Giving children the chance to choose

Salima Mwanjile facilitates a classroom session at Nyashana Primary School, behind her is a volunteer teacher, Mtaiye Mafuru, who sometimes joins her to assist to cope with the large classroom.

With the enrolment of new students still underway across Tanzania by the time registration closes on March 31st, Teacher Salima Mwanjile’s class could once again top 300 (click here to see the video of her classroom taken last year).

 

At Nyashana Primary School in Mwanza one is able to see the reality of overcrowding that happens in many areas countrywide, a major contributing factor being the government waiving school fees in 2015. Education sector partners in development call this “a positive emergency” because enrolment has doubled. The challenge is that spending on infrastructure and teachers has remained relatively static. Whatever we choose to call it, it makes life hard for Ms Mwanjile.

By the end of the school day, Ms Mwanjile’s voice is cracking from non-stop talking, singing and keeping order in her classroom. However hard she tries, the children are deprived of close supervision and guidance from their teacher and it means they finish the day having learned very little. Learning outcomes are going down which means bad news for both children and country in years to come.

There is good news, however. Tanzania is able to improve PPE when parents, Civil Society Organisations, communities and the government work together. Fursa kwa Watoto (FkW) programme, run by Children in Crossfire Tanzania and partners, is one of many successful programmes supporting the government to ease the strain on PPE. As interim solution FkW-trained teachers have learned various strategies to manage the large student numbers such as conducting sessions in shifts. Also through Parent-Partnership Programme, FkW encourages parents to be actively involved in their children’s education and to provide support through school feeding programme, allowances for teacher assistants/volunteers and production of learning materials.

Mwenge Primary School students enjoying a pre-writing session in a classroom that has ample space.

Mwenge Primary School students enjoying a pre-writing session in a classroom that has ample space.

FkW at the school level has tested and rolled out interventions in which teachers are taught coping and good practice strategies to manage large classrooms, apply early years pedagogy to create stimulating spaces, and create and use learning materials from local resources. In the approach, parents are engaged to support teachers in the learning of their children and school leadership works in partnerships with LGAs for quality assurance

Ideally, the FKW model works best with 45 students – a dream for Ms Mwanjile – but it can also manage the national average of 99:1 (Basic Education Statistics of Tanzania–BEST 2016). Ideal FkW classrooms can be found in several programme schools in Kilimanjaro region where classrooms are not crowded.

Although overcrowding remains a problem at Nyashana, soon it will be a thing of the past. The government has recently released over 60m/- Shillings (approximately US$28,000) for construction of new classrooms. “Once the new classrooms being built are finished they will provide tremendous relief to our problem,” says Ms Mwanjile.

 

 

Men at work - Construction of new pre-primary classroom at Nyashana School.

Men at work – Construction of new pre-primary classroom at Nyashana School.

Children in Crossfire calls on the government to adopt Fkw learnings so that more schools can benefit and more children, like those in Ms Mwanjile’s class, can receive the support they deserve for a quality pre-primary school experience.

 

By Chiku Lweno–Children in Crossfire Tanzania

 

 

 

Fursa kwa Watoto (Opportunities for Children) is an initiative in Tanzania designed to improve school readiness and learning outcomes for children by building evidence on the effective and scalable provision of quality pre-primary education in line with Tanzanian policies and systems. The programme is implemented through collaboration among Children in Crossfire Tanzania, Unicef, Mathematica, CSR Group Africa, Maarifa ni Ufunguo, Tanzania Home Economics Association (TAHEA) and Aga Khan University.

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We are a registered charity in Northern Ireland (NIC101412) and The Republic of Ireland (CHY 20045517). Children in Crossfire is now also a registered ‘Not For Profit’ in the USA and is recognised as tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (EIN 46-2267122). We are developing Advisory Groups in Chicago and Boston to assist with a fundraising programme.