Remembering 2015-16 …

Thanks for this year!/ Tack för i år!

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Graduation Day – 2016

From 9.00 until 14.00, we celebrated the graduates of 2016 with photos, hat-signing, songs, lunch, speeches, awards, mentor meetings, hugs and words of praise … then, at 14.00 – they ran through the doors, out into the sunlight and crossed over to the other side – studenten!

Congratulations to our graduates!

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2016 – Best Friend/Bästa Kamrat – Nicklas Kull

2016 – Best Overall Student/ Gillet – Linnea Bendrot


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Digital tests make sense for our students …

This i was originally published here>>

Markus Andersson (1)


Markus Andersson

Lead Teacher, Viktor Rydberg High School

  • Why did you search for a digital examination tool?

We experienced a need to digitize mainly because we have been a 1:1 school for a long time. Our students use computers for basically everything, during classes, taking notes, researching, essays etc. Everything except when writing a test. The exam-situation therefore differed a lot from the rest of the education. At VRG we have a mixed environment with Macbooks, PCs and chromebooks. A necessity for the new exam-system was that it was hardware-independent.

  • What were your first impressions of DigiExam? 

We were one of the first piloting schools to use DigiExam, so it all started in 2012 when we received the beta version, in order to test and give feedback to DigiExam. My first impression was that the program was easy to use and that the students appreciated to write their tests digitally. One feature we helped improve was the annotation-system which effortlessly lets you annotate in students answers.

Together with the IT- Directors at VRG, I saw great potential in the platform. Now four years later a really good product has become great. We had some feedback, especially regarding the annotation-feature, which DigiExam listened to and developed a tool that simplified the feedback process for us.

  • What’s your best tip to someone in search of a digital examination tool?

Most importantly, like any new tool, it must be used. The benefits of using the program must be clear and therefore I recommend that school leaders offer DigiExam as one way of carry out exams rather than something the teachers are forced to use. We arranged for a test group of teachers to try out DigiExam before buying, and when they experienced the programme, they became ambassadors towards the rest of our teachers and the use of the program spread quickly among our five schools in the Viktor Rydberg foundation.

  • How did the implementation of DigiExam work for you?

It was easy, much easier than expected actually. Our teachers wanted to use it and the students as well. In some cases when a certain teacher hadn’t started to use DigiExam the student asked the teacher if he or she could let them write their exam using DigiExam and then the teachers started to use DigiExam. They really embraced it. To my knowledge none of the teachers that use DigiExam has ever returned to the analogue version of handling assessments.

Over the years, the product has developed into a very stabile and reliable software. At VRG we have started to use DigiExam for quick diagnostic tests between graded exams as well. It’s great to be able to give students quick feedback and for me as a teacher to know how much of a topic the students have understood. This gives me the possibility to modify the teaching to better support the students.

It was easy, much easier than expected actually

  • What impact has DigiExam had on your School?

Students and teachers are very happy with DigiExam, over 95% of our students prefer digital examinations in favor of pen and paper. It has quickly become more natural with digital tests.

  • How do you think your organisation will work with technology in the future?

More areas within education will get digitised. Next big thing for us is to a greater degree use the opportunities digital teaching platforms give us. This will enable us to offer the students a blended learning environment and then adapt the teaching for each student.


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During a non-traditional exam, students solve challenges of global warming

Env. Conf. 4In a recent seminar, students were challenged to use their skills from their Natural Science and their Social Science class to manage the challenges of global warming.  By using a computer simulation program, students wereEnv. Conf. 1 able to test the long-term climate impacts of policy decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Students used the C-ROADS simulator as a catalyst for their discussions.

croadsThe C-ROADS simulator is able to make predictions about the levels of future global warming.

During the seminar, students represented different countries and negotiated with each other in order to reach a global agreement to cut emissions and help finance those countries that might find these targets difficult to reach.

Env. Conf. 7The students were tested on their ability to account for the problems associated with climate change, as well as developing arguments for how the problem might be resolved. This involved understanding the key terms and concepts related to climate change from both their Natural Science and their Social Science Env. Conf. 5courses. They also trained some of their “real world” skills such as negotiation and compromise.
During the seminar, students worked in groups. This unit will end with a written, in-class reflection about what the students themselves feel they have learned during the process.
Env. Conf. 12
At a stressful time of year when many other courses are running lengthy exams, this was a welcome Env. Conf. 3alternative to more traditional assessments.
Students were able to learn (and be tested)  in a social, active, engaging and challenging environment without undue stress or academic overload.
Very cool!
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Memories from #Studentbalen2016

This gallery contains 20 photos.

Such a fun night … Continue reading

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Learning Biology in the great outdoors!

IMG_3475Tyresta National Park is a fantastic resource for teachers, students and anyone who lives near Stockholm. The park is full of pristine hiking areas.  Due to the forest fire that raged there in 1999, visitors have the opportunity to see and discuss many interesting ecological processes in a beautiful and dramatic (biologically speaking) setting.

