“The success of this project has been substantial. There is more solidarity now between people living in poverty and teachers, local authorities, and other stakeholders in the educational system. Parents living in poverty are kept informed about their children’s progress… Through this collaboration, children have come to feel that school is a safe place.”
Salma Mosha, in the video Education for All.
Last spring, ATD Fourth World in Tanzania hosted a national seminar on Education for All,* a multi-year project that ended in December of 2017. The seminar brought together the teachers, education officers, and parents who made changes at their schools based on ATD’s recommendations. The seminar presented experiences from 14 different schools in and outside of Dar es Salam that had taken part in the project.
The seminar was particularly significant because it convened groups that would not ordinarily meet together. Attendees also included representatives from various organizations and other stakeholders in the education system.
Parent Involvement Leads to Academic Success
There were a number of positive results at Mwereni Primary School in the Moshi Kilimanjaro region. Parents started to participate in various activities at the school. Compared to attendance rates prior to ATD’s seminar, the number of parents attending the school meetings drastically increased.
Parents also began to pay more attention to their children’s schooling. Academic progress of the students increased significantly. This was partially a result of parents monitoring their children and ensuring that they attended school, worked hard, and completed their schoolwork.
School Meals for All Children
During the presentation at the schools, many people said it was important for students to eat lunch at school. They recommended that the schools provide lunch services so that students could study effectively. So far, two schools outside Dar es Salaam have started to provide lunch, Mwereni Primary School and Mkiu Primary School in the Njombe region.
After the government announced that education in primary and secondary schools would be free, the Mwereni Primary School created a special committee designed to manage the way the school provides food. Lunch is now available to all children, regardless of whether they are in day or boarding school. The children from families living in poverty who are unable to provide food get support from families who can contribute more. This ensures that no one is excluded from eating lunch.
During a meeting at the school, the parents decided to start a “savings group” that includes all parents, whether they contribute to lunch costs or not. This group also provides extra lessons for students. The parents savings group received positive feedback from people who participated in the seminar. Many said that other schools should copy this savings group initiative so that children are not too hungry to focus on learning.
Supporting Parent Education
Praising the work of the Education for All project, the Tandale Primary School head teacher said:
“Some parents in the past did not know the importance of education. After ATD organized this meeting with parents and teachers, which provided a platform to share information, parents and teachers started to recognize the importance of education. Now they take their children to school even though they themselves do not know how to read and write.
“ATD has started a literacy class at our school [for parents]. …This allows them to at least check the exercise books of their children. This was something that they weren’t able to do previously, as it is difficult to check the exercise books of your children if you do not know how to read and write. After ATD finished their three-month program of literacy classes for adults, the management of Tandale Primary School decided to continue with the adult classes.”
As with all ATD Fourth World projects, the work does not stop here. From the start, the ATD team in Tanzania worked closely with parents, school officials, and community members to make the project their own, not something ATD was doing for them.
In addition, the Tanzania team is working closely with the ATD international office that collects lessons learned from projects around the world. In June 2018 Education for All participants from Tanzania attended an international seminar at the ATD headquarters in France. The seminar brought together other ATD groups involved in education initiatives around the world. Discussions focused on what made this project in Tanzania work so well and on successful education improvement strategies implemented in other countries.
*Education for All was a participatory research project that started in January 2015 in the Kinondoni district, Dar es Salaam. The goal was to understand the right conditions for children living in extreme poverty to start and finish primary school. People living in extreme poverty were part of the team that developed and facilitated the research. While they are often overlooked and devalued, people who experience poverty have unique insights that help bring about meaningful solutions. The research team made sure that everyone, regardless of their background, could contribute equally to data collection and analysis.
Project financed in part by AFD – Agence Française de Développement