Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mama Joyce

I feel like only die-hard Bravo fanatics (like myself) will get the pun of this post's title, but nonetheless, I shall forge ahead.

The "Mama Joyce" in question here is not the sassy (s)mother of No Scrubs songwriter Kandi Burress, but rather Tanzanian Education Minister, Joyce Ndalichako.  Appointed as such by President John Magufuli when he took office in early 2016, Mama Joyce was quoted in The Citizen yesterday regarding special education funding.

You'll recall I have written about this formidable woman a couple times before (,, mostly because she is a bona fide beast on the floor of Parliament!

While I don't always agree with her pretty radical ideas, I am always amazed by them.  And by Mama Joyce herself.  A woman of this caliber of mind and action is a rare thing in the patriarchal society of Tanzania.  So, go, Mama Joyce, go!  Get that SPED $$$$!!

Ndalichako Clears the Air On Challenges Facing Special Education Teachers

The provision of education to children with special needs faces a lot of challenges including poor and unfriendly infrastructures, which is a situation that thwarts the teachers' goals.

This was said today by a representative of teachers of children with mental disability and autism, Ms. Mariam Halfani, during a training seminar for the teachers.

The seminar was on the guidelines about how to teach lessons on communication, health, math skills, upbringing, physical training, and craftsmanship.

Ms. Halfani explained that teaching children with special needs requires friendly infrastructures including proper teaching aids and a conducive environment to teachers.

She requested the government to improve the environment by providing teaching and learning aids and constructing teaching centers for such children.

Responding, the Minister for Education, Science, and Technology, Prof. Joyce Ndalichako, said the government has already started to better teaching environments for effective provision of education to such children.

She also said the government had already carried out a feasibility study at schools for children with special needs, with the aim of improving teaching environments and infrastructures.

Besides, she said the government had already bought teaching aids worth 3.6 million Tanzanian shillings for such children, adding that the facilities have already been distributed to 213 primary and 22 secondary schools across the country.

The minister further said that the government had purchased and distributed mental assessment equipment with the aim of identifying such children as early as possible and providing medical care for those with treatable disabilities.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Education My Foot, Use Your Brain!

Please, please, please, PLEASE read this amazing column by Anthony Tambwe from the Daily News.

Love, love, love, LOVE that this newsman is using his media platform not only to disseminate the news, but also to mobilize the troops.

Since I will be leaving NYC at the end of this week - putting an end to my habit of watching countless hours of CNN per day - it warms my heart to think that, back in my other home, media folk are starting to utilize their positions to spread their own ideologies and attempt to engage the masses in lively debate.

Fake News Media comes to Tanzania!  (Just kidding....)


Shikamooni wakubwa?  Wadogo zangu, hamjambo?

I know the greetings have found you wherever you are, and I also know there are those who have answered, and then there are those who have decided to ignore.  Haina taabu, I did not come here to make friends anyway.

You see, they say that Tanzanians are a very lovable lot, people who get along well with anyone, a nation that is said to be full of love (ha ha ha!), full of understanding and care....  Mi, sitaki kuongeza, ila maoni yangu ni tofauti.

If you have noticed, these same people are the ones who like to complain about everything.  From the weather to the kind of food they eat, Tanzanians can complain, na hii kazi wanaiweza kweli kweli, sio utani.

When Mjomba Mkapa was the president, these fellows could be heard in corridors and on street corners complaining about the kind of lives they are living, and of course they blamed Mjomba for their calamities, kama kawaida yao.

Entered JK, or Baba Ridhiwani, and the noise intensified, with the wailing and gnashing of teeth as Tanzanians blamed the ever-smiling husband of Mama Salma, calling him names and claiming that he is taking the country to the dogs, kelele kibao....  And most of them said it was better when Mjomba occupied the top seat, wabongo hao hao!

The good thing with Baba Ridhiwani is that he told the mourning Tanzanians that if they believed that he was too soft, then they should not hold their breaths for long, because there was a bulldozer coming to take over from him.  And he introduced Baba Jesca, or JPM to all and sundry, and the Tanzanians danced, vifijo na nderemo, from all corners.

