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Kiwi's quest to build African schools

Saturday 22 Dec 2012 7:24 a.m.

Richard Morris

Richard Morris

By Cleo Fraser

Former New Zealand teacher Richard Morris spent 10 years establishing a successful village school in Tanzania, now he hopes to build three more to enrich the lives of orphans and other vulnerable children.

The Auckland man, who began his teaching career in 1967, has taught at St Paul's Collegiate School in Hamilton and was a principal at St Peter's School in Cambridge for eight years.

He has lived a privileged life, he says, and after years of teaching at private schools he turned his attention to helping those unable to help themselves.

In 1996 he travelled to Mvumi Secondary School, a six-hour car ride from Dar es Salaam. About 100 students attended the school, which had few resources and classrooms, no computers or footballs and little hope.

Mr Morris spent 10 years as the school's principal and often travelled overseas tirelessly raising funds for the school.

About 500 students aged 12-18 now attend the school which has access to about 20 computers. In the country's capital Dodoma just one school out of the 18 has a computer.

Many students have gone on to colleges and universities and former head boy John Lameck stood for parliament in 2010.

"Without a decent education many of them would have been unable to find jobs and the girls especially would have spent the rest of their lives probably working in the fields with a hoe in their hand to grow millet and maize," Mr Morris told NZ Newswire.

He left the school in 2006 with a dream of building three more schools - a secondary, primary and pre-school - in Tanzania to educate orphans and vulnerable children.

But, he says, as just 40 per cent of the students would pay fees he needed a more sustainable approach.

In 2008 he met with former Tanzanian prime minister John Malecela to discuss the idea and in 2011 his project was given (84 hectares in the Southern Highlands, 26km south of Njombe.

This area was chosen because rates of HIV/Aids are 15 per cent higher than other areas of the country.

Up to 700 children from 44 neighbouring villages will attend the schools.

Most of the land will be used to grow avocadoes, apples, pines and eucalyptus trees of which the proceeds will go toward running the school.

But despite being granted the land and having the backing of the Nhombe Town Council, made up of government and village leaders, Mr Morris has a huge task ahead raising funds to build the schools.

"What I'm saying to the New Zealand public is will you help with this project so we can help these children who have no mother or father?" he told NZ Newswire.

"Will you help build the schools that enable them to have a chance in life to develop their own individual talents?"

From February until about July next year he will travel through New Zealand, Australia, the US and UK building the school's profile and raising funds.

The project needs $100,000 initially so planting can begin.

Anne Makinda, the first woman speaker of the Tanzanian parliament, has helped facilitate the project, and is personally donating money which will pay for just over 10 per cent of the trees.

The government will also assist in bringing power and water supply to the site.

* To contact Richard Morris email rbmorris@mail.com

NZN

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