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Disturbing Details Of Racial Discrimination Against Black Students In Tanzania’s United World College (UWC) East Africa

UWC East Africa College [Photo/Courtesy]

Is racism alive and well in Tanzanian international schools? This is one disturbing question that many social media users have been left pondering after an alumnus of the United World College East Africa detailed about the racial discrimination she experienced while a student at the institution.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Kemilembe Mugangala, who once served as President of the School’s Student Council, called out the institution formerly known as International School Moshi (ISM) for tolerating racism against black students in its Arusha and Moshi campuses.

UWC East Africa is a member of the United World College network launched in 2019.

The latest publicly known incident of racism at the institution, Ms Mugangala who graduated from Moshi campus in 2016 says, happened not more than six months ago.

But first, let us dig into her first-hand experience in ISM some nine years ago.

Ms Mugangala says her first encounter with the menace was in 2011 when she was in 8th grade. She got in trouble for calling out an Italian teacher who said he hated Tanzanians and hated being in Tanzania. Since then her life at the institution changed for worse.

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She claims that the discrimination was so bad that black students who were regarded as “dumb” were separated from the whites during lessons.

“In 10th grade we had two math classes: for the “smart” & “slow” ones (Math A&B). They put all the Black …kids in Math B. I had to fight and prove my math skills just to be put in Math A because I was not going to let no white man tell me I’m dumb cuz of my race (ISM), ” she said.

“I got suspended-ish in 12th grade (backfired cuz my mum lit the school up), for something I did not do.”

Some white teachers went to the extent of sexually assaulting black girls, she says.

“White staff were PREDATORS. A few staff sexualised Black girls. Our head of campus at the time, would just walk into our boarding house as he had a fetish for seeing black girls naked. In my senior year, he got a 17-year-old staff’s child pregnant (ISM), ” she said.

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“My best friend and I would always be told to change our outfits because we were “curvier”. They eventually stopped giving us a hard time because we really couldn’t care. White girl literally got away with their butt cheeks hanging out (ISM).”

Black teachers, she said, were not spared in the discrimination either as they were regarded as “inferior” and standing against the whites meant being at risk of losing their jobs.

“Black teachers were never allowed to speak against white teachers. If they did; they would jeopardise their contracts & have them terminated for the following school year. (ISM)” she added.

“International teachers always overstayed their visas and work permits. When immigration would come, they would pay HR (a Tanzanian) to cover up their mess and leave (ISM).

“The school board & administrators would always exploit and abuse the ancillary staff (ISM).”

Because of what she went through, Ms Mugangala, who is currently a senior at Drake University, has been following on the safety and well-being of students at the institution.

In an interview with Kahawa Tungu, Ms Mugangala said that in January this year she learnt of an incident of a Tanzanian student at the institution who had been a victim of racist remarks. Sadly, the institution tried so hard to cover up the incident and protect the white student despite protest from the student community.

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Ms Mugangala wrote to the institution’s Director Anna Marsden to protest the injustice. But she denied cover-up claims.

“It has been brought to our attention (we the alumni of ISM) that a student racially attacked a Tanzanian student through using racial slurs, and in short calling them a “NIGGER”. We are also aware that the school investigated the incident however we are not pleased or satisfied with the outcome of the incident. As an international institution, we would have expected more social awareness and responsibility from within our community, ” a letter to the director reads.

The institution has further been accused of victimizing the abused students while perpetrators go unpunished.

“It has also been brought to our attention that this particular student has used other derogatory terms at the school e.g. referring to Black people as ‘monkeys’. We are also fully aware that this incident was brought up with the administration, faculty and staff.

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“A meeting was held and the students expressed their concerns but, instead of being listened to the students feel as if their concerns were disregarded and they were instead told, “they could have handled the situation better” and were also labelled as ‘angry black kids’. This is very upsetting, ” the letter reads.

Ms Mugangala has vowed not to back down in the fight against racism in her alma mater and hopes that the sacrifice will pay someday.

“Although we write this letter with a huge sense of disappointment, we are hopeful that the UWCEA administration is going to take our concerns on board and are hopefully, going to work towards creating a sustainable future that holds all individuals responsible for their actions through upholding the mission statement and core values of the UWC Movement. This is key if the school is indeed committed to creating a safe environment for everybody to thrive, ” she added.

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Written by Kahawa Tungu


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