I believe I don't have to tell you the amount of noise the Tanzanians are making right now, because it can be heard in near empty bars and rarely occupied guest houses, tunakukumbuka Baba JK!  That is what they are now saying, wabongo hawa hawa!

You see, with all this noise being made by the wabongo, I came to the conclusion that these are people who will always look for a scapegoat to throw the blame at in case they fail in life.  The easiest target in this scenario is none other than.... you guessed right, the government!  Kuna kamsemo ka wabongo kananikera sana, and it is unfortunate but it has become a very famous statement with the unsatisfied Tanzanians, especially the lazy ones, kupewa elimu.

Juzi, the government offered Tanzanians an opportunity to visit national parks, for free, for about three or four days, and the feedback from the parks is that the call was ignored, almost nobody bothered to take the offer, walikaa kimya.

A few days later , several Tanzanians were interviewed in one radio station and they were asked about the poor response, and the usual "kupewa elimu" issue surfaced, kama kawaida.  One of the fellows went ahead and blamed the government, for what, he did not have an idea himself.  "I believe that Tanzanians would have jumped at the opportunity kama wangeelimishwa...." said one of the not-so-bright fellows, hivi jamani, kuelimishwa kivipi kwa mfano?

Visiting the national parks, to say the least, is for one's own benefit, hivi mtu unataka kuelimishwa ili iweje?  Do you honestly need the government to come to your doorstep to tell you that you should make a plan to visit the park?  Kwa kweli mnashangaza sana, na inatia huruma.

You find a fellow after eating enough ugali and dagaa, he makes it his life target to fill his neighborhood with his offspring, and when things become tough for him, he is quick to jump on the government bandwagon....

"Naomba serikali iangalie mateso ninayopitia...." kwani ulitumwa!?  Watu na ndevu zao na vitambi vyao, they go ahead and dump their waste on the gutters and trenches meant for drainage, and when the rains come and the drainage system is blocked, guess what, tunaiomba serikali ituangalie, wengine eti ooh, wananchi wanahitaji kuelimishwa kuhusu madhara ya kutupa taka hovyo, hivi mna akili kweli?

When you go ahead and make someone's daughter pregnant and she produces triplets for you, the first thing is to tell the government to bail you out.  Na wengine, they might even say that people need to be educated on the dangers of unplanned children, hivi mbona hamuombi kuelimishwa wakati wa kutongoza?

It has to reach a point when Tanzanians stop looking for silly excuses for their pathetic ignorance.  People always say that ignorance is not a defense, but to Tanzanians, that is the easiest way to escape your responsibilities, kuelimishwa na nani, acheni ubabaishaji!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Taxman Cometh

What can I say?  Like father, like daughter....  As I was flipping through my news alerts this week, this one from The Citizen caught my eye and caused me a chuckle.

The title reads "Call for Tax Education to Be Incorporated in Education Curricula," and suggests that one reason people might not like paying their taxes is because they don't know what taxpayer dollars (or shillings, in this case) are spent on.

This, then, means that if they knew their hard-earned pennies (again, shillings) would go to roads, schools, and other infrastructure in their communities, they would be all the more willing to pay.

Which would mean tax education could actually lead Tanzania back to its socialist roots.  Crazy stuff, kids.

Some residents in the Kilwa district of Lindi region want the government to incorporate tax education in school curricula.

The move, according to them, will enable students to become good citizens who know the obligation of paying taxes.

The students were speaking during a seminar on capacity-building for leaders of civil societies and representatives of Teachers Trade Unions (TTU).

The training, which purposely aims at protecting the rights of the girl child, is run by Tanzania Education Network (TENMET) in cooperation with Action Aid and Kilwa Non-Governmental Organization Network (KINGONET).

Speaking at the training, residents Pili Kuliwa and Tumaini Said were of the opinion that tax education should be mainstreamed into school curricula to make students become good taxpayers in future.

Kuliwa explained that lack of education makes society view tax-paying as punishment, suggesting that there was a need for the issue of education to be continuously provided to residents so as to get rid of the misconception and instead create a new culture that would enable the society to pay tax voluntarily.

Due to the challenges, she said it was proper for the government to organize short- and long-term programs including setting up a curriculum about tax issues in primary and secondary schools with the aim of grooming students to become good taxpayers in future.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Pitch Tents, Not Fits

Hi guys.  I bet you never thought this day would never come.  I certainly didn't.

