People of Tanzania: Paul

Over 50 million people from more than 125 ethnic groups live in Tanzania. In People of Tanzania, we share their stories in their own words. 

Mwalimu (Teacher) Paul in the classroom, getting ready to rock a Swahili lesson.

“Everyone is looking for a good life. So, this idea of a good life may differ from one person to another. It can be good in terms of freedom of thought, having a good place to live, and to someone else a good life can be defined by what you have. You have a car, a good house, and other properties. The only struggle that we have is to have a good life. My family. To have a family with a good life, a standard life. That is what I’m looking for, and that is what I’m struggling. I’m trying to work with the government and at the same time going to work for the Peace Corps. There are two things: Interest of working with foreigners, especially with sharing my culture and actually continuing to learn foreign culture, that’s my interest. Because even though I were not working with Peace Corps, still I would find another international organization of which I could work for. Doing that but also struggling for making my life better. That’s the thing.

Having been working with Americans for some times, I would say some of the Americans they think that Tanzanians are unable of doing some things or Tanzanians are unable to understand some concepts that is really different. For example, this scholarship opportunity that I got, this Fulbright scholarship. It is run by Americans, but that doesn’t meant that all Americans can qualify for or get this scholarship. Why did this young Tanzanian Paul get it? That means that he has displayed some potential that some Americans lack. That’s the reason they didn’t get it and this young person did get it. The thing is, these Americans, especially with that view, that all Tanzanians cannot do this or this or this, the thing is they can do it. They might lack support, they might lack opportunity to do it, they might lack forum, but they can really do some things which even Americans can’t do.

Tanzania and Japan and even Korea, they were at the same level of economy in the 1960s. Korea and Japan are very industrialized now, but why is Tanzania lagging behind? It’s not that they cannot be like Korea or Japan. They can be, but there is something they lack. It might be because of the colonial background, you see? I believe that is the biggest reason, because of the weakness of the government. Maybe Mwalimu Nyerere*, if he were here, he would say “No, it’s not me. It’s because of the British.” And the British would say “It’s not us. It’s because of the Germans.” So everything will be like that. So I believe they can do some things that even other people can’t do. Support. Opportunity. Forum. That is the thing I would like Americans to understand.”

*A brief history of Tanzania: The Germans controlled Tanganyika, or mainland Tanzania, from 1886-1919. The British ruled the country from 1919-1961, when Mwalimu [Teacher] Julius Nyerere became President. In 1964 Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar merged to become today’s Tanzania.


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