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Education is heading in the right direction, but has a long way to go in Tanzania

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Elimu (Education Forum)' started by nngu007, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. nngu007

    nngu007 JF-Expert Member

    Mar 18, 2011
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    Teaching is an education in Tanzania

    As a teacher in a large UK comprehensive, I was starting to fall out of love with my profession. I needed a challenge and an adventure. The list of possibilities was endless; with the world literally open to me, I could choose an exotic location. After a few months, I arrived in a small rural town in the mid-west of Tanzania - not the most exotic place, but certainly an adventure. I was the school’s new English language teacher.

    I was prepared for culture shock, but I was not expecting the rollercoaster of experiences and emotions that came my way. My new life was a far cry from suburbia.

    My first lesson painted a wonderful reflection of the journey I was embarking on. As I entered the classroom, armed with only two sticks of chalk, I was greeted by 50 smiling faces, standing in unison. “Good morning, sir”. What a pleasant change to having to chase students into class, and being greeted with more flamboyant and colourful prose. My joy was short lived. Within minutes, the smiles had turned to frowns and looks of confusion.

    In Tanzania, all secondary education is taught using the medium of English, but in primary schools, Swahili is spoken. The teaching of English begins at primary school, but that also requires first, a teacher to be present at the school, and secondly, a teacher who speaks English. To put this in perspective, the ratio of teachers to students in primary schools is 1:52 compared with the UK’s 1:18.

    So what of my class of 50 smiles and keen eyes? Ten fortunate students had been to a private English medium school and were on their way to fluency. The majority had a very basic understanding, and 15 or so exhibited severe panic when I said “hello”. This makes keeping Ofsted happy by preparing work for different abilities seem like a walk in the park.

    Luckily, I sought wise counsel before the start of my adventure. “Remember, no hurry in Africa,” he said. “Keep that in mind and you’ll do fine.” You have to adjust to the pace and flow, even in your teaching and learning expectations. It is the polar opposite from the hectic pace and constant battle to engage all in my British classroom.

    All periods must be 40 minutes in length and you must have 40 periods a week. There is no negotiation, however constructive and positive. But if a teacher doesn’t feel like teaching, he won’t, or if his phone goes off midway through a lesson, he will answer it and leave.

    The culture is therefore a mixture of rigidness and fluidity: very structured proceedures and standards, coupled with a strange sense of elevated grandeur for the teachers, for whom the worlds can be made to stop and turn.
    The teachers seem to have adopted the mantra “every teacher matters more”. Why else schedule a meeting with all teaching staff for 10am, leaving students to entertain themselves? Such an environment has its appeal, but I have not fallen out of love with education enough for it to appeal to me. I still believe that “every child matters”.
    My year in Tanzania is now coming to an end. I have battled with the challenges of teaching a large class with limited resources, who do not speak my language. I have attempted to operate inside the schools guidelines, as well as to tweak its culture wherever possible. I have tried to promote the idea that education is more than just knowledge to be copied, revised and regurgitated in an exam, and I have tried to introduce the concept of a pastoral role. But the question remains: “How can we make this work?”
    Education is heading in the right direction, but has a long way to go in Tanzania. It does not meet the needs of the next generation. Does it give them an education? Yes, it does, but it is just an education, and not one that prepares them for the future they face. What are needed are passionate educators who value schooling, and who have had the privilege of experiencing such an education. As a British teacher, I fit the bill. I have learnt so much, and been challenged on my philosophies on education, and on the ways in which I teach. I hope I made a difference in the lives of the students. More importantly, I hope I encouraged the teachers to think about the education they offer.
    I would encourage all teachers to go on a teaching adventure, if only for six weeks in the summer holiday. You will learn so much, and can give even more, and when you are just about to come home, and a student asks you, “Sir, are you frying on an elopren to England?”, you will know where you are called to be.
  2. Memo

    Memo JF-Expert Member

    Mar 18, 2011
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    Roger that.
    ...........and next time dont forget to bling mosquito leperant
  3. nngu007

    nngu007 JF-Expert Member

    Mar 18, 2011
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    We don't need just an Education, We need something better rof the Generation to come...
  4. Negrodemus

    Negrodemus JF Gold Member

    Mar 18, 2011
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    we need something more powerful than thoughts and plans