The tent at Mnazi Primary School is pitched!  A year and a half after we first came up with this idea to tackle (temporarily) the scarcity of classrooms at Mnazi, it has finally come to fruition.

To provide some background in brief: we first noticed the need of another classroom at Mnazi in February of last year after a Magufuli initiative closed down a bunch of private schools and accelerated nursery-age kids into Grade One.  Trump-like, Magufuli made this rash decision before determining that the existing government schools had the infrastructure to absorb these extra pupils.  Predictably, chaos ensued.

Toa activities were halted at Mnazi for the remainder of 2016 as we tried to work with the local government authorities from the education sector to find a reasonable solution.  They desperately wanted Toa to build a classroom, but I had to draw the line.  Toa is not about construction nor any kind of material goods.  Toa is about people, strengthening the existing human resources, and lassoing Tanzania's abundant social wealth.  However, we all realized the dire need for a classroom, so with permission from the Toa Boards of Directors (both US and TZ), we allotted a sum of money as a one-off contribution toward the construction of bedrock; bartered a deal with a kindly local safari tent company; and voila, going on two years later, we have, at least provisionally, a classroom space.

Here is where I must remain brief.  The time which passed between our idea of the tent as a compromise for building and its actual erection were shida-ridden, to say the least.  We at Toa so value our public-private partnership with the regional officials in Kilimanjaro, but dayum!  The negotiations were on par with a Middle East peace treaty!!  I pitched more than a couple fits, for sure.

But, apparently, that is all in the past.  The agreement was made and both sides have stood by it; the tent was delivered, erected, and filled with desks; the Mnazi community is appreciative; and I have one less thing on my "To Do" list.  Win, win, win, win!

Check out the glory of the Toa tent below, and revel in its majesty!!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Let's Get Wet!

As everyone knows, I am currently in New York, attending to various matters stateside; then headed to Perth, Australia in just three weeks for the biennial IASE (International Association of Special Education) conference where I will present my paper on teacher training and publicize the 2019 gathering in Lushoto, Tanzania; and finally back to Moshi on July 1st, just in time to celebrate my TEN-YEAR Tanziversary (on the 4th!) with a repeat trip to Zanzibar with Kaitlin just before she leaves Tanzania and heads back to school.  I feel busier than Trump and Magufuli combined!

In my absence, Lil' K has been holding down the Toa fort on-the-ground like a champ, keeping things moving, and handling any shidas that arise like a BOSS.  Asante, Kaitlin, and well done, young one!

This past week, Kaitlin's mom Sally arrived in Moshi, spent a day or two in town, and then swept her off on a luxury safari.... which is precisely what one does when one's parents come to Africa!  Just before leaving for the Serengeti, however, they conducted the May payday with Gasto and the teachers and also ran another one of Kaitlin's leadership groups.  You'll recall the first one we did back in March:

Since that initial workshop, we have done a bunch of others, all interactive and physical since the teachers seem to respond better to this type of activity than sitting and listening to boring old speeches.  (Hey, teachers, this is how the students feel too!  So try and make learning fun for them the way Kaitlin has for you!!)

Kaitlin and I co-ran a group in April in which everyone was given a secret word and asked to convey the meaning of that word to the others using any manner of denotation, connotation, or even charades, somehow getting the rest of the group to understand without using the actual word itself.  This exercise was meant to show the teachers that they must always be thinking of different ways to explain a lesson because every child's mind works differently, and it's up to us, as "learning support providers," to adjust to them.

We also did a "make believe you're an NGO director" exercise in which we split the teachers up into competing groups to come up with a vision and mission, staff and budget, and fundraising plan for their NGO, and present it all to the other groups.  Needless to say, minds were blown when I asked about how they would fund their projects; turns out, raising money is harder than they thought!  The first group to present their NGO proudly told me that they would "find mzungu donors" to support them and I had to quickly disabuse them of the notion that mzungu dollars are plum for the picking.

Kaitlin and Gasto also ran various other groups without me, but all had the common themes of instilling leadership qualities, understanding the value of teamwork, and figuring out how best to support the students who we are supporting.

