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Meet the Students: Siegfried Madeghe, TanSAO

Meet The Students

I attended public schools in Tanzania for my entire primary and secondary education. My very first experience of going to school started just a few months before the death of my dad, which marked my other beginning — life without a father. My mother is a teacher, and despite our difficulties, she did her best to make sure that I received an education, the importance of which she repeated to me throughout my upbringing. But receiving a sound education in Tanzanian government schools is challenging, as most of them lack the essential tools necessary for quality teaching. Regardless of the challenges, I successfully completed primary school and so was selected to advance to secondary school. Studying first under the Ordinary Level program and then the Advanced Level one, I continued in an education system controlled by the National Examinations Council of Tanzania (NECTA) whose context is extremely theoretical, where success is based on cramming, and in which extracurricular activities are generally not included.

While pursuing my A’ Level studies, I luckily was chosen for an internship position at the Tanzania Student Achievement Organization (TanSAO), an NGO that supports students seeking university admission and scholarship opportunities outside Tanzania. After my A’ Level exams, I worked at TanSAO full time during a gap year, getting an opportunity to recognize the flaws in our education system even more. From visiting schools where we presented information about universities abroad and the application process, and by helping students prepare for standardized tests, I identified other challenges in addition to those that I had experienced. I thus realized that tremendous efforts are required to ensure that the education students receive in Tanzania is one that can instill a spirit of critical reasoning and creativity, and not just be based on top exam results obtained through memorization. All these insights made me keen to help improve the education system in my country, at least by inspiring students to be inquisitive and passionate about learning. While an intern at TanSAO, I was assisted with my own early U.S. university application. Some weeks after submitting it, I was thrilled to receive an email from Tufts University, which welcomed me as a “Jumbo” of the class of 2021!

The education I am currently receiving at Tufts, which is research-based with a liberal arts philosophy, has opened my eyes and transformed my mind in unique ways. For one thing, it has given me an opportunity to explore different academic disciplines where I have learned how to integrate knowledge from subjects that seem unrelated. For example, as an Engineering student, I am taking an introduction to Engineering course called “Music and the Art of Engineering” that explains some engineering theories using musical concepts, and vice-versa, in interesting ways.  Not surprisingly, the course has converted me into a music lover, not just of the kind of music that I can dance to, but to many other kinds as well. I now attend different musical performances organized by the School of Arts where I have come to appreciate how music can even bring people together to create awareness and show concern about social issues. A really good concert that I went to recently, for instance, brought together performers from Turkey, Mali, Thailand, and Morocco who highlight Islamic culture to particularly introduce this to Americans and others who don’t have a clue about it, as the automatic association of Islam to terrorism has brought only negative perceptions to so many people.

In the long run, I want to be an example and to use my education to help more Tanzanian youth become better educated by assisting them to get opportunities to study abroad. Also, although I am a prospective Engineer, my new love of music makes me want to find future ways to use music to help young people. Once back home, I plan to organize concerts whose main purpose would be to raise funds to help Tanzanian students who are high achievers, but face financial constraints. I wish to work with the government to reform NECTA education policies as well, to make sure that the education Tanzanian students get will make them well-rounded people ready to face the future with confidence. I am optimistic about my desire to be a change-maker in my country. I have decided to think big — I heard it isn’t a sin!

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