Tanzania #5: Role Models

Ella Hynds ’23, reflects on the similarities between Deerfield and the Mainsprings School, and the importance of role models. 

Every Wednesday, Deerfield Students gather under the green glow of the lights that frame the stage in the Hess auditorium to share stories, announcements and presentations.. This Wednesday seemed no different, except the green light emanated from sunlight reflected off of palm fronds and the multi-aged school children from the Mainsprings School in Tanzania, not Deerfield seniors, led the way. Today’s meeting celebrated International Women’s Day, focusing on history and health. I watched a steady stream of presentations by female students and teachers. When the school’s female doctor and nurses rose to the stage, I sensed they felt the same anxiousness I often feel before presenting at Deerfield meetings. Yet, they spoke with confidence and commanded the entire school. Their moving message emphasized finding what you enjoy in life and making it into a career. They told the audience to be strong, be kind, and be courageous. At the end, they started chanting, “women can be engineers, women can be doctors, women can be lawyers.” Empowering role models are important no matter where you go. As Ephraim, Anna, Avery, and I entered one of the classrooms we all shared this feeling. All eyes turned to us in anticipation and awe. They studied the four of us with passionate curiosity and watched our every move. We kept the conversation going, teasing out every giggle and smile. After a few games, and many paper airplanes, the students’ laughter drowned out our voices as we shouted Simon Says (or Ephraim Says) directions. Interacting with Mainsprings students, both by leading a class and witnessing a powerful presentation, reinforced the importance of role models. Today, both watching and being a role model provided lessons about both the aspirations of Tanzanian women and the challenges of teaching. I learned much about this country’s young people, and even more about myself.