Last week's group was titled "Let's Get Wet!" and involved two teams, each with the goal of transferring water from a full bucket to an empty one using a "tool."  One team's tool was a sponge and the other's was a cup.  The teachers ran relay-style to pass off the tools to each other and get the task done.  Whichever team filled up the bucket the fastest was the winning team, who afterwards was then sent over to the other side and help out using their tool.

So, this exercise had all the hallmarks of workshops past: emphasis on teamwork, communication, goal fulfillment, etc.  In addition, the "tools" were meant to represent our students, the cup being fast learners and the sponge the slow learners.  The idea was to put into perspective what it is like to have a slower processing speed, to take longer to learn a subject or accomplish a particular task, as well as to emphasize the value of what our teachers do to assist the students.

I thought it was just great, and was so pleased to see the video below of everyone participating and seemingly having a good time.  And, I give Kaitlin props for dropping just one lonely F-bomb during the whole three-minute segment.  What can I say, my surrogate daughter has a bit of a potty mouth?!  Don't know where she picked that up from!!


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Every Schoolgirl a Pad"

The title of this week's post refers to the headline of an article I found in the Tanzania Daily News, marking Menstrual Hygiene Day 2017, which was May 28th.

Although it concerns schoolchildren of a bit older age than our Toa kids, I still found it relevant to our work.  Pre-puberty, puberty, sexual and reproductive health, and personal/intimate hygiene are confusing topics for any child to digest, but even more so for a kid with a developmental delay or intellectual impairment.

We want all our kids to be safe and informed, but no one more so than our girl children who are even more vulnerable to social hazards and societal intolerance simply because of their sex/gender.

Toa has not yet embarked on any kind of formal health education agenda as pertains to sexual and reproductive health and safety, but we have had - sadly - several cases of sexual abuse and gender discrimination brought to our attention.

It's because of those schoolgirls from Toa years past that I feel compelled to post this article which may bring us one step closer to taking our reproductive systems and our sexual personae into our own hands from an early age.

No one should miss school or work just because she has her period.


Schoolgirls from low-income families are still skipping classes for want of sanitary products - prompting lawmakers and civil society organization (CSO) leaders to plead with the government to increase its capitation grant for education, partly to retain those girls who cannot afford protection during their menstrual cycles.

The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Health, and Community Development, Mr. Peter Serukamba sounded his considered counsel yesterday as an 'aside' of the International Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD), putting up a spirited plea for increased funding for schoolgirls via the capitation grant.

The money, he said, would bring back to class "a large number of schoolgirls" now rendered incapable of continuing with education and, as a result, opted out of school - from sheer embarrassment.

The capitation grant was adopted in 2002 when the government re-introduced free primary education alongside its equally novel Primary Education Development Program (PEDP).

The education capitation grant policy involves the allocation of $10 (22,000tsh) per pupil, but observers say it has since never been followed at some schools where the hapless girls are left to fend for themselves or, at worst, quit school altogether.

"Teachers and education executives must oversee the implementation of capitation grant to the fullest," Mr. Serukamba avers.

Plan International Tanzania UMATA (Usafi wa Mazingira Tanzania) Sanitation and Hygiene Program Director Ms. Nyanzobe Malimi said a number of schools across the country were now allocating capitation grant for schoolgirls.  "I can confirm to you some schools are yet to start allocating the money.... this seriously affects girls' academic performances," she said.

The officer who has led a number of sanitation and hygiene initiatives in Dodoma region said her organization had since come up with a new approach through training schemes for the schoolgirls, their parents, as well as the teachers on best practices on how to make artificial sanitary pads.

"Most of the pupils were using 'wretch' cloth.... which could help protect themselves for a mere three hours, or less, then the cloths degenerate.... become unsanitary and uncomfortable when applied," she observed.

Dodoma-based schoolgirls, Nasra Hamadi and Damalistica John who attended the event told reporters a number of their fellow students were forced to quit schools just after their first menstrual cycle.

Their sentiments were shared by Dodoma Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) Ms. Rehema Madenge, who represented the Regional Commissioner (RC) Mr. Jordan Rugimbana, admitting that "several pupils were forced to drop out of school due to little knowledge, or sheer ignorance - about MHD.

