Our Students from Tanzania

Our Students from Tanzania

Family Life in Tanzania

In Tanzania, both the nuclear and the extended family live in the same house. It is very rare to have a household composed of just the parents and their children. In urban areas, both parents may work and may be mutually responsible financially for the support of their family. However, as a general rule, in most families the man works outside the home and the woman is a homemaker. The father has primary authority in the Tanzanian family. In urban areas, or less traditional families, the mother may comment on family issues, but the final say on many matters comes from the father.

Families usually eat together in Tanzania, however sometimes the father is served the best food before others are served. Teenage girls sometimes cook for themselves and for the family, but boys are generally not allowed in the kitchen and would not be allowed to cook.

Teen Life: In Tanzania, sharing is encouraged amongst teens, as resources in most families are scarce. It is not always necessary for teens to ask before using another’s belongings. Individuals are encouraged to pursue their own activities in Tanzania, but tribal customs and the importance of family mean that students will typically spend the majority of time with their family and contributing to family activities. Teenagers socialize in social clubs in the school, as well as debate and other clubs. Parents are not involved much and are rarely aware of their student’s activities, especially when it involves school clubs.

Responsibilities: Some families in Tanzania assign duties to members of the family including the children, but not all. A lot of the work at home is done by a housekeeper or guard, and the mother does most other work. Very few men do any family chores. Parental

Involvement: Teens in Tanzania tend to be very dependent on their parents. Most teenagers get their money from their parents and a very few teenagers earn their own money from petty trade. Some YES Tanzanian students are not used to managing their own money, and often struggle with budgeting. Most parents cannot monitor what the children do on the computer, as they are not computer literate and very few families have an internet connection in their homes. Most students access internet services in internet cafes.

Pets: Very few families in Tanzania keep dogs and cats, and they are not allowed into the house. Animals are fed outside the house and not close to people. Dogs are primarily used as guard dogs.


Tanzanian schools evaluate student grades based on performance on tests and exams. While homework may be given, it is not compulsory for the student and it will not contribute to the overall grade.

Classes: In Tanzanian schools, students remain in one classroom throughout the day while the teachers rotate. Class participation is not encouraged nor regarded when grades are calculated. Muslim schools separate girls from boys, while Christian schools tend to be co-ed. Many Tanzanian parents are in direct contact with their children’s school and are kept aware of their academic progress. Students are allowed to study subjects at different levels of difficulty; however, students have limited choices of their school subjects. After Grade 10, students typically must choose between a Science, Art, or Business track, with coursework focused primarily on those subjects.

School Relationships: Students in Tanzania have a friendly, but formal relationship with their teachers, and address them using a title and last name.

Extracurricular Activities: Tanzanian schools may have a few extracurricular activities, and students will participate and often make friends through these activities. Common athletic extracurricular activities include: soccer, netball, and basketball. Other activities may include: needlework, cooking, art, environmental clubs, swimming, English language clubs, and gardening clubs. These clubs are most often conducted outside of the regular school day, and separate from the school.

School Rules and Attire: In Tanzania, there is a “no cell phone policy” in schools, but the policy is not well enforced. Fighting is prohibited and punishment is strictly enforced. There are also rules regarding cheating, and students who cheat are reported to their parents. In some cases, students caught cheating are sent away from school for a period of time. If the cheating is severe, students may be expelled from school.

Returning from Exchange: Returning YES Tanzanian students may have to take their national exam within four months after their return. Students from Tanzania will need their U.S transcripts to bring home with them, in order to prove they were studying in the U.S. The transcripts also help in the registration of their Final Form 4 examination with the Tanzanian Board of Examinations.

Personal Interactions

Mixed Gender Socializing: Girls and boys are kept apart in schools and mosques in Tanzanian Muslim culture. Co-ed socializing is accepted in Christian culture. As a general rule, though, students tend to socialize with students of the same sex.

Friendships: Tanzanian teenagers make many friends through families, schools, and religious meetings. Sharing is encouraged, and students even lend each other pocket money. Even a casual acquaintance may be considered a friend.

Communication Styles: Communication is typically indirect in Tanzania. Students often will not show negative feelings to their parents, but are more open around their peers. Teenagers sometimes communicate to their mother through aunts, uncles and grandparents, but typically not directly. Communication to their fathers may occur through their mothers.

Eye Contact: Eye contact in Tanzania is considered rude and disrespectful, other than for some few modern families.

Cultural Norms: People in Tanzania are not very concerned with punctuality, and feel there is plenty of time for everything. YES students from Tanzania may need some time to adjust to more strict schedules while in the U.S.

Food and Culture

Large portions of food are common in Tanzania. Eating leftover is also common practice.

Guest Culture: In Tanzania, guests are welcomed in to the home and are offered at least small food and drinks. It is expected that guests will try at least some of what is offered, but it is not taken as offense if the guest does not finish the food or drink.

Lunch and Diets: Students in Tanzania are accustomed to hot lunches, and cold food is normally reheated. Students rarely pack their own lunches, as this is normally done by the mother or a maid.

Religion: Religious events can be a family and community event, or a personal one. It is not uncommon for family members to belong to different denominations or religions entirely. Muslim men typically go to the mosque every Friday.

Holidays: Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are celebrated by both Muslims and Christians, especially in Zanzibar. On these holidays, Muslims go to mosque and Christians take a bank holiday. Muslim students fast during the month of Ramadan.

The main Tanzanian-specific holidays that students will miss are:

• Tanzania Independence day - December 9
• Islamic holidays of Iddi and Maulid
• Nyerere Day- October 14
• Union Day- April 26
• Workers Day - May 1

Personal Hygiene

It is generally thought to be unclean in Tanzania to wear the same clothes two days in a row, or to wear them twice without washing, however many students do not have many clothes and some may repeat their clothing throughout the week. The school uniform must be clean and pressed every day for school, and students will change clothes immediately upon returning home. Teenagers in Tanzania hand wash their own clothes, as they have to appear in clean ironed uniforms each day.

Students would not be familiar with the use of American washing and drying machines. Students in Tanzania typically shower at least once a day, if not more if they are from a hot and humid climate. Most teenagers do not have towels and rather they air dry. Keeping the bathroom clean and dry is not expected of teens in Tanzania.

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