Tanzanian Culture

10 Apr

By Fratern Tarimo, TFFT’s Managing Director

Today I will try (in every sense of the word TRY) to talk about the Tanzanian culture in relation to TFFT’s work. Last year I had the opportunity to attend the East African Philanthropy Conference organized by the Association of East African Grantmakers, and it was interesting to hear how different participants portrayed the culture of Tanzania (and East Africa in general) as the culture of giving.

Tanzanians are known for being happy and kind people, regardless of the daily issues that we have to deal with. We always try to live together as a community that cares for one another. Tanzania has over 120 ethnic groups with different sub-cultures, yet people tend to live harmoniously, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, because there is a very high tolerance and respect for individual cultures.

This is because we have a unifying culture that binds us all together thus forming the Tanzanian culture.  We are culturally unified by speaking Kiswahili, eating some of the same meals—chapatti (naan bread), rice dishes, ugali (corn meal)—and by embracing the notion that “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is part of our culture to pay for a neighbor’s child school fees, and we constantly make contributions for funerals, weddings, for the sick, and, yes, for education.

People are also very willing to give their time and energy to support different initiatives in their community. There are a good number of families that provide foster care, free of charge, to those children who do not have a place to live or do not have parents/guardians. This kind of practice is entrenched into the culture – it is simply a way of living.

One could easily ask the question, if we all care for one another and support each other, why do we need organizations like TFFT? Why can’t the community take care of needy kids like TFFT scholars and others? To answer this question we must look deeper into what kind of challenges we have in the community and why a helping hand like TFFT is necessary. So far we have seen that it is part of the Tanzania culture to work hard to support kids and those who are in need; however, the resources needed for real support are too enormous for the communities to bear. When a person gets sick, the community takes the responsibility of taking them to a local clinic regardless of the distance or the means of transportation. The challenge comes when they arrive at the rural clinic, and they are faced with a medical person with limited knowledge and limited medical supplies to properly diagnose and treat that person.

Likewise, when a child is old enough to attend school, the community is willing to take them to school because the community cares and thinks positively about education. The issue is that when this particular child gets to school s/he immediately start thinking about the distance they have walked (may be 3 miles) and after staying in school for more than 6 hours with no lunch, poorly trained teachers, no teaching materials, no safe water to drink, and sometimes no proper bathrooms, you can only imagine what that child will do the next day or the following week – may be a no show. Even if this child chooses to stay and struggle to finish a certain level of education, lets say primary school, the probability of him or her to continue with further education is very slim due to poor quality of education received in the first place.

This is why TFFT, the government, and the like, have to intervene. We can all join hands and become part of the community that works together (become part of TZ culture) to ensure that the quality of life, especially in the learning environment, is improved. TFFT highly considers the cultures of the individual ethnic groups as well as that of the larger community in implementing its programs. Each child is dealt with individually and according to their background. In other words, we at TFFT embrace differences while celebrating similarities.

Thank you for being part of the great organization that uniquely supports the children of Tanzania. And thank you for reading my-attempt-to-make-sense-of-Tanzania-culture-blog. If you really want to learn about the Tanzanian utamaduni, or any other utamaduni for that matter, I personally believe that the best way is to see, hear, smell, and live it. So karibuni sana (you are all welcome) to Tanzania.

Thanks, Fratern! Go ahead and leave your thoughts and comments, and Fratern will get back to you there. Hope your week is off to a good start. We’ll be back to introduce the next rider, Eugene, on the blog on Thursday!


6 Responses to “Tanzanian Culture”

  1. Gretchen April 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    Embrace differences while celebrating similarities! Isn’t that just what would make the world go ’round??!! Thanks, Fratern, for sharing so beautifully, your perspective on Tanzanian culture! We can’t wait to see, hear, smell, and live it in June! We also can’t wait to see you then!
    gretchen and michael

    • Fratern April 11, 2012 at 1:36 am #

      Gretchen and Michael, I can’t wait to see you guys either! Two more months and you will be here! Karibu sana!

  2. Gilad April 11, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    great article & very interesting!

    • Fratern April 11, 2012 at 11:22 am #

      Thanks Gilad! I hope all is well with you!

      • Adam April 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm #


        This is probably the most insightful narrative into TZ culture that I have ever read; it was elegant, honest and concise. thanks for taking the time to write this with a welcoming heart and your relentless passion, it all shines through in your writing :)

        P.S. Soo happy to see Helena with the DREAM book!!!

  3. Fratern April 16, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    Thanks, Adam!

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