Giving children the chance to choose
A Fursa kwa Watoto pre primary classroom at Nguge Primary School, Misungwi, Mwanza.

A Fursa kwa Watoto pre-primary classroom at Nguge Primary School, Misungwi, Mwanza.

Enthusiasm, energy, happiness, openness and playfulness are all rolled into a carefully packaged early learning experience called Fursa kwa Watoto (FkW) (which is Kiswahili for ‘opportunities for children’). Children in Crossfire Tanzania coordinates other partners of FkW which has so far reached over 11,000 children in Kilimanjaro and Mwanza regions.

In September the FkW team got to share its positivity with the Commissioner for Education Dr Edicone Shirima (pictured below reading books with pre-primary students at Mwenge School) who led a government delegation from his Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Primary School Department of the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) to attend FkW’s 14th Technical Working Group meeting (TWG) in Kilimanjaro. It was a privilege to share all the lessons and challenges of implementing FkW and discuss possible solutions. Typically, the TWG schedule includes visits to schools when classrooms are in sessions so that members can observe proceedings for later discussions on how best to improve the programme. Inspired by his first experience of FkW classroom, Dr Shirima went on to challenge and encourage TWG participants to plan “how to ensure children who are not in FkW programme areas are also reached”. His message was well received by the government officials in attendance–District Education Officers (DEO), District Academic Officers and Quality Assurance Officers for the districts covered by FkW–who launched a scaling up plan.

Commissioner for Education Dr. Edicone Shirima (Pictured reading books with pre-primary students at Mwenge School

Fast-forward two months later, to the 15th TWG in Mwanza the number of schools reached by FkW grown from the original 40 Fkw schools in Misungwi and 20 in Nyamagana to remarkable 146 and 88 for each district respectively!

 

 

Transfer of knowledge– the uhawilisho campaign

DEOs from Misungwi and Nyamagana, enthused from TWG 14 resolved to roll out FkW to other schools in their districts. “We combined the knowledge base already in FkW teachers in our districts with a great deal of motivation and dedication in the remaining teaching workforce to demonstrate a transformation in the pre-primary classes,” Says Ephraim Majinge, Misungwi DEO.

 

FkW teachers share experience and skills with colleagues in Mwanza.

 

During the transfer of learning drive, training was not confined to pre-primary teachers only class 1 and 2 teachers were included so that they can create a smooth transition to higher classes. Headteachers and deputy headteachers were trained alongside ward education officers (WEO). For sustainability, WEOs were assigned with responsibilities of coordinating and supervising the roll-out in their respective wards. The district teams, TAHEA and Children in Crossfire’s team provided technical support to ensure quality PPE and proper knowledge are transferred.

“Although classroom quality improvement is an on-going process, we have proof that FkW model is scalable using our own resources,” adds Omari Kwesiga, Nyamagana DEO, reflecting on the success of the exercise they named ‘uhawilisho’ resonating well with the spirit of ‘breathing new life’ to pre-primary classes which weren’t very lively before.

Testing uhawilisho

With the uhawilisho momentum is still strong TWG 15 held towards the end of October was graced by the presence of the Permanent Secretary of PORALG, represented by Assistant Director Primary Education Director Benjamin Oganga. It was Onganga’s first time to visit FkW programme, therefore despite the positive briefing he got from PORALG staff who are familiar with it, he requested to see the whole spectrum of pre-primary classes in Mwanza—FkW schools, Non-FkW schools and recently transformed schools from uhawilisho.

Teacher at Isera, which is a non FkW school, has improved her classroom by simply observing teachers from neighbouring FkW Busagara Primary School.

A teacher at Isera which is a non-FkW school has improved her classroom by simply observing teachers from neighbouring FkW Busagara Primary School

From the ‘talking walls, responsive children and energetic teachers’ it is impossible to remain unmoved by FkW classrooms that come to life every school day. The delegation from PO-RALG was keen to understand how scalable, cost-effective and quality efficient FkW model really is.

Moving ahead together

After feedback and critical assessment of school visits, participants of TWG 15 came up with recommendations for various stakeholders on how to improve quality of pre-primary education in Mwanza, Kilimanjaro and possible elsewhere in the country. The recommendations aimed at resolving aspects that may interfere with imparting quality education for the children such as shortage of qualified teachers, age mix classrooms, overcrowded classes, lack of appropriate classrooms and toilets, shortage of teaching/learning materials and school feeding programme. According to Oganga, the government is committed to improving quality of education, therefore lessons from Fkw are taken seriously. He further said that the challenges identified must be resolved and recommendations taken up before possible country-wide roll out.

Benjamin Oganga (seated left) elaborating a point to Craig Ferla (standing right) during a group discussion.

Benjamin Oganga (seated left) elaborating a point to Craig Ferla (standing right) during a group discussion

Children in Crossfire Country Director, Craig Ferla, appreciates the strong collaboration that exist across different stakeholders that contributes to the effective implementation of shared goals for pre-primary education. “This is uniquely demonstrated across partners to the Fursa kwa Watoto programme, including the national leadership of the government ministries headed by PO-RALG and MOEST; the local leadership demonstrated by regional administration and local government; the community and school leadership; the pre-primary teachers themselves; and finally the programme partners—TAHEA, Maarifa ni Ufungo and Aga Khan University”

While officially closing the meeting Oganga congratulated FkW collaborative and promised continued government support for the benefit of Tanzanian children.

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