Muhimbili and Bagamoyo Hospitals, Mwambao School: The legacy of Sewa Haji Paroo in Tanzania

Muhimbili and Bagamoyo Hospitals, Mwambao School: The legacy of Sewa Haji Paroo in TanzaniaThe history of the current Muhimbili National Hospital located in Dares salaam city, Tanzania, goes way back to 1897 when an Indian businessman established what came to be known as Sewa Haji Hospital. Later on when the British came in as new rulers after the Germans, the hospital was renamed Princess Margaret Hospital. It was after a few years after independence in 1961 that the name of the Hospital was changed to Muhimbili Hospital with one of its Ward blocks retaining the name of Sewa Haji in memory of the founder of the hospital.

Excerpt from Amirali Mamdani’s Voyage of Destiny:

In spite of all his prominence, Sewa remained a humble and devout Ismaili leader and an ardent humanitarian. In his will, he bequeathed his properties in Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo to the German government on the condition that the income from these properties would be used in providing food for lepers and toward the establishment of a hospital in Bagamoyo. His love and concern for education led him to donate a school for African and Indian children.

In 1891, Dar es Salaam became the capital of German East Africa. Here he helped to establish the Sewa Haji Hospital. During British rule, this hospital was named Princess Margaret Hospital and renamed again in 1956 as the Muhimbili Hospital, the principal teaching hospital in Tanzania.

Sewa Haji although born Indian, was a true son of Africa in heart and soul. He worked all his life for Africa, his adopted motherland, and whatever wealth he accumulated gave back for the development of education, public institutions, and the welfare of its citizens. The Christian missionaries referred to him as “our generous friend”.

Sewa Haji (1851-1897)


Sewa HajiToday, 117 Years have passed and we still remember this great man.

Sewa Haji, born in 1851 in Zanzibar, Tanzania. He was a WEALTHY business man, WHO Had business caravan in Bagamoyo and Zanzibar, BUT ALSO KNOWN frame to be God fearing and a philanthropist.

He donated a three storey building in Bagamoyo in 1892 to be used as a School. The School The First mixed race frame School in Tanganyika During the German colonial era. Later on, he Developed a hospital, donated MANY wells and land in Bagamoyo During the cholera Outbreak, and a home for the lepers. He built the biggest hospital in Dar-Es-Salaam that was named Sewa Haji Hospital, later on During the British rule, the name changed to frame Princess Margaret Hospital, now Muhimbili Hospital. He donated Property and land to the poor, without regards to race or religion. He passed away in February 1897 in Zanzibar at the age of 46.

In Tanzania, he is greatly Remembered, in the new Rebuilt Muhimbili Hospital, a ward is in his own named HONOR. His own School (now Coastal Primary School) and hospital (now Bagamoyo District Hospital) still stand in Bagamoyo. The land he donated in Mombasa, Kenya is still being used as a Cemetery.

May Allah grant him a high place in Jannah. He was a muslim not only by name, BUT ALSO by his own actions, for he understood the true meaning of serving unkind.

Bagamoyo District Hospital

Bagamoyo District HospitalIn 1886 the Indian merchant Sewa Haji offered land and money to the Missionaries for a new hospital in the town. The laying of the foundation stone was done March 25, 1891, in the present of the German Governor Wissmann.

In 1912 the German administration took over the hospital which is still a Government Hospital with more than 100 beds. It is the only hospital in the Bagamoyo District which has the large of the state of Lebanon. It is the hospital of the poor people of Bagamoyo.

Since many years Bagamoyo Friendship Society/Germany supports Bagamoyo District Hospital and has renovated the big hospital completly (water and waste water system, several stations, operating theatre, roofs, all toilets and showers, new bridge, building of new maternity ward etc.

In 2006 Bagamoyo Friendship Society/Germany renovated roof of old German colonial main building.

Mwambao Primary School (Old German School), Bagamoyo: One of the first schools in East Africa

Mwambao Primary School (Old German School), Bagamoyo: One of the first schools in East AfricaSewa Haji donated the school to the German Colonial Government in 1896. He made it a condition that the Germans should found a school for African, Indian and German pupils (in different classes).

The old German School was one of the first schools in East Africa.

Until May 2006 it was under extremly bad condition. In the second half of 2006 German partnerschool “Marienschule Ahlen” and Bagamoyo Friendship Society/Germany renovated the school completly – supported by many private German sponsors and supported by the Federal Republic of Germany.

Mwambao Primary School has about 800 pupils, more than 350 pupils have no parents. There is also one class with handicapped pupils.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete himself was a pupil of Mwambao School.

Sources consulted for the story:
The Voyage of Destiny – By Amirali G. Maani

Related from the Ismailimail Archives:

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

2 thoughts

  1. My mother worked as a nursing sister at the Sewa Haji some time in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. She and my father who worked for East African Railways and Harbours lived in EARH housing on the causeway in Dar es Salaam.


  2. I started standard 1 at Mwambao Primary School September 1973, and left Bagamoyo September 1976, my mother was a nurse at Bagamoyo Hospital. Will go back to visit if time allows me!


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