Remembering Mama Lulu

Spitfire. A force for progress. Persistent. Passionate. Generous. Dynamic. Confident. Tenacious. Vibrant. Unstoppable. All of these words were used to describe Mama Lulu, the Headmistress of Ganako Secondary School, who passed away surrounded by her family and friends on July 5th, 2013. She was a special person who had the gift of making every person she met both feel important and at ease. At the same time, Mama Lulu knew what she wanted and was always determined to make progress.

Mama Lulu, more formally known as Sister Mary Lulu, was born in January, 1952. She was the second of 14 children, and dedicated much of her life to supporting her family. In the 1960s, it was unusual for Tanzanian girls to attend school, but Mama Lulu’s father wanted her to get an education, so she started primary school in the early 1960s. She excelled in both primary and middle school, and upon her completion of middle school she became a nun with the Sisters of the Daughters of Mary. Mama Lulu passed the Sisters’ secondary school entrance exam and enrolled in secondary school in Dar es Salaam. She continued through university and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1982.

Mama Lulu had been teaching for over 20 years when she became the first Headmistress of Ganako Secondary School in 2004. Judi Wineland, one of the directors of FoTZC and a co-founder of Thomson Safaris met Mama Lulu that year and was immediately struck by her leadership and her close relationship with the school board at Ganako. Judi introduced the rest of the FoTZC board to Mama Lulu, and, along with the Harriman family, they set out to turn Ganako into a model for other schools in Tanzania. From 2007-2010, the Ministry of Education sent Mama Lulu to run another secondary school, but she returned in 2010 for the beginning phases of construction of Michela’s Room, a dining hall and community center at Ganako.

Mama Lulu pushed all of her students and teaching staff to excel, and was particularly interested in improving education for girls. This included visiting her students’ families to explain how important it was for the students to spend their time on homework instead of on housework. During Mama Lulu’s tenure, Ganako was certified by the government to teach A-Levels (Forms 5 and 6) to boys, which is high praise for both the school and her leadership. The chairman of the school board said that Ganako’s achievements were all attributable to Mama Lulu’s efforts. She still, however, was focused on helping young girls. She spoke excitedly about working with girls in need when she retired, and wanted to help young women create better lives for themselves through education. Her vision was remarkable.

FoTZC, along with many others, will truly miss Mama Lulu. She was an enthusiastic leader, an outstanding educator, and a great friend. We will all remember her as Judi Wineland does: “she was a big personality, had a smile and a laugh that could melt ice in an instant, and was a no-nonsense leader who was passionate about her goals but had a warmth that filled the room. She led us all.”