On May 24, all Biology 1 students from VRG traveled to the national park and walked through the forest areas to the fire area. On the way, we discussed flora and fauna, as well as listened to our most common birds. A guide showed us around in the fire area and told us about how nature changes after a fire.  We learned about species that thrive only when the soil warms up, such as the beautiful flowers who went into full bloom after the fire.

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Students also got to go on a tour of Nature Room and learn more about our 29 Swedish national parks. They also watched a video that showed beautiful pictures of these IMG_3476magnificent natural areas, including Sarek, Stenshuvud, Kosterhavet and Gotska Sandön.

Thanks Tyresta for a nice and educational day!

Tyresta nationalpark är en fantastisk resurs för lärare, elever och alla som bor i närheten av Stockholmsområdet. Parken är full av orörda strövområden, och på grund av skogsbranden som rasade där 1999 har man möjlighet att diskutera många intressanta ekologiska processer i en vacker och lite dramatisk miljö.
Tyresta nationalpark är en fantastisk resurs för lärare, elever och alla som bor i närheten av Stockholmsområdet. Parken är full av orörda strövområden, och på grund av skogsbranden som rasade där 1999 har man möjlighet att diskutera många intressanta ekologiska processer i en vacker och lite dramatisk miljö.
Den 24 maj åkte alla biologistuderande årskurs ett-elever från VRG till nationalparken och promenerade genom urskogsområden till brandområdet. På vägen diskuterade vi flora och fauna, och lyssnade till våra vanligaste fåglar. En guide visade runt i brandområdet och berättade om hur naturen förändras efter en brand. Bland annat finns arter som endast frodas när marken värms upp, till exempel den vackra brandnävan som slog ut i full blom efter branden. 

Eleverna fick även gå en rundvandring i Naturums hus och veta mer om våra 29 svenska nationalparker. En film visade vackra bilder från dessa storartade naturområden, bland andra Sarek, Stenshuvud, Kosterhavet och Gotska sandön.


Tack Tyresta för en fin och lärorik dag!
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Kenyan students and VRG students connect via Entrepreneurship

IMG_7088Self-confidence, risk taking, curious, courageous, team player, organized, focused … these were the qualities discussed during our conversations in Entrepreneurship class this week.
On Wednesday, May 18, VRG Economy students welcomed four students and three teachers from Kenya to visit our school.  These four students had won a national competition for “Best Young Entrepreneur” in Kenya via an afterschool program sponsored by Hand in Hand.  Their prize was to come to Sweden to attend the Swedish national competition in Entrepreneurship (SM in UF).IMG_7091

As our school is very involved in the UF process here in Sweden and our school is focused on building future entrepreneurs, we were a natural stop for a school visit for this team.  Even better was that the Kenyans hosts were two former VRG students, IMG_7099Susanna Johansen (VRGD Class of 2001) and Nina Sidenö (VRGD Class of 2008).  They helped us to make the necessary connections to make this visit possible.

During their visit, the students from Kenya shared their Hand in Hand projects:

Solo 15yrs old – Solo intends to establish a search system indicating the availability of pharmaceutical drugs. Frank has identified the need
of a system that can tell which pharmacy stocks certain drugs.  Today, customers usually need to visit many pharmacies before finding their prescribed medicine. This is something he wants to change.

Francis 17yrs old – Francis has found a lucrative business in selling eggs. He buys eggs from a local IMG_7087farm and sells them with a small margin. He has realized the positive effects of online marketing and exposes his business via Facebook. He now offers home delivery as a way to wipe out any competition.

Evelyn 19yrs old – Evelyn ́s enterprise is focusing on breeding and keeping doves. Once fully grown, the doves are sold locally. As doves are a popular pet in Kenya she experiences a huge increase of demand prior to school holidays.

Nelson 17yrs old – Nelson is contributing to sustainable tree farming and his enterprise is focusing on growing seedlings of three eco resilient types of trees. Among his customers are many big farms and the three varieties that Nelson grows are Eucalyptus, Macadamia and Khat.IMG_7093

And, then the VRG students shared their projects. Their projects included:  Apps for preparation for the college entrance exam in Sweden and course evaluation, a service that sells wild game, a service that raises money for charity and more.

What we found is although we have different school systems and different implementation approaches, we share many of the same key ideas.  Core content areas of marketing, risk analysis, organizational theory, best practices, business plans, sustainability, etc were obviously of central focus in both programs.  But even more interesting were the “soft skills” – self-confidence, curiosity, team spirit, grit – that were also very similar.  We realized that although many “worlds apart”, we shared the same values.


According to our national curriculum, the Economy students should …

“… gain knowledge about the role of business in the development of the society – local, regional, national and global. … Content and working methods should encourage the student’s creativity and ability to cooperate, take responsibility and convert ideas into action…”

This engaging visit did just that.  We were all very inspired by our time together and hope to make these discussions an annual event each year when the Kenyan national winners visit Sweden.


