The game is part of a sports competition for pupils, organized in Northwest Tanzania each year by the Munich-based association “Jambo Bukoba”. Over 1,000 people have come to the stadium by Lake Victoria: students, teachers, parents, and public officials. It’s a hot day, but a fresh breeze is blowing across the stands. At the heart of it all sits Clemens Mulokozi, founder of Jambo Bukoba. Clemens actually lives in Munich, but has traveled to Tanzania for the competition once again this year. He roots for the children, although to him, it is about something completely different: “We want to teach the children about AIDS and boost their confidence. Sports help us to do this. Education, health, equality – these are the goals of Jambo Bukoba.”
“I realized how few opportunities the children in Kagera have, and that I had to do something.”For many years now, the province of Kagera, where Bukoba is located, has been one of the areas with the highest proportion of people infected by and suffering from HIV/AIDS in the country. Three out of five newly infected people are aged between 15 and 24, and four out of five in this age group are girls. In addition, many girls drop out of elementary school early – often due to pregnancy or HIV/AIDS infections, or because they are married off at a very young age. Many young people cannot read or write. The fact that HIV/AIDS is a taboo subject makes HIV education particularly difficult. “Eventually, I realized how few opportunities these children have, and that I had to do something,” says Clemens.
Clemens’ father himself comes from Kagera, and his mother is from the Allgäu. His parents met in Munich in the 60s while his father was studying chemistry. Clemens himself lived in Tanzania as a child, and also went to school there. His mother returned to Germany with him and his sister when he was 12. When the now 50-year-old looks back on his childhood in Tanzania, his main memories are of his grandparents, running barefoot, fresh mangos and papayas for breakfast, the occasional snake in the house, monkeys in the trees – as well as corporal punishment at school. He was barely aware of other problems at the time.
“I did not start to become more concerned with the problems affecting my father’s homeland until 2006.” That was the year Clemens’ father died in Bukoba, where he had returned to live. Clemens flew to Tanzania for the funeral. “This visit opened my eyes for the first time to the many problems that I was unaware of as a child. Of course, there was the issue of HIV/AIDS, but also the poor education situation. Some of the schools were still using the same books that his father had learned from. It struck him in particular how badly girls were disadvantaged. “In 99 % of cases, they are the ones who have to fetch water and help out at home. All the cooking and washing leaves them little time to study for school.”
“Sports are universal. When children get a ball, they speak one language.”
After his father’s funeral, Clemens at first returned to his everyday life and his family in Munich, where he was working in sports sponsorship at a bank. But he could not forget what he had seen. “Eventually, I asked myself, ‘What is important to you?’” The answer changed his life: Creating opportunities for children and young people in his father’s homeland. Clemens decided to found an association that would combine social commitment and sports. “Sports are universal. When children get a ball, they speak one language.” Also, Clemens Mulokozi is himself a marathon runner, “although not a very good one!” the 50-year-old laughs.
Two years later, in November 2008, Clemens returned to Tanzania. In the meantime, he had worked hard on a plan, and he brought plenty of enthusiasm and drive. His goal was to persuade the Ministry of Health, Education, Sport and Family in Bukoba of his idea. Clemens knew from the start that this would be no mean feat – sports had not been a high priority in Tanzania in the past. He was often told that ‘sports are a luxury.’ “But I desperately needed a contact in the Ministry to coordinate the project locally and support us on customs and tax issues, for example. Fortunately, I managed to make the civil servants in the Ministry enthusiastic about my project,” says Clemens.
“Many schoolchildren have dealt with the issue of AIDS for the first time thanks to Jambo Bukoba.”With the go-ahead, he flew back to Munich, founded Jambo Bukoba and dove right into the project: “At first, I worked a lot at night and on weekends, together with a handful of active members and volunteer helpers.” Now, around 25 volunteers are based in Germany, and two paid employees work over in Bukoba. Clemens gave up his job at the bank last year and has since worked for Jambo Bukoba on a voluntary basis. With a family, this has not always been easy. Recently, Clemens has been granted a subsistence allowance. This will cover him for the next three years, and he can therefore focus fully on building up Jambo Bukoba. His courage and perseverance have started paying off – the association has achieved a great deal: “Lots of schoolchildren have dealt with the issue of AIDS for the first time thanks to Jambo Bukoba. In addition, I have heard from several teachers that student grades have improved and absenteeism has declined as a result of our program.”
From the start, Jambo Bukoba has cooperated with schools and relied on teachers as intermediaries. To this end, the association regularly organizes workshops with sports teachers. The educators learn special games that combine sports with the issues of HIV/AIDS and equality. “After the workshops, we provide the schools with the necessary resources such as balls, jerseys, and sneakers. Our aim is for the teachers to make the games part of everyday school life.”
And once a year there is a big get-together. A sports competition for 32 schools in the region, modeled on the annual youth sports events in Germany. The various disciplines have been developed by Jambo Bukoba. As well as the sticks relay, other activities include a soccer match with mixed teams. But only goals scored by girls count. “We want to put girls in situations where they gain in confidence and help boys overcome prejudices. We can thus minimize the gender gap.”
“To me, it is important that the commitment is based on partnership.”
When Clemens Mulokozi sits in the stands and watches the children compete, he sometimes thinks about the American president: “President Obama also has roots close to Lake Victoria, in Kenya. Sometimes, I look at the kids in Bukoba and think: Some of them could be little presidents. The potential is there, we just need to create development opportunities.”
And what does the future hold for Jambo Bukoba? Clemens has big plans: “At the moment, we are reaching around 370,000 children in Kagera, that is around 70 % of all pupils in state elementary schools. Our target is 100 %. We aim to keep on expanding our concept – firstly around Lake Victoria, then throughout Tanzania.” When Clemens talks, you notice how much his work means to him. “The children in Kagera must not simply think, “I’ll end up being only a street vendor anyway.’ They should start to dream and say, ‘maybe one day I’ll become a doctor, teacher, or pilot.’ I want to do my bit to ensure they get this opportunity.”