"How did the idea for the shool begin," you may ask? Well, let me tell you, and thank you for asking! When I volunteered as a teacher in Moshi in May, I had a full classroom full of smiling eager faces of 17-18 year-olds. One morning, as class started, I noticed some empty seats. I asked, where are my students? Why are they absent? The girls informed me that the missing boys had to start their jobs on the mountain as porters and have to drop out of class while they work. The more I researched I found out that many of them drop out of school at an early age to find work to support their families, and then when they cannot climb any more due to age, injury, or illness, they cannot find decent jobs because they are uneducated. I knew I had to do something but it was only an idea, a seed, in my busy little brain, but it was then and there the seed began to grow! The photo above is of Adamson Joseph, one of my students who dropped out, with his little brother, Benjamin. Adam is raising Benjamin, who is nine, because their parents are either dead or left them, I am not sure, but I know they are alone raising themselves the best they can. Adam was also raised by his older brother, who worked as a porter, and now Adam is a porter raising his little brother.
According to a 2013 World Bank report, an estimated $50 million in revenue is generated every year on Mt. Kilimanjaro and jobs are created to support 400 guides, 500 cooks and the 10,000 porters -- while contributing roughly 13 percent to the country’s overall gross domestic product. To be a porter you have to be young and fit so most are between the ages of 17 - 25, and they keep climbing for as long as their bodies allow. The job is demanding and highly competitive so boys drop out of school to chase the dream of simply having food, clothing, and shelter. Education then takes a back seat to a real job. That's 10,000 youth who drop out of school to work on the mountain and many of them never return to school! Helping the porters was the main reason I wanted to volunteer in Kilimanjaro, once you climb the mountain you cannot help but be touched by them, how hard they work for so little pay, how happy they are to be with you, and how appreciative they are to have have a job climbing the mountain. Climbing Kili is considered a very good job even though they get paid the equivalent $1.84 USD per day.
When I went back to Moshi in September, with Karee Maxson, we interviewed some of the guides about what life was like working and living on the mountain. In our interviews, they discussed the problems of unemployed youth and poverty and many of the unemployed are middle-aged adults who once worked as porters. Hearing the stories first hand drove reality home for me, the seed took root, and I knew KiliTech had to help find a way to offer schooling for porters with free education at a convenient location in a place they can attend in low season, and when in between climbs, to learn English, math and computers. The idea has gone into high gear as we continue brainstorming.
We already have lots of interest from students who want to signt up, and are waiting for a school to open. The plan is to teach up to twenty students twice a week and grow the program over time to help even more students. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to develop this great educational program!