History of the Peace Corps in Tanzania
Peace Corps Volunteers first arrived in Tanzania (then called Tanganyika) in 1962. Since then, approximately 2,000 Volunteers have served in Tanzania, working in education, health, the environment, and agriculture. In the early years of Peace Corps/Tanzania, most Volunteers focused on education.
As a result of political disagreements over the Vietnam War and former President Julius Nyerere’s philosophy of self-reliance, the Peace Corps withdrew from Tanzania from 1969 to 1979. The Peace Corps had another, shorter period of interrupted service in 1991 and 1992 because of tensions and security concerns related to the Persian Gulf War. In 1992, a thorough evaluation of the Peace Corps’ development priorities in Tanzania led to a decision to focus efforts on revitalizing the program in secondary education. In 1996 Peace Corps/Tanzania launched an environment project, and in 2000 it initiated a school health education project. Today, Peace Corps/Tanzania has about 130 Volunteers; half of them serve in the education project, 30 percent in the environment project, and 20 percent in the health education project.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Tanzania.
As a relatively small player in a country of almost 36 million people, Peace Corps/Tanzania recognizes the need for a strategic vision that focuses on niche areas, where a small number of dedicated Volunteers can make a significant difference. Our projects are in areas where we can play a catalytic or model-building role while meeting Tanzania’s real, identified needs. Thus, our projects in education, health, and the environment have the potential to make a real difference in Tanzania. Our focus on youth, particularly in the areas of environmental education, empowerment of girls, and HIV/AIDS prevention and care, serves our overall “country theme” as it empowers young people to take greater control of their lives and to be responsible, active members of their communities.
The education project continues to play a critical role in math and science education by serving students and teachers in schools, particularly girls’ schools and rural schools. We encourage out-of-classroom initiatives by providing resources and training opportunities for youth leadership and activism by employing peer education models. In January 2003, Peace Corps/Tanzania and the Ministry of Education and Culture initiated a pilot program focusing on computer education. To expand information and communication technology (ICT) in Tanzania, four ICT Volunteers assigned to the education sector began work in 2004.
The environment project addresses community development with activities such as animal raising, tree planting, and changing nonsustainable agricultural practices. It increasingly focuses on youth—the farmers of tomorrow—through educational activities for primary school students and out-ofschool youth. Volunteers in this project work with other Peace Corps sectors to promote girls’ empowerment and to address health concerns, including HIV/AIDS, at the grass-roots level.
Volunteers in the health education project work with partner agencies and government structures to reach students, out-of–school youth, and teachers. The work focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness but other basic health issues are also addressed. Volunteers engage in direct work with students, but also work with teachers to enable them to confidently teach topics such as sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, and life skills that are part of the national curriculum. Volunteers may also participate in health education activities at health centers and in their communities.
Recognizing the seriousness of HIV/AIDS in Tanzania, all Peace Corps/Tanzania Volunteers receive training in strategies for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention and are encouraged to be involved in these activities in their communities. In 2006, Peace Corps/Tanzania is moving into the area of care by providing nutrition education to those hardest hit by the pandemic—people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). Health and environment Volunteers will be trained in establishing home gardens and effective permaculture so they can show PLWHAS and OVCS how to getter better nutrition from food produced through these activities.
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV positive people and working with training staff, office staff and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength, so that you can continue to be of service to your community.