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An excursion that changes lives

Lions and zebras on safari, banana beer from the village brewery, football with schoolchildren – the excursions to Tanzania at the Department of Geography are among the unforgettable experiences in teacher training.

two pupils in Africa
© Pixabay

Student teachers are supposed to learn from locals; that is why school visits are an integral part of the Tanzania excursion programme.

The country on the Indian Ocean is a regular travel destination not only because students can discover various forms of the savannah or the mountain rainforests at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Getting to know the locals and questioning the effects of climate change, globalisation and tourism are considerable components of the trip.

Wilfried Hoppe, professor of geographical didactics, believes that “students should have authentic experiences with one of the countries in the south.” He has offered his students an excursion to Tanzania once every two years since 2011. Destinations include the island Zanzibar and the economic centre Dar es Salaam, the national parks of the Serengeti in the northern part of the country and the Mwika region at the foot of Kilimanjaro. A close friendship exists with this region. It was initiated by the Kiel-based association “Rafiki” and has developed into an official city partnership with Kiel in the meantime. Oliver Zantow, founder of the association and teacher at the RBZ Wirtschaft [Regional Vocational Education and Training Centre for Economics] was also the person who made Hoppe start thinking about the idea of an excursion.

“We built a secondary school there with donations because Tanzania does not have enough secondary education,” Zantow explains. The future geography teachers have the opportunity to carry out their mandatory internship at this school (see “insert”). The students also visit local schools during the trip so they can get an idea of how lessons are held. “We go there to learn,” Wilfried Hoppe emphasises. “Our goal is not to show people there how to do things.”

The close contact to local people in Mwika, which is made possible through the partnership with Rafiki, continues throughout all of the destinations in the excursion. A guided hike on Kilimanjaro results in students addressing the issue of mountain guides’ salary situations, for instance. That leads to a critical view of the tourism that has evolved around the volcanic glacier. On the one hand, it creates jobs and a modern infrastructure with airports, lodges and well-developed roads. On the other hand, the tourists produce a lot of trash. “To this day, we still do not know where the trash ends up – probably somewhere on the nearest street corner,” according to Lena Euler, Anke Jürgensen, Angelique Knuth and Linn Steinke, who all went on the first excursion in 2011.

Rena Kristin Deppe even went twice: she completed her school internship in Mwika and wrote her bachelor’s thesis about it. She was impressed by how friendly and polite everybody was. “Everyone in the village is greeted and asked ‘What’s new with you?’” she recounts. She also enjoyed the food. “It is very green near Kilimanjaro; bananas, tomatoes, rice and beans grow there. There are lots of fresh vegetables and delicious sauces.”

Our goal is not to show people there how to do things.

Wilfried Hoppe

The rainforest contrasts with the savannah regions, such as in Lake Manyara National Park. The Chagga tribe lives here and brews beer from certain types of banana – a “test of courage” according to the travel reports written by some students. The spice and coffee farmers visited during the excursions find more takers. “I now also sell fair-trade coffee from Tanzania at the Department. We pay the producers twice the world market price,” says Wilfried Hoppe.

What delights him in particular is that the excursion is the beginning of a life-long commitment for many students. “They often contact me again when they plan on carrying out projects relating to Tanzania with their classes,” he reports. They collect donations, develop exhibitions and produce films. A model A-level examination for geography has been developed in the meantime. “That means the excursions are also changing school lessons in Schleswig-Holstein,” says Hoppe. 

Author: Eva-Maria Karpf