The Banana Tree Project was an independent charity that supported former street and orphanage children in Mwanza, Tanzania through their primary, secondary and vocational education.
The Banana Tree Project paid no salaries and had no bureaucratic running costs. It was administered in Mwanza by Ruth and Barry Clement, former UK Head Teachers who have been Head Teachers in Mwanza for over a decade. They volunteered their free time to supervise payments and liaise with school staff to ensure the charity operates free of charge.
The BTP was established, and was directed, by Ed Beavington, a UK teacher. He visited the orphanages and schools on an annual basis, at his own expense, and worked closely with the school Head Teachers to ensure that all the charity’s activities were transparent and accountable. The Board of Trustees was made up of retired UK teachers and doctors, who were accountable to the England and Wales Charity Commission.
The children supported by The Banana Tree Project were some of the poorest, most underprivileged children in Tanzania. Some had spent time living on the streets of Mwanza. Others had been sent to orphanages by their destitute families. In some cases, the children had lost their parents to AIDS, malaria, bilharzias, typhoid or myriad other diseases. In other cases, the families simply did not have the money or food to look after their child. Some children join orphanages as young teenagers hoping to make something of their lives. Others grow up in the orphanages and have known nothing else.
The Banana Tree Project supported orphanage children through their primary and, in particular, secondary education. Primary tuition is free although children must buy a school uniform, school shoes and stationery. This costs up to £20 a year for one child. There are often over 100 children in a class, with some schools offering a split day timetable with different year groups attending in the morning and afternoon. Lessons are in Swahili and reports are issued at the end of the year in December. Secondary education is expensive. While the government runs some fee paying schools, the majority of secondary schools are private. Students work towards their Form II, Form IV and Form VI national exams in classes of generally no more than 40 children. With tuition fees, stationery, uniforms, school meals and exam fees taken into account, it costs up to £500 a year for one child to attend secondary school.
The Banana Tree Project
The Banana Tree Project aimed to allow underprivileged children in Mwanza, Tanzania to attend primary and secondary school and vocational colleges. With limited funding it was not possible to support every child meaning that difficult decisions had to be made as to who to support based on effort and academic performance. When possible, The Banana Tree Project paid for school breakfasts and lunches to ensure that the children could focus on their studies. When resources allowed, The Banana Tree Project funded limited renovation of the orphanages to help maintain a basic standard of living. From its establishment in November 2006, The Banana Tree Project supported over 70 children through secondary education and over 150 children through primary school. It helped to renovate four different orphanages.