Mark Hoffman, an STS board member, and his wife, recently traveled to Tanzania and visited our focus school in Engorika. STS sat down with him to hear his thoughts about the school and our future work with the Whole Child Model in Tanzania.
School-to-School International (STS): What expectations did you have, if any, going into this visit?
Mark Hoffman (MH): I’ve done quite a bit of work in East Africa, and so thought I had a pretty good idea of what primary schools were like; I’ve seen them from rudimentary up to very nice. My sons even attended primary school in Kenya. However, the reality was very different from my expectations.
STS: What sort of welcome did you receive from the school?
MH: I met with the two consultants from STS, and I was VERY impressed—young, bright, energetic, open to new ideas, and heart in the right place. We met with a few of the teachers, and one was very eager to give her suggestions, which were all solid suggestions. We also met with the principal, who also made a strong impression. He was realistic about what can be done, in both the short term and long term. He was very realistic and very practical about “hey, I need day-to-day things, I need tangible curriculum tools, things like this. Bigger things can wait for another day.”
STS: Were you able to get any thoughts or insights from the teachers?
MH: They had some different priorities, but similar, to the principal. Theirs were a little more day-to-day, managing workload, tools, educational materials. The principal’s was a little more process oriented; “I don’t have enough teachers, we need latrines, we need photocopiers.” His insights were a little more focused on education as an entity that’s going to be there while the teachers’ thoughts were more centered on how to get the students taught and be successful in the educational objectives.
STS: What did you observe in the classroom?
MH: I was very impressed with Engorika because it’s a very large school. We were also told there’s one classroom for every grade, which is great. But we went into the classroom and it’s very basic—alarmingly basic. It’s a classroom of 150 students with one teacher.
STS: Were you able to meet with any of the parents or community members?
MH: We did meet with two mothers. The women said how happy they are that the school is there and that they’re hopeful it will give their children an education. I was very encouraged that two parents took time out of their day to be there and talk to us; there is community support for Engorika.
STS: What do we, here in the states, not understand about education in the Arusha district? What would you like to share with STS’s supporters?
MH: There is such a wide gap in Arusha between the private school sector and some of the public schools downtown, even more between regional schools further outside of the city. There’s such a huge gap between the facilities, and I’m sure the outcomes as well, that just seems unfair. Families in Arusha have certain lifestyle that’s basically being destroyed by climate change, and so they are transitioning into a more urban ecosystem. The need for education greatly exceeds the amount of resources accessible to educate.
STS continues to learn through its ongoing work in the Arusha District. Partnering with the teachers at the Engorika school has generated seminar ideas and best educational practices for the students. Conversations with parents have strengthened our understanding of and ability to support the community. And the collaboration of supporters like Mark Hoffman, allow us to generate the support the WCM needs. We’re looking forward to growing and learning with each other for the sake of creating the best environment for the students, both inside the classroom and out.
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