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Focus on learning rather than grades …



Nanna Olsson (VRGD alum 2014) attends Columbia University in NYC

” … focus on learning rather than grades, to take advantage of all the help VRG can give you and not be frightened of being yourself and pursuing your true interests.”

Dear students,

I wanted to follow up with some advice that I think you should consider if you are applying to an American university. First of all, you need to ask yourself, “why do I want to study in the US?”. It is very rare for a Swedish student to get their Bachelor’s degree in the US for the simple reason. Swedish universities are so good, and free, that in many cases, it might not be worth the hassle to go through the application process. I actually don’t know any other Swedish students at my school (I’ve heard there is one more student somewhere, but I’ve never met her!). If you can’t come up with a compelling reason why should study in the US, I’d say it’s probably better that you don’t even apply and focus on getting into a good school in Sweden. I’m not trying to be discouraging, but I remember when I applied, I had many friends who had come a long way on their applications, and decided last minute that they did not want to study in the US. They didn’t even send in their complete applications. They had all made a serious effort, but that time could have been spent on their schoolwork or social life. Remember, there are other ways you can study in the US, for grad school or internships.  I’ve heard a lot of Swedish graduate students hanging out on the Columbia campus!

If you can find a good reason why you need a Bachelor’s degree from the US, I think the best time to start your application is your second year in high school. Put in a lot of time finding a great school that fits YOU. Not everyone should go to Harvard, Yale or Columbia, because they offer very different educations that are not a good fit for everyone. When researching a school, study their curriculum, their geographical location, resources for undergraduates and what kinds of professors that teach there. All schools have a very specific culture, which you need to figure out. Note that undergraduate is different from graduate school! There is no business school at Harvard for undergraduate students, and there is no journalism school at Columbia for undergraduate students. University of Pennsylvania has probably one of the best business schools in the US for undergraduates and Northwestern University has a top-notch journalism school for undergrads as well. None of those schools are Ivy League.

American universities requires you to take either the SAT or ACT, the TOEFL-test, and probably two SAT subject tests. The SAT has been changed from when I took it, I think it is supposed to be more analytical and more reading heavy now. It is important that you start taking these tests early, so you have time to improve your scores. If you are more of a science person and good at math, I’ve heard that the ACT is easier, while the SAT might be easier if you are better at English and reading. For the subject tests, you should just take the subjects that you are good at. The TOEFL-test should not be difficult for you, it basically only tests if you are able to take a class in English, which most you already are at VRG, but do not take it last minute, just get it out of the way. I hate to say this, but you do need good SAT-scores in order to get into a competitive school. For the Ivy-league, it’s common for people to have a total score over 2000 and to get over 700 on the reading section. The good news is that you can “super score” which means that admissions officers will only consider the highest scores you’ve had on each section of the test. The SAT only tests how good you are at taking the test, which means that you can study for it. How? By taking the tests. There are many practice tests out there. Just simulate test conditions and do it over and over again. That’s the only way to study for it.

I want to address grades. You do need high grades to be admitted to a competitive school. I know how obsessed VRG-students can be about their grades, but you all need to stop that behavior. Trust me, at Columbia, people are just as obsessed about grades but at a much higher degree. I have found a general study technique that works for me, both at VRG and at Columbia, which has relieved me from a lot of stress. Don’t let your ambition guide you, but your curiosity. Forget about the grades, and make a genuine effort to understand the material in a profound way. Questions that you should ask your instructor after class are not, “How can I get an A in this class?” or “Can I still get an A in this class?” but rather specific questions about the material that you do not understand. I promise you, if you forget about grades and really try to understand the material, the grades will come automatically. School will also become less stressful and more enjoyable if you focus on what you learn, instead of what you are not able to learn. Keep in mind that it is much more difficult to get an A in Sweden than it is in the US. In many places, a B in Sweden would be worth and A in the US.

Extra-curricular activities are extremely important for the application. Not necessarily for the prestige, but they give clues to the admissions officer on who you are as a person.

Therefore, you must focus on things that YOU find important. Admissions officers want to see some evidence that you will make use of all the resources that they offer to their students. If you are a scattered person who are interested in many things (like I was) they at least must see some form of narrative on how you became the person you are today. I think there is a reason why “This American Life” with radio host Ira Glass is such a popular radio show in the US, because Americans love a good storyteller. So, don’t get involved in things because you think it might stand out on your resume, do it because you think it is meaningful or fun. Do not hold empty titles. The title “head of student council” or “editor of the student newspaper” does not mean anything unless you’ve been an active leader who improved your organization.