"Girls must be educated.... beginning at home right through school.  They also need to be given friendly facilities to keep them protected during their entire cycle," she said, adding, "cases of school drop-outs and early marriages are a result of little, or total lack of, education to the affected schoolgirls."

The education sector in Tanzania has gone through a number of major reforms - until recently when the current administration of President John Magufuli resolved to send capitation grants directly to the beneficiaries (schools).

Friday, May 19, 2017

Just Because

Hi guys, and pole sana for being silent.  I've been working on stuff that does not make the best material for blog entries!

To make up for that, I took some time to go through footage from the Toa classroom earlier this year.  The little guy in the video below took his assessment VERY seriously, really weighing his options, and not committing until he was sure!  And Mwalimu Leah did a great job of patiently waiting as he figured it out while still remaining observant and engaged.  It's a nice memory of the fun part of this job!!


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Give Him the Green Light!

Check out this very latest action from the ever full-o'-surprises, President Trump, which was posted on Devex yesterday.

Surprisingly, one day after playing Unpredictable Despot, Trump tapped his inner Angelina, and turned into a Responsible Leader.  For now....

The decision of Mark Green as USAID head honcho bodes pretty well for us development types, but I do fear for Ambassador Green himself.  How he will do his job and placate the Donald without being "fired," I do not know!


Trump Nominates Mark Green as USAID Administrator

Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Mark Green, a former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania and president of the International Republican Institute, to be the next administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development Wednesday.

Green is well-known in the development community and had been considered a front-runner for the position.  He met with President Trump in January about a potential job at USAID, according to a transition team briefing — and was one of only two people rumored to be under consideration for the role.

The long-awaited announcement comes at the same time U.S. foreign aid advocates worry over drastic cuts to development budgets and reductions of the federal workforce proposed by the Trump administration.

Trump has proposed a budget that would slash U.S. foreign affairs spending by roughly one-third, and U.S. foreign aid programs are expected to absorb a large share of those cutbacks.  Congressional lawmakers — who ultimately hold budgetary purse strings — have pushed back against Trump's plan, but it is clear USAID's leadership will face an uphill battle to defend the role of development against a president bent on embracing "hard power" foreign policy.

Aid groups and U.S. development experts largely welcomed Green's nomination — while also noting that if confirmed by the Senate, Green will face the difficult task of reconciling his stated belief in the value of U.S. development programs with service to an administration that has, through its budget proposal, deemed those programs to be outside of America's core interests.

"It's certainly a reassuring choice at a time when the foreign assistance community desperately needs some reassurance," said Scott Morris, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. 

"Ambassador Green has a long history of thoughtful leadership on America's development assistance strategy and would make a strong USAID administrator.  His leadership will be particularly important and tested as he grapples with the unprecedented cuts proposed to USAID in the President's budget," Tom Hart, the ONE Campaign's executive director for North America, said in a statement.

In his role at IRI, which supports democratic elections and institutions abroad, Green has been a vocal advocate for democracy and governance programs.

"The reason I moved into the democracy and government space is that you can't get over the finish line on any of the broad goals we have on poverty relief, tackling hunger or tackling the great afflictions of our time if you don't have responsible, citizen-oriented and responsive government," he told the Washington Diplomat in a 2015 interview.

In addition to his development and diplomatic experience, Green presents Trump with helpful political credentials.  The USAID nominee served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Wisconsin, a state that was instrumental in Trump's surprising 2016 presidential election victory.

Green's background as "a political actor who.... has shown a real commitment to the development agenda" would also serve USAID well, since the former congressman, "can speak directly to the prevailing winds that run counter to having a robust presence in the world," Morris said.

In his role at IRI, Green has often championed a bipartisan approach to U.S. foreign assistance, pointing to IRI's work in conjunction with a "sister organization," the National Democratic Institute, which is chaired by former Democratic Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  Green was appointed by President Obama in 2010 to serve on the board of directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Prior to joining IRI, Green led the Initiative for Global Development, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that brings together business leaders to promote investment and poverty alleviation in Africa.

"In addition to bringing in the experienced voices in the business community early on in the planning process, we need to create a single access point for businesses that want to be involved in the developing world," Green told Devex at the time.

