Haas in Africa
Beyond Yourself for children in Tanzania
By Tara Marie Kramlich, BS 03
Haas Defining Principles, I found it difficult to say how these values shaped my interests and my career—until this year. After spending more than a month in Tanzania to launch the Ikirwa English Primary School, I now know that these principles–Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself—have become the fundamental foundation for how I think about the world.
Ikirwa School broke ground in 2011, due to the generous donation and leadership of my mentor and former World Bank colleague Masha Skurkatovskaya. I met Masha while working in a one-year program on the World Bank’s Global Treasury desk, where I managed $3.5 billion in short-term, non-dollar securities. After 10 years of managing World Bank portfolios, Masha was drawn to educational philanthropy and wanted to make a tangible difference in the lives of children.
Youth development was common ground for Masha and me. Growing up in North Dakota with seven siblings and many cousins, I have always loved children. At Berkeley I was very involved with the Young Entrepreneurs at Haas youth mentoring program, and since graduating I have spent many years working with at-risk youth. When Masha told me family obligations would keep her from going to Tanzania for the official launch of the Ikirwa School in January, I quickly volunteered to go and represent the Ikirwa School Project Board of Directors.
While in Tanzania, I oversaw the school’s launch with co-founder Gasper Mbise and the help of several U.S. volunteers. I worked closely with in-country lawyers, accountants, and teachers to finalize contracts and draft and formalize Ikirwa’s official code of conduct, year-end financial statements, and internal financial policies and procedures.
While I was excited about the contribution that my Haas business education enabled me to make, it was my time in the classroom with the children that truly made the experience memorable. Although all contracts, courts, and major jobs are in English in Tanzania (a former British commonwealth), government schools have few resources and teach in Swahili until students’ ninth class and after that secondary education is merely translated into English. As a result, children are ill-equipped to study at universities. Our goal was to start teaching English early with an affordable private school model that has been successful in India, charging parents the minimum they could afford that still would allow us to cover the school’s expenses.
In the classroom, as I watched children ages 4 to 7 learning to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” their beauty, innocence, and excitement about learning was palpable. And then later, outside the school, I could hear the children singing the song around the village.
Many say experiences like these change you, and I am now a firm believer. Not only did the experience push me out of my comfort zone, but it strengthened my gratitude for Berkeley, where I realize now I got a first-class education at an amazing price. I hope all Berkeley students are fortunate enough to have experiences like these, as they only affirm why it is so important to give back after getting so much from Berkeley-Haas.