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 (http://toanafasi.blogspot.com/2017/03/follow-leader.html), 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.