Christmas Greetings from Rainbow

Dear friends of Irente Rainbow School,

The year 2006 is coming to an end and like every year we are celebrating the birth of God’s son Jesus Christ, whom God sent to us because He loves us so much. And He is willing to forgive us again and again if only we trust in His love. A love that is so great that our minds are not capable of really understanding.

But even though I cannot really understand God’s love, I can feel it’s presence when I think about the last 12 months at Rainbow School. And it makes me want to go down on my knees and thank Him. 

The Irente Rainbow School (IRS) is now two years old. Still a very young age, but as with small babies, the development within these two years was amazing. The school was opened on 10th of January 2005. At that time the teachers had not yet reported, so the school started with few inexperienced teaching assistants, an advisor from Germany, Ms. Ulrike Gläser and our pupils, being all excited about being able to go to school like all their peers. I was not present during these first months, but I can imagine how challenging it must have been, just organizing the school day, getting to know each other and getting used to be together at the school.
Now, roughly two years later, I am looking at a well organized school that is well equipped and provides the pupils with a good quality training, maybe the best that is available in this country. The 25 pupils have changed and developed a lot. Our 3 teachers and 4 teaching assistants, that work at the school up to now are confident and look back on two years experience. They treat the children with respect and show a lot of commitment in working with them. For all that I thank God with all my heart and it makes me proud to be able to be part of these incredible developments we made at the Rainbow School.
The invited guests were impressed by the performace of the pupils at the Parents Day
The invited guests were impressed by the performace of the pupils at the Parents Day
There are some events I would like to tell you about, that were important in the last months at IRS.
  • In April, three of our teachers (Margaret Mwila, Frida Henry and Yassin Shehaghilo) were invited by the Diakonisches Werk Minden and spent a month at our partnerschool, the Wichernschule in Minden, Germany.
  • In August, we were visited by a young special needs education teacher called Amanda Grant who was sent by South Eastern Pennsylvania Synod (SEPAS), a partner diocese of the NED. She was later joined by Kate Gara, a facilitator of Ken Crest, a big service provider for disabled people in Pennsylvania. They were here to get to know the school and find out what training needs the staff has and to help the teachers determine individual training needs of all pupils. In September, or Head Teacher Japhary Robert Shehaghilo left for a half year study visit in Philadelphia. He is invited by Ken Crest and is receiving an individualized training programme on different disability issues, i.e. autism. He will come back to Irente in March and will implement new ideas and concepts at the school.
  • For the time of his absence, Mrs. Margaret Mwila was appointed Acting Head of IRS.
  • In October, we at IRS gave farewell to our volunteer Johannes Mentzel who stayed with us for more than a year and was a very active and deeply appreciated member of our team. Since August, our new volunteer Ms. Antonia Fendel who is sent by United Evangelical Mission is working with us at the school and will stay for one year.
On 29th of November, we finished the second year at IRS with a big celebration, the Parents´ Day. It was a successful day and we had the opportunity to present our work to the public and create awareness for the needs and the rights of children with intellectual impairment and autism. The invited guests were truely touched seeing our children and teachers presenting their work and performing the songs which they had practised for many days to prepare this celebration. This year’s Parents Day became reality through the efforts of all parents of our pupils who collected money for this special day.
In the Outreach Programme, we continued to visit congregations and start to register children. Up to now we visited 13 parishes and registered a total of 148 children. The need of this programme, through which we will reach children with mental disability within the District of Lushoto who are not able to attend Rainbow School, is huge and we are happy to inform you that we will be able to start the Outreach Programme on a larger scale in the coming year. The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) was convinced by the plans and the efforts made so far and agreed to finance the programme. Especially we are grateful to be able to employ one of the few occupational therapists that were trained in Tanzania. Ms. Marion Salema will start her work at IRS in January. She has three years of experience in community based rehabilitation with disabled children and will be of great help when developing the Outreach Programme as well as for our pupils at the school.
IRS pupils performing at the Parents Day
IRS pupils performing at the Parents Day
Despite all the achievements, that we are happy about, there were different problems and challenges that we had to face this year. We had to do major renovations and repairs, especially on the staff houses that were not yet thoroughly renovated in 2004 and 2005. And even at the school, again and again there were things that had to be repaired immediately, i.e. the showers in the boys’ bathroom. In November, an old chimney of the kitchen building collapsed and destroyed one wall and half of the roof. These renovation and rebuilding costs were not expected and were a big burden on our fairly small and tight school budget. But since the school building is old we have to anticipate that we will have to continue with more or less major repairs.
In June, we were happy to receive our own school car at IRS. Before that, we had to share the car of the Irente School for the Blind, which led to several problems in both institutions. It is a great relief for our school to have our own car and driver (Mr. David Kiondo). Because our car was old and in fairly poor condition when we received it, we had to spend more than 3 million TShillings (about 2,000 Euro) on repairs. The car looks very nice now and we hope that there will be no major repairs in the coming year.
As I mentioned, our pupils developed very well during the last year and some of them changed in an amazing way and are much more confident and independent in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, we had problems with some children not attending school regularly and their parents not showing enough effort to enable them. Two of our pupils were taken home to their parents who live further away and never returned after vacation in July without any notice to the school. One of our pupils, Jafari (15yrs.) for unknown reasons suffered from a stroke in July and since then has a half-side paralysis additional to his mental disability. We sent him to KCMC (Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre) for CT, but there seems to be nothing we can do except giving him exercises to reduce the handicap and to pray that he will not suffer another stroke that causes even more damage.
Jafari (15 years old)
Jafari (15 years old)
There are a lot of challenges we will face in the coming year. In an evaluation seminar before closing the school on 1st of December, the teaching staff prepared themselves for these challenges and made clear that they are eager to continue to improve the work at IRS.
After a long and persisting struggle, the Ministry of Education transferred three additional teachers to IRS. They all have a training in Special Needs Education and one of them already reported to the Head of the School and will join us in the beginning of January. We are more than happy about getting these teachers and it will eliminate the shortage of staff and enable us to increase the number of pupils from currently 25 to 30. Five new pupils have already been registered and will hopefully join us in January.
We desperately need to build more staff houses in the year 2007, because even now we cannot provide all staff members with accommodation and with the new teachers and occupational therapist we are in a difficult situation. Irente is a very small village and even if we expect the new teachers to pay for their own house, it is difficult to find suitable houses for rent.
We at IRS are all optimistic to be able to face and to master all challenges that lay ahead of us. God was always with us up to now and we believe that he will not let us down.
We want to thank you with all our heart for the support that you gave us at Irente Rainbow School in 2006 in one way or another. Without all our friends within and outside of Tanzania we would not be able to be so successful in our efforts. May God bless you!
At this Christmas and the coming year please continue to have Irente Rainbow School in your thoughts and prayers!
On behalf of all pupils and staff at Irente Rainbow School I say THANK YOU and wish you a

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Bidmon

School Coordinator, IRS