Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My NEW Valentine (Not My Blue Valentine)

No half-forgotten dreams nor pebbles in my shoes (that's for all you Tom Waits fans out there), this post is an homage to the holiday of St. Valentine's, a day for lovers to celebrate love in all its many splendored glory.

Of course, there are many kinds of love: romantic love, platonic love, familial love, the love of a mother for her child, the love of a student for her teacher, the love between two toddlers on a swingset or two teenagers at sleepaway camp, cat love, dog love, God love, gay love, starcrossed love, unrequited love, unrelenting love, the love of a preacher/rabbi/imam for his church/shul/mosque, overwhelming love, overreaching love, love against the odds, love is all we need, Mariah Carey's Vision of Love and Bob Marley's One Love, erotic love, free love, love at first sight, and (take it or leave it) polyamorous love.

Since I'm already feeling all loved up at home with my mama (Carla) love and my paka (Drogo) love, this post is about my newest love, a little girl named Sadia who stole my heart this past week while I was observing the teachers assess the 2016 cohorts for the third and final time.

Because Angi had been concerned about the normative quality of the testing last year as well as the data entry, I tried to take appropriate measures to cut down where mistakes could be made.  Thus, rather than pay full attention to how the kids were testing or helping to test them myself, I set myself the task of carefully watching each Toa teacher as she assessed each child to make sure they were following protocol.

Since this is ultimate test for the 2016 kids, I deemed it a good opportunity for our teachers to get their practice on, in preparation for the 2017 group who we will start assessing in about a week or so.  Since that will be MAYHEM (no love lost for that task there), I figured why not make sure we are all in fighting shape before getting back into the ring....?

In this short clip from observing Teacher Glory with Sadia, I experienced a very sweet love.  A heartwarming love for Glory whose kind nature shown through as she tested the blushing and beautiful Sadia.  And a tender and maternal love for Sadia herself, for having come so far from her first assessment and for allowing herself to relax and smile and have fun now completing her third.  Even though she shakes her head at Glory's tease, "You're happy, huh?" it's clear she is.  And really, who doesn't love a happy kid?  (Probably a lot of jackholes in Congress right now, but take the phrase as rhetorical before the warm fuzzies wear off....)

So from our hearts to yours, Team Toa wishes everyone a happy Valentine's Day and reminds you that, as bleak as the world may seem just now, love actually is all around.  (Thank you, Hugh Grant.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Joyce to the World

Hey everybody, hope all are well.  Busy, busy, busy here in the Mosh with Carla here on her annual "40 days and 40 nights" trip to Tanz plus my Aunty Jane and her friend Marie-Louise who, after a week of Moshi mishemishe'ing (going here and there), will soon leave us for the wonders of Serengeti followed by Zanzibar.

Also, we have a new volunteer in the hizzy: Kaitlin Marrs, a nineteen-year-old American missy on a gap semester has blessed The Toa Nafasi Project with her youth and enthusiasm.  Just in time as far as I'm concerned; this year has me feeling more aged and fatigued than ever before.

More on Kaitlin later, while for now I leave you with this article I found from The Citizen earlier this year.

Do you remember my blog post last year round this time titled "Dear Joyce" (http://toanafasi.blogspot.com/2016/01/dear-joyce.html)?  It was an open letter from the media writer at The Daily News, pleading with the newly appointed Education Minister under Magufuli, Joyce Ndalichako, to do her due diligence in her new post.

A year later, and Mama Joyce has lots to show for her time in office - the good, the bad, and the ugly - as you will read below.  I thought it was a timely piece to reprint now as our own newly minted Education Secretary in the United States is making also making headlines.

Never a dull moment in politics - this much I know is true!


Tanzania: Ndalichako's Popular, Controversial Orders

There were hopes that things would change for the better in the education sector when President John Magufuli appointed Professor Joyce Ndalichako as the Minister of Education, Science, Technology, and Vocational Training.

Stakeholders were optimistic that her appointment would bring positive change in the sector that over the years has been facing numerous challenges, particularly in the quality of education and addressing teachers' woes.

As the year 2016 wound up, a lot has happened in Professor Ndalichako's docket, some of which she has been praised for and some she has been criticized for by education stakeholders and experts. 

Her statements and decisions in the last twelve months have been a source of hot and endless debates. 

