This week our columnist GERALD KITABU caught up with REBECCA GYUMI, a young multi-talented girl who studied at a community secondary school and later at a special school and managed to score a good first class in all the schools before joining the University of Dar es Salaam where she graduated with an LLB Degree in October last year. In this interview she shares her life history, experiences in school and what led to her achievements. Excerpts.
Question: Tell us about your family and educational background.
Answer: My name is Rebeca Gyumi. I was born and raised in Dodoma, 25 years ago. I am a Lawyer and also a TV and Radio presenter at Femina. I am a third born in a family of five children, two boys and three girls. I come from a very humble beginning. I obtained my primary and ordinary level secondary education in Dodoma from 1995 to 2005 before joining Kilakala secondary school in Morogoro region. In 2008, I joined the University of Dar-es-salaam to pursue a Law degree and graduated in October last year.
Q: When did you join Femina and how have you benefited from it?
A: Well, I still recall how it happened. It was in 2008, when I was still at Kilakala secondary school. I was the leader of the Fema club at the school and one day, I was invited by Femina HIP to attend their Annual Youth Conference in Dar- es-salaam. The conference brings together Fema club students from all over the country. I represented my school at the conference together with another student and the school’s club guardian.
It was through this conference that Femina spotted my talent. I remember the night before the big launch where Hon. Margaret Sitta (then minister for Education and Vocational Training) was to officiate the conference, all Fema clubbers were gathered in a hall to decide among other things, who would speak on behalf of all other youths in the country on the issue of clubs, leadership and its relevance in finding solutions to youths problems.
I saw this as an opportunity. Mind you opportunities are grabbed, so never sit and wait for an opportunity. So I quickly raised my hand and grabbed the microphone. Amazingly no one opposed me and everybody agreed I would speak on their behalf.
During the launch, I spoke, confidently, believing in what I conveyed and above all hoping to change the mindset of the government and public in general on the issue at hand. It was after I made that speech, that the Executive Director of Femina got impressed and offered me a volunteering opportunity at her organization after I was done with school. I remember only two weeks had been left before I sat for my Form Six National exams.
So I joined Femina in March 2008, with my first task being to develop a life skills booklet for youths in Tanzania. Since then, I have been involved in almost everything. Presenting the TV Talk show, writing articles, travelling to the field, and now from March this year, I have been tasked to co-host our first Radio programme that would base on Young farmers in business.
Coming back to your question on how I have benefited. I can say I have benefited a lot. Femina is one of the biggest media platforms in Tanzania. It reaches youths using its vast media vehicles. It speaks widely using youth’s voices, it gives us a platform to transform the status quo and create change at our very age. Femina has given me a platform to explore my multi-talents.
Femina has built capacity in me, from when I enrolled for university studies; I was working with Femina on part-time basis, which in a way put me high on the ladder when I was done with undergraduate studies. I had a degree plus four years experience of work, which in a way increased my chances in the job market.
Femina has given me a voice, a voice that can be used to communicate youth problems and advocate for change. I have been travelling to all corners of the country, meeting with young people, discussing issues that press us the most, suggesting solutions and communicating them to responsible people using our media vehicles.
I also stand out among young people who believe in what they do, believe in no limits where determination and God guide your path. All these principles in my life have been cemented with the fact that I work with a group of young and talented people in Tanzania, who push boundaries and work on the change envisioned.
Q: You attended a community secondary school and community schools are currently known for mass failure. How did you manage to make it up to university?
A: As I said earlier, I was born and raised in Dodoma municipality. I attended Kikuyu secondary school, a community school from 2002 – 2005.
Studying in community school was a challenge. I passed my primary education with very good grades but it was during that year that government was implementing its policy of having community schools. I think the idea was to empower these schools and do away with the perception that these schools enroll students with low marks.
Q: How was your school like?
A: Our school was once a dispensary, so by the time we started; it had only one building with four rooms and a store. One room was used by our predecessors (form II), the other two rooms were used by our class and one by teachers, the store was later turned into the headmistress’s office. I remember crying when I got back home, my late father was so hurt. I could see it in his eyes, but what can a retired man do? He continuously supported my struggle and motivated me to study hard. He believed in me, and that was enough to motivate me study even harder.
