January 23, 2024
2 Min. Read

DINNER FOR ONE

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A new hospitality school in Zanzibar trains local youth for jobs in the tourist industry. We tested it. 

Does the glass stand to the right of the plate, or the left? Can VIPs register in their room instead of at the reception? What is cereal? Tumaini Kiwenge is one of five teachers at a new vocational training, the ‘Zenj Centre of excellence for tourism’ (ZCET), located within the property of a hotel. She talks about “the sequence of service” as if it’s a ballet choreography: light as a feather and yet mastered only by persistent training. In front of her: a class of a dozen students, the majority girls, listening eagerly. 

This year, 115 students have joined the boarding school, which opened in Zanzibar two years ago. It stands out for two aspects: courses of nine months consist of one third theory and two thirds practical training. Through a government-initiated program, the education is aimed especially at girls. Front office and housekeeping, cooking and serving – all these skills are tested in real time at the 4-star Sansi Kae Beach resort in Michamvi. One of the school founders, Talal Atturkhan from Mauritius says: “75 percent of our students are female; attitudes towards girls’ education are positively changing.” 

With more than 30 percent youth unemployment according to official labour statistics, the booming tourism industry in Zanzibar seems indeed not a bad place to make a living. But that’s not where students’ ambitions end: “Certainly something bigger than reception”, says student Shine, 20, when asked about her future plans. As we put her fellow student Rabea to the test with a dinner for one, all goes smoothly, from presenting the menu to taking orders. The fork is placed on the correct side, too. But then comes the dessert and Rabea stumbles. As she introduces a “smooth mango”, I inquire: “A mango smoothie as dessert?” It turns out it’s a mango mousse. Does it matter? Hardly. But the context is interesting: “80 percent of the food here I have never heard of before”, the apprentice admits. And how does that feel? “It’s okay”, another student says, “it’s just like learning a new language.” 

(AT) Information: zcet.org

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