The story of Janeth Magufuli

Saturday July 18 2015

Eliya Lameck a pupil at Mbuyuni Primary School

Eliya Lameck a pupil at Mbuyuni Primary School pushes his twin brother Elisha Lameck on a wheelchair that was donated to him by their teacher Mrs Janeth Magufuli.  PHOTO | salhim shao 

By Elizabeth Tungaraza, The Citizen Correspondent

Dar es Salaam. Three months remain before Tanzanians go to polls for the 2015 General Election, the race for the presidency will be tight. The big question is who will succeed Jakaya Kikwete for the country’s topmost job.

Running alongside the story of the CCM’s man of the moment is the tale of the rise of the probable First Lady. By an interesting turn of events, a school could make history by producing two First Ladies in a row—that is if the CCM nominee for the presidency is elected come October. And our eyes will be glued to the woman who will be at his side at the State House.

Mbuyuni Primary School does not strike you as special at first sight. Yet the school in Dar es Salaam’s Oyster Bay suburb can now claim a unique place in politics and education in Tanzania. And, no, it has nothing to do with passing grades or wonderful buildings.

Mbuyuni is not like any other school for rather interesting reasons:  For a start, two wives of presidential candidates from the ruling party have shared offices and taught at this school.

And should the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi win the general election come October 25, Mbuyuni will go down in history as having produced two of Tanzania’s First Ladies.

The outgoing First Lady, Salma Kikwete, used to teach here.  And CCM last week formally endorsed Mr John Magufuli as the party’s flag bearer and President Jakaya Kikwete’s successor.  And it just happens that Mr Magufuli’s wife is a teacher at the same school.

The Citizen had a chance to interview some of Janet Magufuli’s colleagues and this is what they had to say:

Head teacher Dorothy Malecela:  “I am so happy for her. Janeth is a Standard Five teacher. She teaches Geography, History and ICT. She is a hard working woman and a very good teacher.  Above all, she is a very lovely and humble woman.”

Mrs Malecela describes Mrs Magufuli as a woman with a good heart. She once took the initiative to donate a wheel chair to a disabled pupil at the school.  Mrs  Malecela recalls: “Elisha Lameck is a Standard Five pupil. The boy is disabled. Mrs Magufuli helped him and now he is happy as he is able to move from one place to another because of the wheel chair.”

Regardless of her status as a minister’s wife,   she is known to be a down to earth woman. The Magufuli children went to Mbuyuni Primary School. One of their children is in Form One at Oysterbay Ward Secondary School.

“Instead of taking their children to private or famous schools, they send them to local government schools,” said the teacher.  “She never misses her classes and, if she has an emergency, she always swaps with another teacher.”

And the compliments keep coming: “If her husband is elected, I will miss her kindness and wisdom.  And, you know what? She is the environment teacher and knows her responsibilities. Standard Five will miss her too.”

Ally Rajab and John Manda shared an office with Mrs  Magufuli.  Says Mr Rajab, who has known her for nine years: “Mwalimu Janeth is a very simple woman. You would not notice that she was a minister’s wife. She is co-operative, punctual, humble and hard working.

He adds: “We used to eat cassava and kachori together. I will remember her kindness. She decided to pay the transport fee for a pupil whose parents could not raise money for his study tour.”

According to Mr Manda, Mrs Magufuli was the peace maker among them. If there was a misunderstanding, she would step in to make peace. “I will miss that.” 

Mabano Mzee, 16, and Miriam Mwalami, 12, are Standard Six pupils. They told this writer that Mrs Magufuli was a wonderful teacher. “If you have a problem, Mwalimu Magufuli is there to help you,” said Mabano Mzee.

 “I love that teacher because she knows how to teach,” Mwalami recalled. “When teaching, she makes sure everyone understands.  She is a very simple woman. We ate makande together.”

As this writer walked around the school, she saw a woman selling fruits. She was chatting with the head teacher, and all she could say was that she had lost a customer who always bought something from her.

The woman added: “I passed by her house to deliver fruits but, surprisingly, I found a very tight security. I was scared and had to leave. Later, I heard the news of her husband’s nomination as presidential candidate. Then I realised that it would not be easy to meet her like we used to. Maybe I will see her only on TV.”

Twin brothers Lameck and Eliya said they loved Mrs Magufuli, who gave Lameck a wheel chair. “I love her so much, she gave me this wheel chair,” said Lameck. His twin added:   “She is a great teacher, charming and caring. Before this wheel chair, our mother used to carry Lameck from home to school every day. It was a tough job for her, carrying a 14-year-old every day. Our family was very happy. Now I escort my brother to and from school. We are missing her already. If her husband is elected the president, I don’t know if we will see and meet her again.”

Mwalimu Stellah Ijumba Mugini is a teacher and Janeth Magufuli’s best friend. When she heard about the nomination, she said that she was very excited even as she found it hard to believe the news.  She explained: “She is my best friend. We have known each other since 2004. After the whole programme, I texted her but she didn’t reply and I won’t complain because I know she got lots of messages from other people too. I remember texting her “Hongera rafiki yangu.Hayo yote yamepangwa na Mungu” meaning congratulations, my friend, all that has been planned by God.

The Standard Four teacher said: “I will miss her so much.  She came to my family parties.The woman is very humble. I wish her and her husband all the best in this new task. She should behave the same way she used to.” Arafa Mohamed is the salonist at Mama Aicha Hair Style Cosmetics at Kinondoni Shamba, where Mrs Magufuli used to have her hair done. According to Arafa, Mrs Magufuli  is very simple and polite, and she can call them any time and ask for  anything.  Arafa adds” “Sometimes she walked here and she likes simple hairstyles. I will miss her. We used to call each other Mtumishi but now it is impossible. We are scared to call her number.

Arafa adds: “I remember her wise words. She always told us to work hard and be patient. Sometimes we spoke about how her husband worked hard at his job.  If we had 10 leaders like him, we would be far advanced in development.”

Another worker at the same Salon, Faiza Maliki, said they used to call each other ‘my’ and she would visit Mrs Magufuli at home but now it would be difficult. “We are not sure if she will come again to this salon because things are not the same now,” she claimed.  “At the house, there is tight security and that means she won’t be able to come to our salon.”

Mrs Magufuli used to go to local shops for her shopping. It is rare to find a minister’s wife buying vegetables, fruit and other stuff at local shops. But Janet did. Elisante Macha, the owner of one of the local shops located opposite Kinondoni Shamba police post, said Mama Magufuli used to buy her food there. “She comes here every day to get foodstuffs and she would sometimes tell me to keep the change. I hope she will continue to come to my shop,” he added.