As a recent college graduate, Green and his wife Sue taught secondary school English in Kenya as volunteers with WorldTeach.

If confirmed, Green will succeed Wade Warren, who has served as USAID's acting administrator since Gayle Smith stepped down with other Obama administration appointees on Jan. 20.

* Update, May 11, 2017: This article has been updated to clarify that Green is no longer serving on the board of directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lady Leaders

Not too long after we enacted the Toa Nafasi leadership intervention for our teaching staff (, this article was posted in The Tanzania Daily News.

Lots of interesting stuff to digest here: Can a woman only be a leader if she is first a mother?  Do all mothers provide for their families in the way described below?  Will Kiswahili-based debates produce better leaders than English ones?  Are men inherently more given to corruption than women?  This article makes a lot of assumptions!

However, it also contains this one sentence I love: "Debate as a skill is essential in nurturing talkative citizens who understand logic as their first tool of analysis and the art of embracing dissent."


Women in Leadership - Why Gap Is Still Wide 

All women have in-born leadership character.  What needs to be added is talent promotion, and this mostly should be done to African women, who work hard but earn very little," says political scientist and human rights activist, Professor Ruth Meena, also Chairperson of the Coalition of Women and Constitution Tanzania. 

Prof. Meena also emphasizes that women have in-born listening skills, an important leadership element which serves in maintaining flexibility, among other qualities.  The only hurdle that women have to grapple with is the 'outdated' patriarchal system which has thrived for ages and is maintained by men for fear of being conquered.

"There is nothing to fear, women are naturally powerful in leadership and have been so in their own right ever since they became mothers.  Almost all poor families' survival depends much on the struggles of the mothers."

According to Prof. Meena, there are many cases involving men who abandoned their families, leaving women and children to suffer on their own.  However, mothers finally come up with solutions to make sure the children and other members of the family lead a normal life.

"Is there any other leadership technique that is worth the word than providing food to family members, sending children to school, and providing them with all necessary educational materials and even making sure they have access to health services any time?" she queries.  Yet, it is the same women whom society has denied their rights to take up leadership positions, including those in the political and economic arena.

"I believe it is time that the relevant appointing authorities including President John Magufuli see that more and more women get leadership positions and that they are capable enough to bring about quick family and national positive changes."

According to Prof. Meena, it is this kind of denial to get sufficient leadership positions which compelled women activists to form various organizations, including the Coalition of Women and Constitution Tanzania, to lobby for these opportunities.

The Coalition is getting set to revive the debate on the availability of a new Constitution which promotes the "Women's Bill of Rights," according to Prof. Meena, who also chaired the Coalition.

Apart from the efforts seeking to raise the issue of women in leadership, Prof. Meena also mentions the right of education to female children and proposed the inclusion of Leadership as a subject in the public primary school education curricula.

"This move will help produce not only more fighters but also create competent female leaders to spearhead sustainable positive changes in the society."  The Feza schools organization supported Prof. Meena's point, saying there also should be regular debate sessions in schools to help create confidence and promote talent, especially in female students, many of whom have exhibited a natural inferiority complex, when compared to their male counterparts.

The director of the Feza schools organization, Ibrahim Yunus, insisted that as per the saying "charity begins at home," good leaders should be created from childhood.  Last week, Feza conducted a debate which brought together over 153 students from 10 public and private schools, spread across 4 regions in the country, namely Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Pwani, and Zanzibar.

The debate, dubbed "The Future of Tanzania" was conceptualized on the theme, "Assertive Youth for a Better Africa."

"Debate as a skill is essential in nurturing talkative citizens who understand logic as their first tool of analysis and the art of embracing dissent," he said.

Commenting on what should be done to make sure there is equality in leadership matters, unlike currently where men seemed to overturn women, the director said, "Let us first create the well-educated and confident professionals with enough leadership skills in regard with gender balance."

"Then, time will tell what is next."  The debate female finalist Shally Jackson, from Tusiime Secondary School supported the motion, saying she was not sure as there were enough well-educated females to compete with men in leadership sphere.

She predicted that even if there were skilled women, most seemed to have been lacking confidence, and she proposed regular self-confidence workshops to those already in jobs.  For schoolchildren, continuous debate would play a significant role but she forecast that if the English language is used as a medium of communication, it might be a barrier especially in public learning institutions.