I also mentioned in my talk that I got help from Kent Fernandez. Although he helped me a lot, I don’t want you to think that you need to hire outside help in order to get admitted to an American university. The reason for why I hired him, was because I wanted a second opinion on my application, and I also felt a little bit lost in the process (and short of time) after having decided to not apply to my dream school, Stanford. My father had been a professor there, I had taken classes there and networked with researchers and grad students so I thought that it was a school for me. I realized however, that despite the important connections I had made, I was not the student they were looking for.

It’s all about finding the right school, which I have already mentioned. When I learned more about Columbia, I felt destined to go there, it literally took me one day to do the application because all of my answers to the Columbia-supplement came so naturally. That’s when you know you’ve find a good school for you. As long as you are a mature person and realistic about your prospects of getting into a school, you are fine to apply by yourself. That said, there are many free resources that you should take advantage of if you are serious about studying in the US. Start at VRG. Talk to your school counselors. I know that Sue and Keren offer mock interviews that I highly recommend you do before your interview with a college representative. Contact the Fulbright office in Stockholm. They offer free college consultations, and you can also borrow college literature for free, such as books on how to prepare for the SAT, personal statements and books about colleges which is a good way to learn about different universities. They are closed over the summer, so it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment before they close so you could get books over the summer to read. They are very good at answering any kinds of financial aid questions. Occasionally, Fulbright hosts events where representatives from different colleges come to talk about their schools. This is a great way to learn about different universities, and these schools might also be more likely to accept Swedish students since they are making an effort to speak to you. Bombard theses reps with questions, they might be the ones reading your application.

To hit the homerun, I will address the questions I often get on why I got into Columbia. There is not one thing that made me stand out, but it was the whole picture. Everything on my application made sense of why I should study at Columbia, and that’s the key to having a successful application. Everything you do, should be consistent with who you are as a person and what you want to achieve. Forget about prestige. Be genuine and curious. In other words, embrace your inner nerd.

Good luck with your plans after graduation, whatever they might be!

Nanna Olsson

Political Science

Class of 2018

Columbia University


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International Relations students involve whole campus in their studies

During a recent assignment, students in our International Relations (IR) class involved our whole campus in their assignment regarding NGOs (non-government organizations).

As a part of their elective course, IR, students were asked to investigate how NGOs work – structure, economic financing, their purpose and impact.  In addition, students were challenged with raising awareness and support for their particular NGO.

One group shared via social media:

The Malala FundOver 60 million girls are missing out on education because they have to work, are married off early, lack access to school facilities, or have to care for younger siblings, denying them their fundamental right to education. Malala Fund works in several different countries; Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Kenya as well as Syria. The different countries require different strategies to achieve the goal of 12 years of free education for girls. For example, to increase percentage of girls receiving education in Pakistan, the donation aids received has gone to repairing damaged schools, providing with education material, and also increasing enrollment for girls at secondary school in order to provide education for vulnerable and married girls as well.

Malala Fund is a non-profit organisation and we are now accepting donations. Every donation counts.
Donate by swish: 0735239885
Bankaccount: 33009707044088
Cash: We are outside HB in the beautiful sun!
For more information, visit

Other groups set up info tables all over campus:

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Thanks … International Relations students for sharing your learning with all of us!

(The second half of the group will be sharing next Tuesday)

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What we learned on our study trip to Tanzania …

(This blog entry is written by many students – a collaborative effort of all the students who participated in this study trip …)

Day 1 -2: Environmental Field Studies in Selous

tz1Our group of 14 students and two teachers land in Dar Es Salaam at 02:25 on the 28th of March and into the hands of the incredibly professional outfit of Tanzania Explorer.  At once we are fascinated with the contrasts from our lives in Sweden: not just the obvious ones like the fact that it is 40 °C and not just 6 °C but also cultural differences. Customs seem disorganized and unreliable in our Swedish eyes. This journey is going to be a journey of acceptance and observation and not criticism and everything is so new. The new impressions keep coming as the jeeps bounce on our way past the sleeping trading post of Kibiti, to Selous, a huge Game Reserve southeast of Dar Es Salaam. As villages fly by the open windows in the yet dark night we are impressed by life on the street: dancing, talking, groups of people hanging out: cars, trucks and tz2especially motorbikes ignore traffic rules, running red lights. Men with their motorbikes either sleep on them or just hang around next to them, in the dark Dar es Salaam at 3 a.m.

The six-hour journey on the inferior roads takes us 200 km southeast of Dar Es Salaam to the Rufiji River Camp. The camp, located INSIDE the reserve, has adapted to the tropical savannah in a western manner and is extremely exclusive in comparison to the local villages we observed as we flew past them on the red clay roads. Still, it is different from what we are used to. In Sweden, and the rest of the western world, having tz3electricity is a matter of course but since there are no power stations in the countryside the only electricity available was generated by generators. There is one generator at the lodge we stayed at but it only generated enough energy to provide electricity for a couple of hours. Forget internet.

Electricity and roads: logistics in this remote rural section of this huge country called Tanzania are the most powerful impressions on these first days. Potholes the size of smaller Swedish lakes that drivers tackle with complete abandon and sea sick inducing nausea and the ever present odor of burning firewood emphasize the emerging status of this fascinating country.

