Kongwa, in central Tanganyika (now Tanzania) had been the central location for the post-World War II British government's, 30-million-acre, ill-fated Groundnut Scheme. With its failure, a village of tin roofed and white ant infested abandoned shacks, devoid of water-born sanitation, became available - suited, it was decided by the Tanganyika legislature - to temporarily locate a co-ed secondary school for European children. Kongwa School was unique in Africa: it catered to 400 students in an arid outback region, home to the Wagogo tribe, but otherwise essentially undeveloped.
Based on the memoirs of Tony Edwards, this novel picks up his story when, at age 9, as a result of his parents moving to East Africa, Tony finds himself bound for Kongwa School in January of 1952. Located just south of the Maasai Steppe where was to be found every manner of game, exotic bird life, insects and reptiles, Kongwa provided a harsh if adventure-filled location in which to be educated and grow.
THE SLOPE OF KONGWA HILL is a fascinating account of the journey of a sensitive young boy to a bolder young man. The story recalls the toughness, discipline, sometimes the brutality of British boarding school life, aggravated by the primitive location and its concurrence with the ever-present danger from living in East Africa's bundu. Fights and beatings contrast with the excitement of animal and reptile confrontations, torrential storms, locust infestation and other adventures. A terrifying encounter with a black mamba, running away into the bush, hunting for game for the school's meat supply, a narrow escape from lionesses, Boy Scout camp-outs, and a forbidden romance during the central character's coming-of-age, combine in a kaleidoscope of never-to-be-repeated experiences, recounted with passion and, at times, delightful humour.
"...Evokes the feelings of young school kids in an absolutely unique situation at a time of great worldwide change. The happy and not-so-happy times are faithfully remembered and the setting of the great plains of central Tanganyika (Tanzania) -- in an era before television, cell phones, reliable electricity supply or decent transport -- makes for a book that one cannot put down." - Graeme Berry (an alumnus of that place and times), UK
"I was fourteen when I read this book, around the age the kids were in this story of boarding school days in Africa. I was amazed at the experience, jealous of the freedoms kids had then but scared for some of the dangers and violence too. Boy, much of it would be totally illegal today. It's a cool book which I think was intended for grown-ups, but pretty exciting for teens who are interested in boys (and girls) adventures in wildest Africa. Wish I could have been there." - Callum O'Neill, Canada
"Having been born and raised in East Africa, I related to the author's memories and descriptions of life. The songs of the birds and the sounds of the bush that are unique; the colours, the dryness, the vastness, the native people and their amazing history, all came flooding back. Once you have sampled living in Africa, you never really leave it behind. A good read and highly recommended for anyone with a taste for Africa." - Fiona Firth, Australia
"A wonderful account of not just the author's life in Tanganyika but an excellent record of the children growing up in a country where they had to go to a boarding school, lost in the bush and far from home. So close to my own experience, it brings my memories flooding back." - Barbara Laing (an alumna of the place and times), UK
"Feels like I am there, a young boy growing up all over again... I love this book!" - Ted Weir, Canada