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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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Tanzanian students discover Japan

Ayako Sasa

Jul. 13, 2017

In sub-Saharan Africa, helping women get a secondary education is a pressing issue. Only about 30 percent of women can get such an education -- the lowest rate in the world. In Tanzania, a women's secondary school opened last year with support from Japanese businesses and individuals.

The school emphasizes education in science and mathematics. Last month, some of the students were invited to visit Japan, and we followed their activities.

The students hope to become future leaders in their country. 14-year-old Lightness Hance is one of them. She is in Japan for 12 days to have an intercultural experience.

"I prayed for good luck and to enjoy staying here," she says.

They visit sites to learn about state-of-the-art technologies and industrial developments. Hance found that Japanese companies learn a lot from both their challenges and failures.

The determination to build something well can be seen everywhere, including in a workshop where children can learn to make small toy cars.

"I can see here in Japan they are giving young children opportunity to know to convey what do they have, so if they are having hand skills, they are creative of making things," says Hance.

She goes to school at Sakura Girls Secondary School in Arusha. The boarding school has about 80 students and is located in a rural village at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Donations from individuals and companies in Japan helped finance construction and the purchase of educational materials.

Many of the students are from poor families. Japanese support also provides scholarships for students.

Hance is one of the students who received a scholarship. Her father is a police officer. Her parents could not afford her education without help. The school enables her to study for her dream of becoming a doctor.

"I decided come to this school because I just heard this new, so I wanted to try it," she says.

During their stay in Japan, Hance and other students have an opportunity to join a class to see how Japanese students learn.

The girls take part in a science lab and conduct experiments in small groups. The subject is making oxygen. Hance is impressed by the way the Japanese students jump into the activity.

"I've learned that we should, the students are the ones who learn, so we should participate much more than teachers," she says.

Hance has been very keen to have an exchange with Japanese girls her age.

She spends that night with the family of one of the students from the school, Hajime Funakoshi.

Funakoshi likes studying English. She wants to work with people from other countries. She asks Hance what she wants to do in the future. Hance says she wants to be a brain doctor.

Funakoshi was moved by her determination.

"The way she talks conveys her sincerity," she says. "I was very impressed."

A day before the girls leave Japan, they meet their backers.

The visit was short, but she says she has learned more than she ever imagined.

"I wish to contribute our country it is... the things I have learned here, I have learned a lot of things so I wish I could even got...even get an opportunity to tell other Tanzanians about my experience here," says Hance.

She will continue with her studies and hopes to apply what she has learned in Japan to make her dreams for the future come true.


Sumiko Iwao is one of the founders of the all-girls boarding school in Tanzania. She joined Newsroom Tokyo's Hideki Nakayama and Aki Shibuya in the studio to talk about the school and its students. Watch the video for their discussion.