During our day excursions we are able to study a number of impressive animals. Conversing with our amazing guides: Rashid, Joshua and Paul we learn about the bachelor herds and the harem herds of impala, the rate of decomposition in this part of the world as opposed to Sweden, about the harsh laws of the lion pride where the alpha male kills cubs to reduce the threat to his reign, that elephants and water buffalo who are cast from the herd are more aggressive and angry than those still in the herd, about how to tell an animal by its droppings and when they had passed them and how to tell a hyena’s footprint from a lion’s or a hippo’s footprint from an elephant’s one.tz4

The habitats of Selous are diverse. The river provides life and death for many as the crocodiles threaten young zebras, wildebeest and gnu as well as the women from the local village, Mloko, as they cross the river twice a day to farm the fields. The river also provides water for the villages and some have wells but most do not. Rice farming is seen in a smaller river delta.
Open, driftwood coloured landscapes are home to many an acacia (umbrella) tree under which the giraffe feel safe enough to nap.

At our camp it was revealed that the weaving trails of “mowed” grass around the camp were none other than the tell-tale signs of a huge male hippo called Luigi. Despite the elevated position of our camp, Luigi leaves the cooling waters of the Rufiji River every night and blazes a weaving trail of masterful horticultural pruning between the tents. We were all lucky enough to have seen him and his gnawings lulled us to sleep in the warm star-filled Tanzanian night

Day 3: Mloka
tz5The first village that we visit is Mloka. Mloka is located in the Selous area of Southern Tanzania, close to the Rufiji River. Thanks to Rashid at Tanzania Explorer, we are met by a local guide and school teacher who leads us around and who provides us an insight to life in rural Tanzania.
The second we step our feet onto the red, sandy, ground, dozens of children surround us- each one of them wanting our attention. We, mzungu, are as exotic to them as their lives are for us.
The first impression we have of the village is that it is very poor and undeveloped. tz6However, the guide tells us that this village is, in fact, quite developed compared to similar villages around the country. Mloka has a medical center, a large school and a food market which carries both imported and exported goods.
Mloka has an Airtel/Tigo shop. Airtel/Tigo? Why is that such a big deal you might ask yourself? Airtel/Tigo representatives are so important in Tanzania because mobile financial services are the backbone of Tanzanian economy. According to the rural population of Tanzania was 69% in 2014. In a country tz7where according to the World Bank only 14% of the population have electricity (2010), mobile banking is even more important. That Mloka has an Airtel/Tigo rep is very important so that villagers can pay their bills. Bill paying in Tanzania is fascinating: ALL MOBILE. Not Swish or internet banking mind you, like Sweden. The visit to Mloka showed us the system: 1) Have cash from sale of goods. 2) Go to a shop that sells phone cards (which in this case is a very simple shop under the central mango that functions as the town center and under whose branches people gather and under which visitors park) 3) Hand over cash and provide representative with your phone number. 4) Wait 3-5 days to receive confirmation that the money has reached your account. Pay bills with code.tz8
We have so many questions after hearing about this. If the phone account is like a bank account does the money gather interest? When does the money go into the account-in the town or when it has reached the big city? What if the cash courier gets robbed? Do I have insurance if Airtel loses my money? Why don’t people use banks? Can one ever hope to have a financial reputation in order to get loans? How could I ever get a loan? Banks are needed in our opinion, but not theirs. This system seems to work. This leads to large amounts of cash floating around. Is this not dangerous we ask? Every day the cash gets picked up and taken to a safe place. But what if someone steals from the messenger we ask? Then everyone will know who that is we are told. And justice will be served.

tz9The Mloka food market provides the village its largest income as it exports its local goods to the whole country. Mloka’s local goods are mostly fish from the Rufiji River, but also from across the river where the village keeps its farms. The workers on this farm are the men and women who risk their lives everyday taking a narrow boat trip over the crocodile filled Rufiji River. This daily trip takes around 75 lives every year.

That all of the able-bodied men and women were away farming was tangible. At three
thousand inhabitants strong, Mloka seemed to be mostly young children on school holiday, older people-finely dressed and partaking in the village meeting about the distribution of electricity and women with newborns also finely dressed and patiently waiting for the health care official on the red earth beneath a large mango tree. The village has many mango and nut trees and there is a saying that the wealth of a village is somewhat deduced by its number of these trees as they will always provide nutrients. Many trees provide a cure for malaria when the branches are chopped, boiled, and the liquid drank as a tea. Nature in the bush is ever present in Mloka and there circulates the story of the sad lion with a toothache who ate five of the village children before being hunted by locals. There is a monument to their passing outside the Reserve gate. I saw a baboon run pell-mell through the village and in the house that we visited the room with a lock was to keep these cheeky beasts out.

