WH Chronicle Special Report

Jan 25, 2011

I experienced Tear Gas for the first time today. 

Chronicle Special Report
Sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming, but we have breaking news.
This just in…(adjusting ear piece and squinting face in order to hear)…..protests on Makumira Campus. 

The students are now three months without their money from the Tanzanian Loan Board.   Hunger and fainting students have sparked protests Tuesday morning.    

Just as I was happy to have internet and finish up the most recent Chronicle, I noticed crowd noise from the office window.   The students were chanting and shouting, but it appeared isolated and everyone seemed relatively calm.

I jaunted off to lower campus to teach my classes.    All of my students were already in the classroom but definitely aware of the situation.  About 20 minutes into class, we heard the protest march getting louder and closer.
Students:  “Teacher, we must not stay here.”
Daris:  “Why?”
Students:  “Because if they see us studying, they will become mad, because we are not sharing their pain.   We must leave.  The situation is not good.”

So, I did like any good teacher during a riot and passed out their homework so we could depart.

After locking up the  classroom, we meandered upstairs to the fourth floor balcony to observe all the activity.  My students were translating the chants and phrases to me.  I asked if there were any references to ‘white people’.  They laughed and assured me that there is no danger unless you are in the middle of the protest when the riot police show up---or perhaps breach riot etiquette by staying in class.

The parade made their way through campus and headed for the main highway.  The students sat down on the highway in order to stop traffic in both directions.  No better way to ‘send the message’ and have the riot police summoned.  

As predicted, we heard gun shots from the highway.  The students explained it was ‘bombs’ to disperse the crowd---their name for tear gas.   Sure enough, we saw the the crowd running towards campus and big poofs of smoke by the highway.   We viewed the event from a prime location---until the smoke started wafting our direction.  Cough, sputter, choke…chuckle…

This is the fifth University in Tanzania where this has occurred.  The Loan Board states that they’ve sent the money, and the Universities claim they haven’t received it.   Regardless of who’s telling the truth, the students lose.

Two years ago, the students were denied admission to their final exams and the University administration indicated the fault of the ‘Loan Board’.   The students blockaded campus gates and physically removed the Bursar from his office.  They took him to the bank on a public bus and the problem was temporarily resolved. 

Some of our music students ran up the stairs to seek refuge in our observation deck or ‘sky box’.  They report the brutality of the riot police.  Civil disobedience in a developing country is dangerous business.   People are not merely arrested for peaceful blockades, and violent police are considered the norm.  Protesting is not for the faint of heart in Tanzania. 

People chuckle, shrug and move on.  It happens.  It’s usually not a big deal, but just a step for the people to obtain progress.

 It reminds me of my first Texas “Tornado Warning”.    I went running around inside the house to find a safe hiding place.   Then, after more warnings than I had energy for, I realized that one needs only to stay alert and pay attention.  That’s the way the people treat this situation.  The whole time there were people wandering around as if nothing was happening…just like Dorothy. 

Thank you for tuning in….more news when it happens.

“There’s no place like home.”  Dorothy, Wizard of OZ

Not clicking my heels yet,

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