When we first met Shukuru (Swahili for “Many Thanks”), he was a 9 year-old orphan who lived with his grandmother in the rice fields far from the village of Mtazna-Msona (Rufiji District, Tanzania). While we were visiting this area to conduct interviews, Shukuru sat quietly watching and listening to our conversations. He had never been to school, but could count. Although quiet and shy, he convinced Jess to draw pictures of common items and to write their names so that he could copy and learn them, each time throwing a big smile and crunching on a cookie when he copied them correctly. His obvious thirst for knowledge encouraged us to ask him if he would like to go to school. After an enthusiastic nodding of his head, he ran off to fetch his grandmother, who later arrived in tow. Shukuru began preschool in July 2008 and joined Scholastica in April 2009.

* UPDATE (2016): Shukuru is doing well in his sixth year at Scholastica, placing near the top of his class. Don’t let the stern photos fool you…

A Shy Conversation With Mfaume and Shukuru

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