GPA System Ditched 

On January 20th while in Dodoma, Professor Ndalichako announced that Tanzania would stop using the grade point average (GPA) system to grade candidates in national Form Four and Six examinations.  She directed the National Examinations Council of Tanzania (NECTA) to immediately revert to the division system, which was abolished in 2014.

Her decision to restore the old system was made after NECTA had failed to convince her on the advantages of the GPA system over the division system they previously used. 

Professor Ndalichako said that NECTA had switched following recommendations by stakeholders.  "However, we are not told who these stakeholders were: how many were they, where did they meet, and what exactly did they suggest.  It shows that this is just an excuse."

"Yes, we need change, but change should be informed and backed by scientific grounds.  If change doesn't conform to these tenets, then it is undesirable," Professor Ndalichako said.

The decision to introduce the GPA grading system almost cost NECTA Executive Director, Dr. Charles Msonde, his job, two weeks before the Minister decided to ditch it.

Professor Ndalichako's decision to stop the use of GPA in grading was well-received by education stakeholders and experts, who said the system was unjustifiable and would affect efforts being made to achieve the goal of quality education. 

700 UDOM Students Expelled 

In May, Professor Ndalichako announced the expulsion of 782 students who were pursuing a special diploma in science education at the University of Dodoma.

The move followed reports that lecturers instructing them in their program had boycotted after the government had disagreed with them regarding their remuneration.

The Minister's decision raised public concern over the fate of the students who were given 72 hours to leave the campus premises.

Members of Parliament, lecturers, and education experts expressed grave concern on the way the Minister had handled the matter.

A few weeks later, fresh details emerged on the true cause of the expulsion of the students when President John Magufuli addressed the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) community on June 3rd. 

He told the gathering that preliminary findings showed that the majority of UDOM students who were admitted to pursue a special Diploma in Science (Education) lacked pre-entry qualifications, with some them achieving as low as Division Four in their national Form Four results.

On July 20th, Professor Ndalichako called back to the university only 382 students of the 782 initially enrolled, saying the vetting exercise had established that they were the only ones qualified for admission to the special diploma courses.

But the Minister had later reallocated the students to various teaching colleges in Morogoro, Butimba, Mpwapwa, Songea, and Tukuyu to pursue primary school teaching courses.  And those who were in their second year were reallocated to Kasulu and Korogwe to complete their studies. 

Student Battering 

On October 10th, Professor Ndalichako ordered the expulsion of three trainee teachers after they were seen battering an Mbeya secondary school student in footage that went viral on social media.

In addition to that, the school's head teacher was also demoted as directed by the Minister in the President's Office (Regional Administration and Local Authorities), Mr. George Simbachawene.

The video shows three trainee teachers from the University of Dar es Salaam beating up a student at Mbeya Day Secondary School.

Professor Ndalichako described the incident that occurred September 28th, as unethical, cruel, and criminal, adding that the trainee teachers had lost their opportunity to complete their studies.

The decision was however taken by some education stakeholders as an overreaction of the responsible ministers. 

Order on Graduation Gowns 

Professor Ndalichako banned the wearing of graduation gown on levels below the first degree "to encourage those in lower levels to desire to reach the top levels."  This statement was released on November 10th.

She said it was undesirable for the gowns to be worn by children in nursery schools, which defeated the whole purpose of making it unique for the degree level.

She said that as the government tries to improve the quality of education matching the growth of science and technology, it was important to differentiate different levels of education so that to motivate the lower level students to climb even higher in the education ladder.

Various education stakeholders hailed Professor Ndalichako's decision, pointing out that it had reached a point where people took the graduation gown as a parting dress. 

Ban on Textbooks 

On December 2nd, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa banned private companies from publishing textbooks as one of the measures to ensure provision of quality education in the country.

Instead, he instructed the Tanzania Education Authority (TEA) to supervise the publishing of all textbooks used in schools in the country.

He said that apart from ensuring quality education, the government also aims to enable each student to use his or her own book in the classroom.

Mr. Majaliwa said different firms have been publishing textbooks without adhering to given standards and that there have been many complaints due to poor quality and many mistakes.

The decision drew various reactions from education stakeholders, with some expressing disappointment, arguing that the decision would further sink the country's education sector.