By December 2008 our first main building along with a kitchen, toilet block and storeroom were completed and on February 2nd 2009 The Shiri Mgungani Learning and Resource Centre welcomed 100 pre-primary school pupils. They are taught in two groups in morning and afternoon sessions according to Montessori principles by our two excellent young teachers Sarah and Veronica. Every child is given lunch. Children, parents and teachers report that the first term of the kindergarten has been very successful indeed and everyone is looking forward very much to the second term.
In February 2009 we also held our first science teachers’ and headteachers’ conference at Shiri Mgungani. Educational professionals gathered in the main building to discuss teacher-training priorities and textbook and other material needs of local schools. Participants responded very positively to the conference and especially to the fact that they could discuss their difficulties with teachers from other schools. There was a clear consensus that improving the quality of science teaching, especially practical work was an urgent priority, as was the teaching of English.
By March 2009 work had progressed on the science laboratory. By June we had reached roof level and by the beginning of July the outer shell of the building was completed. The challenge now will be to equip the laboratory in good time for local schools to be able to timetable classes there for the academic year 2010.
WATU is now paying the fees of 78 students in public and private schools in the region. Most are in the Moshi urban or rural areas but some are also in Pare and in the Masai areas. During this year we have been following as many of them as possible very closely, mostly to help them but partly to provide valuable feedback for sponsors in Europe. It became clear that many of these supported students were experiencing quite severe difficulties at school. In order to give them some academic support, therefore, we have established a series of extra tuition sessions during the months of June and July. These sessions in Maths, Physics, Biology and English have been received enthusiastically and very appreciatively by our students, especially those preparing for Form 4 and Form 2 examinations. We will be continuing to monitor closely the performance of these students and also trying to exploit as many opportunities as possible to get them together as a group.
We expect to be able to offer support to even more students in the near future. We are grateful to the international schools of Munich and Florence, and to FOTIS of Geneva for their extremely generous support to these needy youngsters. FOTIS, in fact, very generously donated a sturdy English dictionary to each of their sponsored students. They were presented with their dictionaries by Mr Josiah Mchome at the end of the three week extra tuition session.
In June 2009 work continued on the small hostel complex at Shiri Mgungani. These rooms will play an essential part in eventually making the Learning and Resource Centre self-supporting, and thus reducing reliance upon donors. We are very happy to announce that we have sufficient funding to complete the first wing of the hostel by October 2009. The rooms of this first wing will also double up as classrooms.
Work is also ongoing, in conjunction with the Cicely Foundation in UK, to send a container of education materials to Tanzania from Southampton in England in late September. Teachers attending the conference at Shiri-Mgungani in February helped to prioritize needs, and materials are currently being collected in Switzerland and England.
Developments from November 2008 to July 2009
Very good progress has been made on the learning and resource centre at Shiri-Mgungani and on the support for students in school.
The first building of the centre is on the verge of completion. In January 2009 this building will house a much needed kindergarden and will host our first pedagogical seminars. In addition, we have been able to lay the foundations of the hostel and of the three rooms of what will ultimately be our main block consisting of a science laboratory, a computer laboratory and a library/conference/internet facility for teachers, students, administrators and parents. With generous donations from private donors and (amongst others) the Procter and Gamble Alumni Association in Geneva, we plan to finish the science laboratory by mid year 2009 so that it might be available for the second half of the school year.
Owing to very generous donations from the NGO FOTIS of Geneva, from the Munich International School, and by way of The International School, Florence we are now able to support more than 60 students in primary and secondary education and we will increase this number to 70 at the beginning of the new school year in January 2009. It is important to stress that these students have their education guaranteed either to the end of primary school or to the end of secondary school.
We are planning carefully for a major transfer of secondary school science and mathematics textbooks with the support of the charity, The Cicely Foundation in UK. In the meantime we transfer as best we can afford, a range of science, maths, and English as a Second Language textbooks as well as other pedagogical materials in support of the very many disadvantaged students in northern Tanzania. These books – an invaluable educational resource - are sold to schools, students and teachers at a nominal price and have been extremely well-received.
An important development in May 2008 was WATU’s collaboration with the BATA Shoe Company in Kenya in providing the girls of Longoni Primary School in Moshi with shoes.
WATU would like to take this opportunity to thank our many supporters. We are confident that we will be able to realize our objectives and impact a very wide range of students indeed. We believe that without the empowerment that education brings individuals find it very difficult to make the most of their lives. It is in the shared hope that we are making a difference in this area that we thank our donors and encourage others to think of supporting us.
Finally, People’s Participation in Education (WATU) is now not only registered in Tanzania but has also received official recognition in Switzerland under the name of Association WATU. Details may be consulted in the documents section as can the previous progress report.