Taren Hastings, who has been working with GETheatre as an administrative assistant for over a year, is now a Teaching Artist intern for GET’s workshops in Zanzibar this summer.  She will be recounting her experience of GET’s program in Zanzibar over the next two weeks.  Follow her unique journey as she gets to know the students and the people of Zanzibar.

Class started at 9:00am, but many of the students were ready and rushing in the door when we arrived at 8:15. What a great first impression! I had imagined sweltering heat and dirt floor classrooms, but what I encountered was a little different.  Sure, there was no air conditioner, but there was circulating air through the windows and ceiling fans. The room had a solid floor, usable blackboard, tables and chairs. The walls were bare of the posters full of information and affirmations you might see in a New York City classroom but the students were engaged and ready to learn. The strong sense of community in Zanzibar was evident as other students peered through the windows to watch the GET workshop from outside. There was much excitement and energy flowing in and out of the classroom.

Meeting the students has been my favorite Zanzibari experience so far. They accepted us as their teachers and they were happy to try new things. A program like GET is an important part of keeping the student’s goals alive. The youth are so full of promise. For the first time since my arrival I learned to stop judging Zanzibar from my limited American point of view or my expectations as an African American coming to Africa for the first time. I learned to see Zanzibar through the eyes of the students: the past, present and future of Zanzibari life. They tell us what there is to love about their home and what they want to change. One student told another teacher that she loved her school because it was hers.  She felt ownership over her place of learning. As we learned each other’s names and shared our cultures I finally felt welcomed. I finally felt more than someone looking from the outside in. I was given the gift of sharing something personal, their school. It’s not perfect, but it’s theirs.

This first day helped me keep things in perspective. As teachers we cannot change their past, nor try to change their present. Those experiences belong to them. Our job is to help them with their goals for the future. If we approach our classes with that intention, I’m sure we’ll always hear, “Karibu!”



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