Our speaker this week, Tracey Dolan, told us of the building and operating of a school for girls in Tanzania, a country on the southeast coast of Africa.
Tanzania is a male dominated country where girls marry very early and live lives of poverty. Only one in four gets beyond seventh grade, and 40% marry before adulthood; Tanzania has the highest adolescent fertility rate in the world. In 2008 Polly and Tracey Dolan, who are sisters, founded Nurturing Minds which is a US based 501(c)(3)nonprofit “to provide assistance to programs that improve access to quality education and life skills for girls in Tanzania.” Nurturing Minds achieves this objective through the development of the SEGA Girls School. SEGA is “Secondary Education for Girls Advancement.”

The first SEGA class was in 2008; girls are selected from many different communities throughout Tanzania; most had been forced to drop out of school because of poverty, and were at risk of a life of child raising and hard labor. Tracey showed us the very substantial progress that has been made since the first year of operation. Pictures from her presentation show a rural campus which now has 25 buildings and 270 students, with classrooms, teachers, students, and volunteers from other parts of the continent and the outside world. A dominant feature of the campus is its sustainability, with rainwater harvesting and solar power. The key element, however, is the educational opportunity and prowess shown over the past ten years among the students. The curriculum now covers academics, life skills, community service, business and leadership roles and principles; there are computers, one to very four students at this time. Among the students there is now a 97% pass rate and many of them continue their education in business or teaching. There is a community outreach program with connections to 10 communities (reaching over 400 girls) throughout the country, a tourism training program with a guest lodge on campus where visitors are accommodated and students learn about the hospitality industry. A new opportunity to study outside Tanzania was offered for the first time in 2016, bringing two students to Boston for five weeks. It should be mentioned that the language of Tanzania is Swahili. The SEGA students are taught English – so they have to contend with the difficulties of a new language in addition to their academic courses; without it, their ability to move beyond Tanzania would be severely limited.

Tracey Dolan is a Landings resident originally from Pennsylvania who has worked in higher education administration and marketing for over 20 years. She has worked as a full-time volunteer in support of Nurturing Minds and the SEGA School, and is on its board of 23 members across the United States. We thanked her for a most compelling presentation. Some of us have been able to travel to several African countries over the past few years; perhaps we can add Tanzania and a visit to SEGA Girls School to our destinations. www.nurturingmindsinafrica.org