Ms. Rebecca Garland was invited to serve in the US Peace Corps after successfully completing a competitive application process stressing applicant skills, adaptability and cross-cultural understanding. She was assigned to teach secondary school chemistry and mathematics in the East African nation of Tanzania.
On October 1, 1997, Ms. Garland began a three-month Peace Corps training in Arusha, Tanzania. This training was comprised of four main components: Swahili (124 hours); technical training (117 hours) including educational pedagogy, developmental theory and practical application; cross-cultural (62 hours); health and safety (22 hours). Throughout training, Ms. Garland lived with a Tanzanian host family; participating in a native family lifestyle where Swahili was the primary language spoken. Ms. Garland began her two-year service upon successful completion of this training on December 17, 1997, hereafter she reported directly to her assigned post, Lwandai Secondary School, Mlalo, Lushoto, Tanga Region.
Lwandai Secondary owned and run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania Northeastern Diocese (ELECT-NED), is a co-educational boarding school situated in the western Usambara Mountains in the northeastern part of Tanzania. The school offers the first four years of secondary education called the "Ordinary Levels" in an English medium. The four hundred students of Lwandai, half of whom are female, come from highly diverse backgrounds and many lack proper English skills. Ms. Garland was the only non-Tanzanian member of a staff of 18 teachers, three librarians and a lab technician, and though assigned by the Ministry of Education, she reported directly to Lwandai's Headmaster.
Ms. Garland's teaching duties included curriculum development, daily lesson planning as well as constructing and administrating exams and practicals. At the end of Form II and IV, students take a comprehensive National Exam, and only by passing it are they allowed to continue to the next levels of secondary education. Thus, many of Ms. Garland's teaching efforts were focused on adequately preparing the students for the exam. While Ms. Garland was primarily a chemistry teacher she also assisted the mathematics department in teaching two forms (grades) of math a semester, increasing her teaching load to an average of twenty periods a week. Each form consisted on two streams of 45-55 students. She taught the two streams separately for math and lower level chemistry classes, but combined streams for the upper level (Form III and IV) chemistry classes. At Lwandai, students entering Form III choose their bias, science or arts, with a quarter choosing science, thus decreasing the class size to a total of 25-30 students per form. The curriculum Ms. Garland followed was put forward by the Tanzanian Ministry of Education in the National Syllabi for Ordinary Levels. In her two semesters teaching math, Ms. Garland covered arithmetic, geometry, linear and polynomial functions, and statistics. The chemistry syllabus, which Ms. Garland taught in its entirety, covered a broad range of topics including, but not limited to, matter, bonding, periodicity, acid/base chemistry, titrations, electrolysis, metal/non-metal chemistry, organic chemistry and soil chemistry. The syllabus emphasized the application of chemistry in industry, following the Ministry's philosophy of "self-reliance." Mandatory laboratory practicals were included in many of these topics which Ms. Garland prepared for and supervised with the assistance of the school's lab technician.
In addition to her teaching duties, Ms. Garland acted as Environmental Mistress, overseeing the cleanliness and use of the school compound. She was the Faculty Advisor for the physics and chemistry laboratories, working together with the lab technician to ensure proper use of the labs, including setting and enforcing rules, demonstrating proper lab techniques and caring for and repairing chemicals and apparatus. As advisor for the school's library, she worked in collaboration with the school's librarians to design an organizational and management system for the four thousand volumes, including implementation of the Dewey Decimal System, creation of a lending system and designation of administrative policies. In addition, as Head of the Chemistry Department, Ms. Garland was responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of three fellow chemistry teachers as well as being the faculty liaison to the headmaster.
Together with her fellow teachers, Ms. Garland organized many extra-curricular activities centering on HIV/AIDS education, Gender Awareness and Environmental Issues. Under Ms. Garland's guidance, Lwandai participated in two "Gender Workshops" designed to give Tanga Region students the opportunity to discuss gender equality. The first workshop in September 1998 was a daylong conference for 70 female students and 8 teachers from 4 schools to focus on educational opportunities for females. The second workshop in April 1999 was a weekend long conference where 60 male and female students along with 20 teachers from seven area schools discussed reproductive health and harassment issues that female students face. These workshops led to a speaker series on HIV/AIDS at Lwandai as well as a poster/essay competition. Also these workshops helped to identify that lack of dormitory space at Lwandai was a pressing factor in the female students' poor performance. Acting upon this Ms. Garland and the Lwandai Headmaster applied for and secured $1050 for the renovation of the Lwandai Girl's Dorm, thus providing every student with a bed. In extension of her role as Environmental Mistress, Ms. Garland planned two study tours of Mt. Kilimanjaro and one tour of Mt. Meru for an average trip size of 15 students and teachers.
Ms. Garland was also involved in Peace Corps activities. She was the 1999 Tanga Representative on the Volunteer Action Committee, serving as a liaison between volunteers and the Peace Corps administration and approving volunteer proposals for funding. Ms. Garland also returned to assist in both the 1998 and 1999 Peace Corps Trainings in Arusha, leading four sessions in the technical and health and safety components of training. She also represented Peace Corps Tanzania at the National Multisectorial AIDS Conference in Arusha, December 6-10, 1998.