"I would like to propose Kiswahili-based dialogues in these competitions so as to draw many participants.  Only private and public schools' intermingling can serve in promoting participants' self-confidence, among others," she opined.

On her part, Executive Director of Women Fund Tanzania (WFT), Ms. Mary Rusimbi said that Tanzanian women have been politically denied their constitutional rights for too long.  She said it was time for Tanzania to practically implement women rights' in the regional and international agreements it has been signing, adding that if the question was level of education, there are so many elite female from various fields.

"Generally, there are lots of claims and charted strategies on the issue of women's leadership, but the government should first address this gender balance in politically related issues.  The findings show that there are enormous achievements in most institutions led by women simply because they are not getting bribed in any way," she said.

"People should think about the number of male public servants who have been experiencing demotions in association with corruption, negligence, theft etc.  I have never heard of a woman falling into this trap, if my memory serves me right, " says Ms Rusimbi.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Maximum Capacity

Hi all, and happy May Day to you.  Check out this article from The Citizen dated April 25th.

In Swahili, uwezo means "capacity" or "capability."  The piece below discusses inequity of access to quality primary education in Tanzania across socioeconomic and geographical lines.

Clearly, the education sector in TZ is not functioning at maximum capacity, and it is interesting to note that many of the grievances pointed out as government failings are things that Toa seeks to address: poor learning outcomes for students, students' pass rates based on age rather than ability, over-worked and under-incentivized teachers, uninformed and uncommitted parents, and lack of learning resources.


Making Tanzanian Children Learn 

Among children aged 9 to 13, many are unable to complete Standard 2 work.  These are the findings in the newly launched report titled "Are Our Children Learning?  The Sixth Uwezo Tanzania Annual Learning Assessment Report 2017."

The new Uwezo data shows improvements in basic Kiswahili literacy but inequalities persist across the country.  The gap between the lowest and highest performing districts is 60 percentage points.

Iringa Urban is the best performing district, where by 74% of children aged 9 to 13 are able to pass basic literacy tests in English and Kiswahili and basic numeracy tests, while the corresponding figure in Sikonge is 15%.  In Dar es Salaam, 64% of children aged 9 to 13 years are able to pass the three tests while 23% of their peers in Katavi can do the same.

The report shows that four out of ten children (42%) in ultra-poor households passed all three tests compared to close to six out of ten (58%) of their counterparts in non-poor households.

Aidan Eyakuze, Executive Director of Twaweza says that, "It is very encouraging to see the improvements in basic Kiswahili literacy among our children, but we still have a very long way to go."

"One cause for worry is the growing inequality in outcomes based on location.  Our data indicates that where a child lives has the most profound effect on whether or not they will learn, more than whether a child's mother is educated, whether the child attended pre-school, or even whether they are stunted or not," says Eyakuze.

Adding to that, he says, between 2011 and 2015 the pass rates for Kiswahili among Standard 3 pupils almost doubled from 29% to 56%. In Standard 7, the pass rate has increased from 76% to 89% during the same period.

Zaida Mgalla, Manager of Uwezo, says that when we talk about learning at schools, the majority of people think of children's enrollment and examination performances, and forget to ask themselves, are the children enrolled at the right age?  Or are they in the right classes at the right ages?

Adding to that she says, the report chose children at age 11, and 48% of these children are in Standard 4; however, according to their ages, they are supposed to be above Standard 4.  In 2011, children of the same grade stood at 33%.  This means that as the years go on, children's enrollment at the right age slows down, so we must ask ourselves, with the given scenario, are we really following the education policy?

"We commend the government for their efforts to ensure children are mastering basic Kiswahili and for providing more children with textbooks.  The declining rates of access to school could signal a fading of the initial enthusiasm over free primary education that produced a surge in enrollment," says Mgalla.

She says that the experience that followed the struggles with under-resourced schools and classrooms, over-stretched teachers, and low-quality learning outcomes led to declining rates of enrollments.

"Our common challenge is to ensure that this does not happen again.  We will do this by checking our children's books and homework every day, by paying close attention to how our schools are managed, and by focusing at least as much on improving the results that come from schooling as on the inputs that go into our schools," she says.