When we were walking through the village, we met many children.tz11 They were happy and enthusiastic, a few of us would hand out pens, balloons and candy. It seemed like they really appreciated it. We were privileged enough to be able to walk through a family home. The walls are mud and sticks and there are no windows. This keeps the interior very cool and appropriate for the climate. Owing to the lack of electricity there is naturally no kitchen but there is an eating section of the house dominated by a fireplace and the pot with which water is boiled. We are beginning to understand that the heat and work tz12life also results in different meal times for people in Tanzania and whereas we are used to 5 meals a day they are only used to three and the first two are quite far apart. The house is home to one man and his usually three wives and children who live in harmony. If they have anything to complain about they let their kanga speak for them. Like the Impala the young men are thrown out and have their own pad at 18 years old.
Thank you ‪#‎Tanzania_Explorer for this amazing and eye opening experience.

Day 4-6: Stone Town and Zanzibar

We arrived in the late afternoon after a long journey from Selous via dirt roads, tz13extreme traffic and a ferry ride. It is terribly hot and an interesting transition from the calm, serene Selous to the hustle and bustle of a busy town. Once on Zanzibar, we walk to our hotel, which is not far from the port. It is located on one of the narrow streets of Stone Town near the harbor. Sounds of afternoon prayers, returning fisherman and many, many people take over as we settle in. We end our first evening with a traditional roof-top dinner.

The next morning we begin a walking tour with our local guides – Martin, Elvis and Ali.  In tz16small groups of 6, we tour historical sites including the first hospital in the region, culture centers and the original slave trade sites. It is a somber reality to visit where the slaves were kept prior to sale. We also visit the Anglican Church that is built on the site of the whipping post where slaves were whipped to show that they were strong enough to work. It is a sad place that shows the reality of the slave trade. On our way out, we see the monument erected by a Swedish artist to commemorate this important historical site.

In addition, we visit the famous spice market, fish market, meat market, as well as the fruits and vegetables market. We see many local craftsmen sharing their art – henna, banana leaf paper, recycled flip-flop art, fabrics and more. It is crowded, dirty, busy, tz15exciting, colorful, loud and different from our previous home in Selous. Hundreds of people, all selling their colorful product, crowd into a small area, making for an intense experience. In the evening, we walk to a local restaurant and visit the “park” where local people sell tapas from food stands.

tz17Zanzibar, and more specifically Stone Town, is full of history. As a former center of trade between Africa and the East, the city hums with influences from colonial times. European and Arabic cultural trademarks are evident everywhere. From the architecture to the street names, the doorways and animated haggling the walking tour was like a walk through time. One specific detail of the influences were the doors: heavy, large, ornate, decorated and different shaped doors tell of the period in which they were erected.

During our walking tour, we were also able to listen to an alternative perspectivetz18 regarding the question of cessation. While we understand that Tanzania is a country where different religions live in peace with each other, the question of the relationship between the mainland and Zanzibar remains unresolved. On the mainland, our guides expressed support for the new president and the importance of keeping the relationship intact. On Zanzibar, we are confronted with another perspective. Our guides believe that Zanzibar should be granted independence and have their own government. Clearly, this is a complicated question with many aspects worthy of consideration.

Our time in Stone Town seemed to be dominated by men. There were men everywhere. And, for the first time, the females in our group felt somewhat uncomfortable and insecure. Everyone was friendly, yet it seemed more of a challenge to connect with local people.

Day 7: Makunduchi

tz19Makunduchi is a village located near the south coast of Zanzibar. The coastal terrain provides the village of three thousand a sustainable income from the sale of ropes made out of coconut. This is one of the major businesses in the village and is mostly done by women. It is a long process with several steps. First the women have to place the coconuts in the water for six months to make the fiber soft. Then begins the process of twisting the fibers into ropes. This is one way that the women get money from.
In the village of M’zuri Kaja (Beautiful …..), located in the area of Makunduchi, there are two schools, one primary and one secondary school, both under the name of Kusini. The school has approximately 840 students ranging between the ages of 6-15 years old. There are 11 classes altogether and in tz21every class there is around 60 students. The school has about 29 teachers, we had the opportunity to meet with the head teacher Nathan Hodha who also was about to apply for the role as the headmaster. It was a different experience to visit a school in a very small and poor village and compare it to a Swedish school. We had the chance to look in their school books which were very similar to the ones we have in Sweden, this breaks a lot of the stereotypical thoughts that many might have had before the trip about people not being educated. One thing that is also important to acknowledge is that every single book in the Kusini school is donated by the USAID organisation. There is a new law passed with the accession of the new President, John Magufuli, (‪#‎whatwouldmagufulido), that school is free and obligatory for all and the school has been inundated with first-third graders. Where there are two sixth form classes all of a sudden there are five first grade classes.
tz22One experience that we had was learning about a traditional African piece of clothing named Kanga. Looking like just a piece of fabric but holding on to so much history. Kanga is a piece of fabric that the women wear in different ways to varied occasions. It is used as an everyday clothing such as a skirt and a top. In the lower middle of every Kanga there is a quote that women use to express different messages to each other. For example if two wives in the same house has a conflict they can, instead of fighting, tell each other things through their Kangas. It can also be worn in so many ways and to different occasions.
Makunduchi have in several ways managed to get water. tz23Other than gathering rainwater, which is effective during the raining season, but not otherwise, the village relies on a group of wells within the village for the vast majority of their water supply. Two of the three wells in the village were operated by hand, using coconut rope and containers made of anything available at hand, usually large plastic bottles. The third well was fitted with a crude electrical pump, making collection of water easier, however the pump was prone to breaking down, as the generator that supplied electricity was unreliable, especially during the rainy season, as the humidity and rain caused major problems.

