Friday, February 4, 2011

More on the Strike

All day there were crowds of students walking past my house, some waving large Tanzanian flags. They were chanting, singing, and trying to stir each other up. They were going to a place called Survey, which is right down the street from my house... I walk there everyday. Don't worry, I didn't leave my house all day, and I was completely safe. But the students on strike weren't all so fortunate.

Police and University officials were aware of the impending struggle. They knew the students were upset about their allowances. Apparently they receive 5000/= (Tanzanian Shillings) each day for food and accommodations. This is equivalent to about $3.30. A basic lunch or dinner in the cafeteria is 1200/=, with breakfast slightly cheaper. You must constantly drink bottled water due to the intense heat and humidity. At the campus rate of 500/= per half liter, it can add up quickly. You can see how 5000/= can be spent easily on food and water, with nothing left for accommodations. The students are requesting to double their allowance to 10,000/=. The Deputy Dean of Students explained to me that administrators refuse to grant this high amount, but might consider a 50% increase if the students are willing to write up a report showing the current costs of living and why the extra money is necessary for survival. He also explained that the students have not rationally attempted to solve the problem. This strike is their first act to get what they want.

Over the past few days, I have seen many students gather together on campus, generally led by one man who incites them all into chanting. You could tell they were planning something. Today all the students congregated at the center of campus, near the cafeterias. They chanted, sang, and riled each other up. Then they marched together down to Survey. This is where they were met by police and large tanks. They were warned that the protest was illegal. The crowds were entirely blocking streets and damaging properties along the way. If they saw students going to class, the mob would beat them up because they weren't joining the cause. They also damaged lots of property in the cafeteria, forcing it to shut down. After several warnings from police, the mob refused to disperse. I could hear tear gas bombs exploding into the crowd, followed by screams. Several students were hospitalized because they ran blindly away from the gas, tripping over barbed wire and running into trees. It sounded like complete chaos. After the mob dispersed from the first round of gas, they would gather again with the same result.

I'm not really the mob/protesting type. I was quite content sitting in my house, doing a little laundry, and reading all day.

In the late afternoon, the riot finally broke down and students passed my house walking back onto campus. I was outside helping Neema cook ugali at the time. They seemed defeated. They were shouting things to each other in Swahili, but remained relatively quiet for such a large crowd. Then they stopped--right at my driveway! They sat on the lawn across the street and began harassing some cars that passed by. Neema explained that they were trying to block certain vehicles from entering and exiting campus--probably the administrators who refused to grant their demands. I kept saying to her, "hatari!!" (danger!) but she didn't seem worried. I may not have mentioned that my father is the Deputy Dean of Students at the University, so these students are not particularly pleased with him right now. I'm not sure if they knew that they were directly across from his house, but I was concerned that they were there because of my father. After about 20 minutes, they continued back onto campus peacefully. 


  1. Christina, was thinking about all this other unrest and how it might be affecting you and I admit I was a little less concerned when I read your post. I guess they have some legit concerns. Your poor mother. Be safe. Hope everything else is going well. Love the pics!


  2. Thanks Mike! I think she's holding up pretty well, all things considered. I want you and everyone to know that I'm in very good hands. It's a little scary, but mostly exciting. I'm not in any danger.

  3. CHRISTINA! I love how you are just like "there's a strike against my host father, nbd." Although you have probably heard this a thousand times, be careful! I know you will be, but I just thought I would say it again lol. Thanks for updating us all on the situations over there :)