At the launch, Antony Komu, Member of Parliament from Moshi Rural said that the findings by the report that shows 79% of the pupils in rural Moshi children are fed school lunches in order to help pupils stay at schools, however he still thinks the "free education" initiative has resulted in so many challenges in the education sector.

"How many teachers have been added to help the increase of the enrollment, and where are the desks for the pupils?  In order to help our children learn in schools, we should consider employing new teachers and get enough desks for a start," says Komu.

Fatma Toufiq, a Member of Parliament's Special Seats says that the findings remind legislators, parents, and teachers on their roles to ensure children are learning.

She says that parents should follow up on the children's progress at the schools as the majority leave the burden to the teachers.  As a result, the lack of enough teachers and lack of parents' commitment leads to poor performances by the children.

She recommends that the government should add more money in the education sector to help in purchasing of learning materials, as well as take teachers for on-the-job trainings.  This will help teachers to get new skills that will help them teach with more passion.

"I also think if the textbooks ratios can move from 1 book for 3 pupils to 1 book for 1 pupil, it can help stimulate the level of understanding," she adds.

The report shows that the pupil to textbook ratio has seen rapid improvements moving from 30 pupils sharing one book in 2013, to 8 pupils sharing one book in 2014, down to 3 pupils sharing a book in 2015.  This data clearly shows the rate of change that is possible with strong and well-managed interventions.

The Uwezo Tanzania report provides strong indications that enrollments are declining, especially in rural areas.  In 2011, 77% of pupils aged 7 were enrolled in primary school compared to 55% in 2015.  When considering enrollment of the same age group in any educational institution (including pre-school), the figures have dropped from 86% in 2011 to 81% in 2015.

Further analysis shows that these declines are happening almost exclusively in rural areas: the enrollment among pupils aged 7, in any educational institution (including pre-school), dropped from 84% in 2011 to 78% in 2015.  In urban areas, the corresponding figures are 94% (2011) and 93% (2015).  Similarly rural enrollment rates show declines among all age groups while urban enrollments have remained stable.

The report is based on data collected by Uwezo Tanzania which is part of Africa's largest citizen-led assessment of learning outcomes implemented in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

In the sixth round of data collection by Uwezo Tanzania in 2015, a total of 197,451 children were assessed from 68,588 households.  Data was also collected from 4,750 primary schools.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Graph Math

Yo yo yo, hey there everybody, and many salaams from a cold and windy New York City.  I have been back in the States just about one week and, aside from missing Drogo (the best housecat in all of Tanzania), I am starting to enjoy Western amenities once again.

For one thing, abundant and unfettered Wi-Fi at all hours of the day and night makes my heart sing with joy.  It truly does help to have access to the best technology when trying to address these "off-the-ground" tasks that Toa operations require.

When I'm in Moshi, I am almost glad when I can't get online as I have generally been in school all day, surrounded by over-excited munchkins and trying to make myself understood in another language.

Either that, or taking meetings with local government types trying to make myself understood in my own language but regarding concepts that at times seem so foreign to them, we might as well all be speaking Mandarin.

So, suffice it to say, it's nice to be able to work freely on the computer and not have to worry about auto-saving every five seconds....just in case!

One thing I've been in a big hurry to post are the results of our third test of last year's cohorts, something I had trouble doing from Tanzania due to PDF - TIFF - JPEG yadda yadda.

As you all know from a couple blog entries back, Kaitlin and I went to see Angi in Zanzibar at the end of March where we were schooled in the art of data entry.  Once entered, this data informs the graphs that Angi creates demonstrating the efficacy of our Project.

For 2016, we have now tested the cohorts at each school for the third and final time and, as expected, the biggest change occurred within the first six months.  Still, it is heartwarming to see that within the second six months, the students were able to keep up with their studies.  This bodes well for their next few years of primary school, in which we hope they will continue to succeed on their own, now knowing coping mechanisms to help them work independently.

Two of our four schools had some shida or problems last year with testing and subsequent data entry, so below please find Angi's graphs for the remaining two.

The numbers speak for themselves, my friends!  The Toa Nafasi intervention at these two schools for the 2016 cohorts have been a grand success!!