Day 8: Barbro Johansson Model Girls School

tz24Leaving Zanzibar at 0400 we were once again thrust into the hustle and bustle of the ferry terminal in Dar: a veritable hive of activity at 0730. We are met by Ms. Susan from The Barbro Johansson Model Girl’s School and she whisks us through customs and luggage and stops someone taking one of our bags and who receives a smack from the baton of the customs official. On the way out we see and hear boxes of baby chickens that are being sent to Zanzibar.

The day is hot, and the sun is high in the sky by the time we arrive. Male students are tz25ushered quickly into the visitor’s dorm while the rest have our luggage transported further on to the student dorms in which we will stay the night. We are given a quick tour of the campus, with its dorms, canteen, classrooms, labs and art centre, and which ends with us introducing ourselves to the students during the daily assembly. School was not quite in session as the girls had only just returned from their vacation the day before. Teachers were in meetings and the students were often found in classrooms managing their own studies and subjects. Just about everyone was working earnestly.

tz27We visited a class of 11-13 year olds where we went around and asked them to fill in our questionnaire about IT, social media, family life, long term goals, dreams and aspirations and general things. Two things struck us. 1) that the girls were studying rather advanced accounting and 2) that most of the answers on the questionnaire are similar to what we would have answered. Our economics students were flabbergasted that the 11-13 year olds were doing accounting as a part of their Civics course. That they were doing corporate budgeting in pen and with impeccable aesthetic clarity served to illustrate an earlier discussion with Ms. Susan. Ms. Susan elucidated that despite the students being exceptionally well educated after graduating from Barbro Johansson the employment market did not have the diversity of employment opportunities that their education deemed them ready for. Many of the graduates became accountants.

Despite the school’s already large size, it was to explained to us that there are future plans to expand the school, as soon as funding was acquired. It was explained to us that the original plans for the school were created under the assumption that the money that was being received from the Swedish SIDA organisation would continue to come in, but after a reevaluation done by the Tanzanian government the SIDA funds had been redirected to other schools. We are not so sure about this. The school was started by a Swedish woman, Barbro Johansson, who fell in love with Tanzania and who decided to stay. She eventually became a member of Parliament and a champion for the rights of women and girls in the country. Her passion and drive to educate young girls in Tanzania and to elevate their status led to a strong relationship with Prime Minister Olof Palme and Lisbeth Palme has been the chairman of the Swedish based foundation for the school for years.tz28

The school is very different compared to Swedish schools. There are many more rules, and they are more strictly and effectively enforced than at home. Many of these rules are designed to minimise bullying. For example the girls are not allowed to have hair: all students have to have shaved hair except for the seniors. Having long hair is a sign of wealth. The girls are not allowed to wear makeup or use mobile phones during weekdays. Rules like these would be incredibly difficult to enforce in Sweden. The campus was patrolled by at least ten armed guards and the girls believed that if they left campus then they would be eaten by pythons. The most important thing for the parents of the Barbro Johansson students is to make sure that their daughters have a top-notch education, that their access to temptation is restricted and that they are safe. For this they are willing to pay..
The girls have study hall until 11pm and come and pick us up. We stay up most of the night in the dorm talking and braiding hair. Every Sunday the girls are allowed to let out their hair but it must be tightly braided again come Monday morning. Needless to say they are amazing at braiding. The girls at the school had very different expectations and opinions regarding relationships, abortion and religion. When we talked to the girls about relationships they explained that some of them had boyfriends but keep it secret from their family because they fear disapproval.

The best part of the visit to Barbro Johansson was seeing our friends that we have hosted in Sweden: they were so incredibly different-relaxed and completely open and cheerful. In Sweden they were reserved and on best behaviour. Many of our group conclude that perception’s binary oppositions are what makes vrg4tz so incredible and this seeing the girls so incredibly happy and normal was one of these-a total binary opposite.

Day 9: Dar es Salaam – Scania, Sweco & Swedish Embassy

tz29So far the trip has been one of the most interesting and meaningful things that I have done in my entire life. Today the academic focus of the trip reached the same level.

