U.S. Soldiers Conduct 'Book Drop' in Tanga
Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army's 4-414th Civil Affairs Battalion delivered more than 1,000 books to rural schools near Tanga, Tanzania, August 24, 2009.
"Today we went to three schools ... two primary schools and a secondary school and did book drops," said U.S. Army Captain Bernice Logan, Team Four's team leader. "We work with the government officials of Tanzania to try and find out where the need is. Once we get a list, we put together a plan of action, call the headmaster or headmistress of the school and set up times to deliver the books."
The books were donated from various entities including Books For Africa U.S.A., the public affairs office at the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania and Combined joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).
"A couple of months after getting here in Tanga, the Embassy said they had some books sitting in a warehouse. They asked us if we could use them, and it was perfect," said Logan. "Every time we go to a school and meet with the headmaster they ask us, 'Do you have any books?' It was perfect! So I got the education officer in Tanga involved, they provided me with a list and we went to these schools on a need basis."
According to Logan, many of the schools in rural Tanga lack the funding to supply the school with an adequate teaching staff let alone books. It is common for a school of 1,300 children to have only 22 teachers. That equates to more than 59 students per classroom.
"They are lucky if they get one book per classroom and the teacher writes everything on the board and then they [students] copy that," said Logan. "Being able to provide these books allows the teacher the time to do more teaching instead of writing."
Ali Osman, board chairman for the Tesla Learning Center at the Usagara Secondary School that received books from Logan's team, agreed.
"Students here do not have access to text books at all," said Osman. "Those that can afford to buy books have to buy them for themselves in shops, but many can't afford it. By having these books here, you are actually making them available to the students so they can study. Thank you very much to you guys for bringing these books to us on such short notice."
In addition to "book drops," Logan's team also provides other services to the local community.
"If the villagers are having a water problem and need to walk five miles to get water we will go to that village to check it out and find out what the problem is," said U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Larry Vandernberg, team sergeant. "Is the well dried up? Is it contaminated? Or did somebody steal the pump? After we complete the assessment, then we will see what we can do to help."
Working in cooperation with the government in Tanga to assist the local population is intended to build security and stability in the region.
"By strengthening health and education, and providing them books and school refurbishments, we provide a better environment that will help build security capacity," said Vandernberg.
Soldiers from the 4-414th are on a 12-month deployment to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and will be departing Tanga soon.
"We came here on December 2nd so we have been here for nine months and have two months to go," said Logan. "I can not say enough how I feel when I can help someone and they are so grateful for the assistance; whether it's a book, a soccer ball for their kids, putting clothes on a baby or putting shoes on a kids feet at an orphanage. Everybody has welcomed us, been very kind to us and I can't say enough for that. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be here in Tanzania, and to have experienced the culture and people and most importantly to make a difference. It may only be a small one, but at least we are all contributing."