Giving children the chance to choose

As we celebrate the closing of Fursa kwa Watoto, it is time to reflect on what has made the programme successful.

 

Transforming classrooms originally used to store broken desks, chairs and tables on the back, with pre-primary class pupils squeezed together in the little available free space, into attractive and favourable learning environments is one of the wonders that Fursa kwa Watoto (FkW) has performed in pre-primary schools covered by the programme. Before Fursa came to Papiliki and other intervention schools, little care was given to pre-primary classrooms by the stakeholders. Both school leaders and local government officials hardly paid any attention to pre-primary classes, not knowing their importance and lacking the knowledge needed to monitor and support pre-primary learning. As a result, pre-primary class often had no adequate room allocated to it, no trained teacher, no learning and teaching materials. The teacher was most often an untrained paraprofessional. Rooms crowded with broken equipment would also be used as pre-primary classrooms, and no learning or playing materials would be available.

Papiliki pre-primary was a typical example. The picture depicts Papiliki school classroom used for pre-primary class before FkW

Classroom before Fursa

Classroom before Fursa

started. With high pre-primary class enrolment, pupils crowded the dirty floor of the empty classroom.

The school’s pre-primary teacher, Faustine Mlay, was responsible for enrolment and teaching. The classroom had no learning materials, wall displays, teaching aids or pre-primary guidelines. The teacher would teach using standard I resource book, from which she would pick simple topics that she deemed suitable for pre-primary. Teaching was always teacher-led, with no child-led sessions where children could be teaching themselves through play.

FkW programme interventions brought about remarkable improvements to Papiliki pre-primary. The programme includes a set of interventions, where pre-primary teacher

Children in pre-reading learning area in the classroom

Children in pre-reading learning area in the classroom

training is one of the key elements. Teachers are trained on child-centred teaching approaches with practical, play-based learning, as well as creating and working with learning areas in the classroom and developing materials for them with the help of the pupils’ parents. The programme also provides learning kits with a few storybooks and additional materials for playing and learning. Fursa facilitated the creation of 4 learning areas in Papiliki pre-primary classroom – thus transforming the room into a stimulating and attractive learning environment. The areas are filled with resources from the learning kits, combined with materials locally sourced and produced by the teacher and parents, appropriate to the age of the children and used in line with pre-primary syllabus and curriculum. The teacher is no longer reduced to using standard I books to teach pre-primary.

 

The changes realised in Papiliki pre-primary by Fursa through the pre-primary teacher, school leadership and children’s parents, completely reformed the attitude to pre-primary in the school. Previously, the pre-primary teacher was the least valued among the schools’ teaching staff because she had neither pre-primary teaching skills nor support from school leadership. Now she is confident and happy with her role, because of the assurance and respect she gained due to skills acquired through Fursa programme.

 

“Now I like teaching pre-primary because it is simple to teach since I’m equipped with child-centred teaching methods. Also, the stimulating classroom has improved children’s learning and attendance,” Papiliki pre-primary teacher Faustine Mlay said.

Feeding programme in Papiliki pre-primary.

Feeding programme in Papiliki pre-primary.

Children and parents are also motivated by the change. Improvements in the classroom and teaching increased pre-primary attendance to 95% (about double of what it was before the start of Fursa programme). The attractiveness of the learning environment has been further enhanced by the provision of school feeding as a result of cooperation between school leadership and parents, sensitised by Fursa on the importance of good nutrition for children’s learning.

Papiliki pre-primary class now acts as a hub of the learning network composed of pre-primary classes of Uchira Kahe, Makaa, Mandageni, Miwaleni, Mrumeni, Mabungo, Rauriver, Himo Pofo, Rongoma, Nanga and Uchira schools. Such networking helped the schools to develop and improve their learning materials, wall displays, and teaching strategies. In particular, teachers have been helping each other with methods for conducting the morning cycle, alternation of child and teacher-led sessions, as well as bye-bye time. Networking also increased professional and social relations among Fursa kwa Watoto teachers.

 

By Frank Samson—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.