Basil is my Kiswahili teacher twice a week. He is Tanzanian, growing up in Tabora, a region just to the west of the centre of the country. Mining country; Barrick Gold country. He earned a scholarship to study language in Algeria. Money for most is always tight and even though his father was a teacher, a public school salary is minimal.
Looking on the map at the back of my scribbler I see that, in this huge continent of Africa, Algeria is far from Tanzania. In the six years Basil was studying there, he came home on the bus once. He spent his first year improving his French and the next five learning to teach it – and English as well. He said what saved him from the closed world of Muslim Algeria were the many other foreign students from francophone Africa. Algerians have tight family and religious ties and, according to Basil’s experience, are not welcoming. (His name sounds similar to an Arabic one so he always made sure to answer to this name because people were then more accepting of him.)
Basil was unable to find work when he first came home with his degree, but recently he has earned this position with Alliance française here in Arusha teaching English and Kiswahili and French.
We shared a meal and a conversation together on Friday afternoon when he didn’t have a class and I had finished at the office at 1:30pm. With me Basil spoke softly in French, a gift from him. English is actually his third language, French, his fourth.
Basil has applied to teach in Dar es Salaam with the university. I think he’d have more work and likely a higher salary. Presently he rents a room, must be frugal, and sends salary from Alliance home so his younger brothers can also study. He is content to have this present job.
We finished on this thoughtful but hopeful note: he despairs the current political regime as dishonest – he is not the only one to express this – he thinks, in time and with new leadership, there will be progress. There are more and more new graduates who cannot find work and so it will be these who will force the change. Strength in numbers.