the children throughout her absence.

    One of her role models is Birgit Brock-Utne, a Norwegian professor in education and development who has researched extensively in Tanzania on education issues and with whom she once worked on a research project in the country.

    The 90-year-old professor taught her to be courageous particularly at that time, when girls were being discriminated against by men or even other women and were not given many opportunities to advance their careers. “She is 90 but still with her husband.

    She taught me how to become a gender activist and still keep my family and husband,” says Mwajabu.

    Last month, Mwajabu’s four-year tenure as the director of the Institute of Journalism and Mass Communication (now the School of Journalism and Mass Communications) at the University of Dar es Salaam ended.

    As she leaves the office, she vividly recalls the day former president Benjamin Mkapa appointed her as the principal of the school in December 1999, when it had not been affiliated with the University of Dar es Salaam and was still known as the Tanzania School of Journalism, run under the prime minister’s office.

    “It was a big shock to me, because I wasn’t a journalist by profession and I kept asking myself why the president decided to choose me,” she says.

    One of her priorities when she officially started work as the head of the institute was to establish an affiliation with the University of Dar es Salaam and she immediately started preparing a proposal, which was accepted in March 2002.

    The Institute of Journalism and Mass Communication was then officially launched on July 1, 2003, after Mkapa revoked the Tanzania School of Journalism Act No. 8 of 1981. Mwajabu subsequently became the first woman director after the merger to head the institute.

    The merge meant that students would receive degrees instead of Advanced Diplomas in Journalism, although courses such as the three-month Basic Certificate in Journalism and the one-year Advanced Certificate in Journalism were retained.

    Students would also receive certificates from the University of Dar es Salaam, an act regarded as an effort to improve credibility in the journalism and communication job market.

    Mwajabu next took on the task of introducing radio and television stations for her students. She says she thought it was important for a journalism school to start the two facilities to give students a chance to ‘learn on the job’.

    After Mlimani Radio finally hit the airwaves, Mwajabu turned her attention to starting up a television station, but she hit hurdles in securing funding.

    With the help of the Chinese government the television station also began broadcasting, but not without raising some eyebrows.

    “When it finally took off, some people still thought the television station would lead the institute into bankruptcy,” she recalls.

    But her arguments were that the institute could use public relations students to solicit advertisements as part of their training to gain practical skills.

    Mwajabu says their priority was not to dwell too much on seeking advertisements because it was a community television station that wasn’t meant to turn a profit.

    With assumptions that students would sometimes be engaged in academic activities and fail to dedicate their time to the station, she says a proposal was passed to hire an experienced journalist to assist the students.

    As she leaves the Institute, Mwajabu says she is satisfied that the tireless work of her and her team has gotten the Institute where it is now.

    Dr Bernadetha Kiliani, a University of Dar es Salaam political science senior lecturer is now the new dean of the Institute.

    Mwajabu says she is happy to relax a bit now because she has been playing a leadership role for so many years.

    Now she will have the time to conduct more research on various special education topics, she says, and she’ll probably publish to become a full professor.

    Mwajabu was born in a religious family, which she attributes for making her strong and introducing her to life’s struggles at an early age.

    She says her father, who used to work for the defunct East Africa Railways and Harbours, was very keen to make sure that his children were well educated because of the exposure he gained through working with people of different races and nationalities.

    “I used to be the first in class and did very well in my middle school examinations. My father believed that girls also should be given chances to study and that helped me a lot,” she says.

    She later joined Machame Secondary School in 1961 where she says she joined an all-girls group that aimed to motivate its members to study hard.

    It was at that time, when she met Mama Kamu, a teacher who taught her to be responsible and work hard in school.

    That was when independence struggles were ongoing in various parts of Africa and the teacher would show them examples of African leaders like Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah and encourage them not to give up and be proud of themselves.

    After completing her education at Machame, Mwajabu joined Chang’ombe Teachers College where she graduated with a Diploma in education and was posted to work at Morogoro Secondary School as a Swahili, English and Geography teacher.

    She was later appointed head of the English department and matron.

    Mwajabu says she later realised that most people she was with in the National Service had earned their degrees already while others had joined the University of Dar es Salaam.

    So she decided to apply through the Mature Entry programme to study a degree in special education in 1995. After graduating from the university, she briefly taught at Forodhani Secondary School and left shortly afterwards to work at the Ministry of Education.

    She later left the ministry and returned to the University of Dar es Salaam for her Masters Degree in education.

    Mwajabu also has a Masters Degree in special education from Ball State University in Indiana and spent a year in 1996 at Harvard Medical School, taking part in a project on social medicine.

    Mwajabu speaks keenly about girls’ education in the country, saying the key challenge is that girls are not well educated and more needs to be done at the family level instead of waiting for professors to initiate the debate on the importance of putting girls into schools.

    “Girls are the ones who grow up and become mothers and parents and should be taught even at older ages,” she says.

  2. kui

    kui JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    A very good example to all women,

    Keep up the good job.
  3. MwanaFalsafa1

    MwanaFalsafa1 JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    You said it. Our mothers, sisters, wives etc. can do big things. The more empowered women we have the better for all of us.
  4. Kaka Mkubwa

    Kaka Mkubwa Senior Member

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  5. N-handsome

    N-handsome JF-Expert Member

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    Salute Mama Possi
  6. B

    Bulesi JF-Expert Member

    May 25, 2009
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    Congratulations for being an activist and at the sametime manage to hold your family together; many women activists have failed miserably in the matrimonial department!!