It was a great honour to host Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever in March 2019
Dr. Maria Kamm, an icon in the education sector in Tanzania and beyond, joins Lyra in Africa as Honorary Member and Patron
By Roselyne Mariki, Lyra Tanzania National Director
“It was one of my greatest moments, when Dr. Maria Josephine Kamm accepted our request to join the Lyra Tanzania Board as Honorary Member and become the very first Patron. I’m one of many who call her ‘Mama’, a person who shaped the education of thousands of girls over a four-year period of lower Secondary Education. She was the larger-than-life headmistress of the Moshi-based Weruweru Girls’ Secondary School from 1970 to 1992. To-date she still treats all of us as her daughters.”
Roselyne Mariki, Lyra National Director, and Weruweru alumni
So how does one describe Mama Kamm? While it’s impossible to capture her journey, it is notable that she is and started her life from a humble beginning, born in rural Iringa in June 1937. She attended Tosamaganga Girls School (Iringa), Loleza Girls (Mbeya) and later Kilakala Secondary School (Morogoro). Her foundation in education was built in Tanzania, and in her later years she studied at St. Mary Notre Dame, Indiana and Syracuse University NYC for her Masters’ degree.
She started teaching in 1965 at a number of Secondary Schools and later at Weruweru Girls - Tanzania's top school for girls under her 22-year leadership - where she inspired and motivated thousands of girls who have later become very successful women in different fields. She is a strong believer of combining classroom teaching with entrepreneurial skills building (self-reliance spirit), and all girls who passed under her leadership have and continue to achieve both. She retired in 1992 after registering the Mama Clementina Foundation to help educate young girls who became pregnant while at school.
Mama Kamm, has a record of breaking down barriers so that girls, especially those less-privileged, get a valuable education. Her name has been engraved on the plaque containing the history of the struggle of girls in Tanzania, in the last five decades.
Mama Kamm was deeply inspired by the educational philosophies of Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first President, known affectionately by Tanzanians as ‘teacher’- Mwalimu. Mama Maria Kamm founded the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation in honour of Mwalimu’s great legacy. She is a beneficiary to many awards both in and outside the borders of Tanzania.
A mother, a teacher, a politician, a businesswoman and a philanthropist, she is a shining example of a true Tanzanian woman achiever. It is a great pleasure to Lyra in Africa to have such an iconic woman, a driver of education in Tanzania, as part of our team. We welcome you Mama on behalf of all the girls in Iringa and Tanzania whose lives you continue to touch. -
The commissioning of Mlowa Girls’ Hostel was a highlight for Lyra in March 2019. Located in the largest Wildlife Management Area in Tanzania, Mlowa Secondary School has 446 students. 80% are from Maasai Pastoralist families spread out across Ruaha National Park. Some children have to walk up to 24kms a day to reach school. The distance, and the risks that they face en route, means that there is a high dropout rate, especially from girls who encounter challenges like sexual advances and attacks on their walk to school.
After a fire destroyed the hostel in 2017, Lyra has completely refurbished it, with the generous support of the Infinity Foundation. Currently housing 92 girls, Mlowa hostel is our 10th hostel. We are delighted that nearly 1,000 girls now have safe places to live while they study for the education they deserve.
Tumaini Mbepati, 17, was ready to drop out of secondary education when a motorcycle driver made sexual advances toward her. She believed that being with him was the best option for her future.
“I thank my parents, community leaders and school management, for rescuing me from what would have been the worst decision of my life. I am now back in school and I live in the hostel. I am studying very hard to ensure that I pass my final exams and make a difference to my society, and also to be a leading example to other girls. My plea to parents is to bring their children to stay in hostel. It is safe, there is a lot of time to study, and it helps us not to be exposed to the daily challenges as we walk to and from school every day. Thank you so much to Lyra for restoring this hostel – we now have a safe space place to live and study. I now love studying, I love this hostel.”
Lyra is introducing Digital Learning to Mlowa secondary school too. Teachers and students will benefit from the world-class educational resources available through ‘Rachel’ (Remote Access Community Hotspot Educational Learning). Also, in partnership with Southern Tanzania Elephant Programme (STEP), Lyra is working to lessen wildlife and community conflict by engaging students with conservation of the land and animals around them. The beautiful mural painted on Mlowa hostel’s wall was collaboratively drawn by a local artist and the girls, to inspire the community to celebrate their rich wildlife heritage.
Building a hostel always amounts to more than the bricks of a building. Mlowa Girls’ Hostel is another example of a community expressing their commitment to girls’ education and a better future for their children.