When I arrived to Mtinko, in Singida region, 6 hours drive from Dodoma, I felt blessed to be in a school (in the sense that I love my job and meeting people) and have the opportunity to capture the story of Zainabu and Saumu. They are two deaf teenagers who met the vice minister of education when she visited their school. They faced the politician and publicly asked her to build more dormitories, a kitchen and classrooms.
There are not many inclusive schools for children with a hearing impairment in Tanzania, so the students travel long distances to get here. They cannot travel back and forth each day, so they need dormitories at the school to be able to attend classes. The vice-minister promised they’d get the dormitories and when I arrived to the school, indeed, the new buildings were almost finished.
On the first day I joined teacher Bernald and his classroom, without knowing that he was the one who transformed the school in an inclusive place. He told me he had to find and then photocopy the only finger alphabet book ever done in Tanzania, where a very small, dark and faded photo would explain in the local language what it expressed.
At the beginning Zainabu and Saumu where very shy but they were looking at me with curiosity, looking with smiling eyes at my camera. The second day was in fact enough for them to open up to me and make jokes on how they have to invent names in sign language to call the people: my name was represented by a quick gesture that would recall a camera. Everyone had such creative names and were so ‘on point’ that you wouldn’t fail to remember them.
I ended up taking videos and photos with the girls like in a real magazine set, with the school yard and buildings under construction as a background… the sun was burning but they were posing and having fun with enthusiasm and curiosity. We ended up in the new dormitories and facilities, where all the teachers and all the crew accompanying us, waited outside. This became ‘our moment’ where I finally perceived the freedom that Zainabu and Saumu were fighting for.
I was like in a Disney scene where two teenagers start dancing like princesses and give freedom to their imagination. My GoPro camera was dancing with them, with their silent but vivid vision and it was as if we were hearing the same music, the three of us. The time stopped while we were dancing through the rubbles of the construction material, the unfinished rooms and doors.
Their love for education and people like teacher Bernald and Agness transformed them into activists, aware of their right to free quality education and tax justice, and they made me part of this opportunity to tell their story to the world.
A last drone shoot over the school and the surrounding was like a goodbye from Mtinko School, surrounded like in a nest by a big frame of volcanic rocks, on the top of a small hill guarded by a wise an old baobab tree on the side of the school.
Thanks Makmende for giving me the opportunity to add this incredible experience to my most precious memories: I am changing continent after 12 years of living in Africa (going to live in India) and Mtinko School will be one of the reasons why I will always miss Tanzania.
My name is Alessandra, I was born in Italy and I am a filmmaker and photographer working and living in East Africa since 2006.
I like to see myself as a ‘video activist’: envisioning multimedia as a tool to empower, educate, connect and inform people around the world.