Early in the morning we left Barbro Johansson School to do some study trips at Swedish-based companies located in Dar es-Salaam. First we arrived at Scania. Scania is one of the world’s leading companies in its field: trucks, and they have been operating in Tanzania since 1982. This means that they are well adapted to the Tanzanian way of working and know what it means to be operating a full scale business in a frontier market and the challenges that come along with it. It was therefore interesting to learn about the big differences between tz30operating a company in a country like Sweden, where society is well developed and laws are followed, and Tanzania, where the state of justice is dysfunctional, due to large issues pertaining a high rate of corruption. It was also interesting to hear about their predictions regarding Tanzania as a country, since it is a frontier market, with a large economic potential in its future. We learned about the challenges lying ahead, for example tackling corruption, infrastructure and the people’s faith in the state and the government. Perhaps the most interesting subject discussed was the status role Scania had after their extended establishment in the country. From what the manager at Scania told us Scania’s market position in Tanzania was now so strong it could be, in some ways, compared with IKEA’s market position internationally. It will therefore be interesting to see Scania’s future development in Tanzania and the countries around.

After the study trip, representatives from the Swedish embassy came and talked to us about what their function is in Tanzania and what they do. We then developed a further understanding for the international development projects that are being done in Tanzania and what their main focus areas are to develop. These were education and infrastructure, specifically regarding the development of the electrical network, internet, roads and railways in Tanzania.

tz31The last study visit of the day was at Sweco. Swecos job in Tanzania was to, in cooperation with the stately owned electrical company Tanesco, develop the network of powerlines in Tanzania. The main objective was to provide small villages in the countryside with electricity, in total 25 000 household were going to be provided with electricity. At Sweco we received a further deeper understanding about the infrastructure problems in Tanzania, and other poor countries, and the measurements that had to be done, giving us further perspectives into the challenges that the country faces in the near future.

I believe that this day was the one on which I learned the most. Probably because I had been gaining impressions and had learnt a lot throughout the trip which I then could apply on the things we learned at the study trips at Sweco, Scania and the embassy.

After the field trips we were in the area of Dar Es Salaam where we would probably live if we were to live there-lots of expat families in the markets and the polar extremes of our experiences diminished somewhat. At 1230 am we headed back to the airport and our journey home began.


Two weeks back now and all of the impressions are beginning to settle. Writing this diary together has helped. This common Facebook page/travel diary has physically put our amazing experience together but our hearts are forever filled with Selous starry nights and hippos chomping, the hoops of overjoyed children, the discussions with friends so different and so same and with the hope of more of Tanzania in our futures. We hope that you have enjoyed it!



Students’ personal reflections …

“The best part of the trip was the Scania visit. It was so valuable, so rewarding. It’s very hard to gain insight on what it’s like to work and run a business in another country just by reading about it. Very little information is available online, and it’s usually quite formal and limited. Listening to Anders truly gave a huge – invaluable – insight on how it’s to operate a venture in Tanzania, and the greatest challenges that one may encounter; challenges that might be less obvious than one first might expect. It made it clear that one must stay open-minded to succeed and find and solve the unconventional obstacles that one might face.” – Jakob

I also enjoyed meeting the different companies and the young students from Sweden who worked at the ambassador. Seeing all the different parts of Tanzania and the problems that existed really made you curious on how to fix them. All you wanted was to take a wand and solve everything but unfortunately there is a long way to go for a country like Tanzania. Corruption, poverty and lack of welfare affects everything and it was interesting to see the challenges that Scania, as a big European company, faces. Cultural clashes are almost inevitable and I was surprised to hear how much they affect the everyday working life. I never thought that selling trucks could be so different in Tanzania compared to selling trucks in Europe and it was so inspiring to see how a company like Scania were able to adapt and develop so much. ” – Anna

[…] Visiting villages and schools was definitely one of the best parts of the trip. I have never seen that kind of poverty or met people who lived so differently from me and it is hard to explain how it felt. One part of me was shocked about how they lived and how their lives were, while another part of me was fascinated by how happy they were and all the similarities I could find. Meeting the kids and talking to young adults was very much like talking to kids and young adults in Sweden. I know that so much is different but it was amazing to see how fast we could connect. I especially experienced this while visiting Barbro Johansson School where we got to meet many young girls. Talking about boyfriends, the future, school and everyday life I really felt that in the end, we aren’t that different. It was so interesting to hear about their dreams and to see their reactions when I told them about mine.” – Anna

The best part of the trip was being able to experience so much of a completely different culture. We met ordinary people working in Dar Es Salaam, children from the more primitive villages of Mloko and Makunduchi, schoolgirls at Barbro Johansson’s school for girls and most notably Alan the Masai-warrior whom we shared a breakfast with. Dressed in ordinary clothes and talking about finding a job after university, he was not trying to capitalize on his culture, but rather find a way to further it and help others. ” – Cecilia A.


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