Working together for the successful education of all
A school headmaster in Tanzania: “This has motivated me to work after working hours to ensure that all children get a quality education”.
This article is excerpted from an interview with Mr. Alloyce Benjamin Chija, school headmaster of Pwani Primary School in Kinondoni District, Tanzania.
What is the “Education for All” project?
Alloyce Benjamin Chija: The project has multiple goals, but the most important among them is to ensure that all children have access to primary school — from the beginning to the end of their studies — regardless of the challenges they face.
The aim of the project, comprised of different schools and people (such as teachers), is to better understand the challenges and opportunities that affect children in the Kinondoni District.
What is your involvement?
Alloyce Benjamin Chija: Within the project, I am a member of the research group, where I help identify these challenges through working with other researchers and community members.
My responsibilities as a researcher are to better understand the obstacles and opportunities the children face. This involves both welcoming and working with other researchers at the school, as well as finding individual school children who will be interviewed. I encourage them to speak freely, without hesitation. I have learned the importance of the interview environment and process. For instance, the most honest interviews are created when interviewers allow the children to speak freely, and do not push the children to say something they don’t necessarily agree with (like saying “no” when they really want to say “yes”).
I have been able to bring about some changes in my school as a result of the research I have undertaken.
What do you personally value about this project?
Alloyce Benjamin Chija: Those who are supporting the field of education behind-the-scenes inspire me. I see that there is so much solidarity among ATD members. ATD people are really ready to be involved in education, and despite exhaustion or difficulties, they never give up. They make the effort to work with and involve areas like Tandale, Ferry, or Kunduchi, which have many families living in poor economic and social conditions or in areas where the population might have no interest in education.
This project has motivated me to effectively do my work in order to ensure that all children get quality education — and to even work after working hours! For instance, sometimes I see children who have stopping coming to school. I make every effort to find these children, speak with them, and work with the authorities and their parents to make sure they come back to school.
If I had a bigger voice, I would tell the municipal leaders to follow in the footsteps of ATD, because if they did, I’m sure it could bring about a change in the community to ensure that fewer children skip school.
I have learned so much, but it definitely wasn’t easy. It was painful for me and for the families to have to require school fees, or for the children to be punished by teachers for skipping school. However, thanks to our new president, Dr. Magufuli, we no longer have to require monetary contributions and the children can now study in a more peaceful environment.
What did you learn?
Alloyce Benjamin Chija: In order for a nation to be successful, education needs to be valued. This project has allowed me to understand the importance of making education a priority.
In addition, it has been a pleasure to work with ATD, and see the value of working together — for we all are “All Together in Dignity”. Moreover, I have learned that monetary compensation isn’t everything. ATD sees commitment and the impact of our work as bigger and better rewards. We must all work together to make sure that the “equality” we are talking about reaches everyone in the community.