Monday, December 17, 2012

Kids4Kids Contributes to Success in Education

by Jenaya Rockman

Not so long ago, in the plains of Canada and the United States, farm and ranch children had chores that were critical to the family. Most children attended a one-room schoolhouse, and many walked very far or rode horseback to get there. However, some children did not have the opportunity to attend school or did not complete primary school, because of the need to help on the family farm. That picture is not terribly different from what we see in rural areas of Tanzania, today.

Many pastoralist children must tend the
livestock and are unable to go to school.
The Maasai of Longido District are pastoralists, ie. they raise livestock for survival. These families tend to have many children, some of whom are needed to tend the cows and goats, as well as assist with household chores, such as fetching firewood and water. All of these activities are time intensive, so many children are unable to attend school. (It is not uncommon to come across a preteen youth in Oltepesi village who speaks no Swahili, which is a sure sign that they did not attend primary school.) In addition, as livestock are the most-valued asset, things that detract from this, such as formal education, are valued less. Education of girls is of even lower value than education of boys, as a girl marries out of the family and contributes to the husband’s family; educating a girl is like ‘tending to someone else’s garden’. This is confirmed even by the girl-to-boy ratio at the LECHE schools; this year, out of 43 students who ‘graduated’ from preschool to primary, only one-third were girls. 

Folders containing examples of their work,
were given to graduating students.
Sauti Moja-Tanzania’s early childhood education program is working to not just educate children but also change the value that communities place on education. At the end of each school year, SM-TZ holds a Parent’s Day at each of its Montessori preschools. These days are for celebration of those moving on to primary school and showcasing for community members and parents what the children have learned. This year, influential members of the community, including Mwalimu (Teacher) Sarah and the Community Welfare Officer, spoke about the importance of educating all children, even girls. Sarah challenged the community; “It is not just Sauti Moja doing this work; we are working together with the community to educate the children. However, I insist that you bring both your girls and boys to school. They need to start early, so they can learn what is needed in order to be successful in primary school.” She encouraged parents to ensure that their children have good attendance, as well as encourage other parents to send their children to the school. 

Teachers encourage parents to enrol their girls.
In addition to speeches, the students presented what they learned, including knowing shapes and colors, as well as naming the 30 regions in the Tanzania! First Grade teachers from the primary school also attended, and saw that the LECHE students are vastly ahead of other students entering primary; they can already do basic math, reading and writing. In addition to the “3 Rs”, the students also learn geography, science, nutrition, and Swahili and English languages. Primary teachers expressed their approval, and endorsed the approach. More-and-more parents are choosing to enrol their children in Sarah’s preschools, as the reputation for superior learning spreads throughout the communities.

Celebrating graduating students reinforces that
education is important.
(Sarah and the primary teachers share a common concern related to superior performance of LECHE children as compared to those from other preschools. LECHE graduates are expected to get bored; for example, they already know the alphabet, but in primary, children learn one letter a day. Sarah would like ‘her’ students placed together in an advanced class, but primary teachers want to mix the students to enhance the performance of other children.)

On Parent’s Day, everyone congratulated the 43 students, as well as their teachers. Parents showcased the importance of the occasion by providing ample entertainment and food. They cooked a meal for all in attendance, and students sang about how “Education is the key to life.” And, in Tanzania, nothing creates a celebratory atmosphere quite like sodas! 

Join Kids4Kids to help prepare other children for success in primary school.

For more information on Sauti Moja programs, select from the side margin or go to

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