On Tuesday 14th March 2017 I visited Ilemela Pre-Primary School, Tanzania. I spent quite a bit of time observing the class and the teacher in action. It was lovely to see the children so engaged with their teacher. After each activity, she would shout out to them ‘good children!’ and they would respond ‘good teacher!’
Enrollment for this class starts in January. At the moment there are 130 children in this one classroom and the number is rising every day. Julianna Fulla, the teacher stands in the middle of the room with the children forming a circle around her. There are no chairs or tables – there is hardly room for all the children standing up. The teacher seems challenged and spends a lot of time positioning the children and turning them to face her.
There are lots of colourful and engaging posters around the walls. Today the children are learning about parts of the body and also shapes. It’s circle and triangle today. Each child is handed out a single sheet of A5 paper and a pencil (which are kept carefully locked away in a cupboard and returned as soon as the activity is over – a precious resource). Their task is now to draw a triangle and a circle. There are so many children – it’s hard to find a space on the floor to draw your shape – it’s a bit of a jumble! When finished, the children hand their sheets to me so I spend a long time admiring many many triangles and circles. They are very proud of the work they have done.
The issue of overcrowding in schools has arisen as the President decreed that Pre-Primary education is to be free for all children. This has seen a huge increase in the number of children enrolled in school. The result in this particular classroom is chaotic. It is difficult for the teacher to manage. She has no time for individual children and for some of these children it is their first experience of school and they are finding it overwhelming and are crying.
With so many children it is difficult for the teacher to maintain structure in the class and manage the different learning areas our partners have set up in school. The 4 learning corners (writing area, manipulation, reading area and board games) are full of great materials. The children can choose which area they want to play in – the reading and board games areas are the biggest hit here at Ilmela. The children in the reading area seem to find my Swahili story telling very funny.
Through our partners, Children in Crossfire are planning to introduce a second session each day for the Pre-Primary class which would halve the number of children currently being taught in one session. It was an amazing experience to spend time with the children of Ilemela Pre-Primary School and to meet the teacher and feel so warmly welcomed. It is great to see your support in action on the ground, as well as exploring new ways of meeting the challenge of dramatically increased enrolment in schools in Tanzania.