I made friends at a nearby government school, Mazengo secondary, and since I was also involved in leadership while in school as a head girl, I managed to get many with dreams like mine. After school hours when everybody had gone home, I remained behind and studied using materials from Mazengo students.
I aspired to be a doctor and this was my late dad’s dream. So you can imagine how hard it was to study science subjects in a school with no laboratory. However, I still remember our Physics teacher who strived so hard to connect us with other government schools like Dodoma secondary school where we would go over the weekend to do some practicals. In the end I walked out with a First Division, the only First Division in my class, and the only First Division since the school was established.
I passed all the subjects very well including science subjects. However, I felt science was not really my call as I was doing it just to impress my father. I decided to choose HGL (History, Geography, Language) for my high school education. My dream was to become a Lawyer.
I was later selected to join Kilakala Secondary School in Morogoro region, a special school for girls with remarkable talents. My Dream was even challenged; I met girls from different corners of the country who had outstanding pass marks and high achievers.
I studied harder, teachers and everybody were very supportive. I was even involved in leadership, and voted a prefect. When Form six results were out, I was among the students who got first high divisions from my school, which gave me a ticket to join the University of Dar-es-salaam in 2008 for LLB studies.
Honestly, if you ask me today, how I made it to the university, I will confidently say two words; “Determination and trust in God.”
Q: What challenges did you come across and how did you overcome them?
A: The biggest challenge was school facilities, we didn’t have a laboratory at the community school. We had no library, no learning and teaching materials and no classrooms! It was always a hustle from morning to the time we dispersed. We built our own school, we watered bricks using water from nearby wells or at times from Mazengo Secondary School. I remember so many people slept in class after morning work, it was crazy, but we survived.
But as I said, I didn’t focus on the problems but I focused on the potential that I saw in me. I didn’t want the sound of challenges to outweigh my dream. I always believed I was bigger that my challenges. I studied hard, I looked for people to help me, I utilized our available teachers and they were so happy all the time to help me. I did not let anything come between me and my dream; not even the shortage or lack of books, inadequate classrooms, a laboratory or even the shortage of teachers. I set my mind to greatness and I did achieve that.
Q: How do you think young people can use agriculture for their development?
A: It should be noted prior that 65 percent of the population in Tanzania is under 25 years of age. Surprisingly it is only 3.4 percent of young people that are employed in the formal sector. This is an alarming fact that leaves a lot to be desired. Agriculture on the other hand, is a great deal on the economy of our country, almost 80 percent of the country’s labour force engage in agriculture.
Agriculture can be used as a solution to address the rampant unemployment rate among young people in Tanzania. There are supporting systems in many places which are ready to help young people. However the major requirement is that youths should be in groups, and organize themselves as a team while seeking support. Agriculture is money, agriculture is good. The problem is that the youth have a negative perception that agriculture is for poor people and villagers while it is not. Others say agriculture is dirty. This is a very wrong perception. I would vehemently descent with such kind of ideas which derail development. Youths can explore on agriculture, produce for the local and international markets.
Q: What is your call to government, young people and the general public?
A: I would like to call upon government especially the ministry responsible for youth, to revisit its youth policy implementation strategy. I see a lot of good things written in the Youth Policy of 2007. I believe that if only 30 percent of it could be implemented, I am sure youths could probably be achieving and transforming our economy.
Enough funds should be allocated to realize its implementation, and maybe involve youths more in finding solutions to their own problems. Loans system to young entrepreneurs should be revisited to distract a bigger number of youth from white collar jobs.
Government should strive in creating a friendly environment for young people to access information, make information available at an affordable price. However, street youths who spend the whole day seated on chit -chat points (Idlers) should be assisted with special programs. Such programs should include entrepreneurship skills, life skills, sexual and reproductive health rights education. Young people have the energy, our only challenge is capital, so if at all our government is serious with us, then more energy should be put in creating friendly micro-financing systems with attractive conditions for loans.
To my fellow young people, the future is in our hands, we should not allow status quo to make us regret. Let us do more and talk less, even God promises to bless the work of our hands. It should be “work” and not “words”... Lets all be doers.