“Mmeweza!” This is a Swahili word commonly said to me by teachers in the six schools where STS is implementing the Whole Child Model. The phrase means, “you have done it.” Hearing these words brings me great encouragement and confidence that the WCM activities we implement in these schools are impacting the learning of children positively.
It has been three years now since I started working with STS here in Tanzania, in the rural part of the Arusha Region. During that time, these six schools have been receiving support in the form of teacher training and mentoring, leadership support, parent engagement training, and menstrual hygiene training and resources.
In 2019, the district office in Arusha approved STS to provide support to six schools. At that time, students’ academic performance was very poor. A majority of kids in the lower primary could hardly read and could only do basic math. I recall that in one of the classes with more than 180 kids, only 20 kids could read. While this might surprise you, it was a reality for all schools that the district office allocated to STS. None of the teachers had ever had in-service training, which is a very common situation in most government schools here. Overcrowded classes, lack of modern teaching approaches, lack of students’ and teachers’ motivation, truancy, and many other challenges were part of what WCM brought solutions for.
When we finished our first training in numeracy and literacy in 2019, teachers wrote in their feedback that they believed it was impossible for kids to learn in overcrowded classes. Some teachers mentioned that they thought they were unable to teach lower classes. After the training, the story was very different. A majority of teachers left with skills and positive attitudes, ready to bring change to their classrooms. When we went to visit, the observation results were very encouraging—the majority of teachers were putting into practice what they learned.
With ongoing support on-site, teachers absorbed almost everything we trained them in. Following the support, students’ performance increased so much. In some of the schools, math and literacy performance improved to almost 100%. Following this performance, the district started to point out some of our schools as the best examples for other schools to follow in improving their literacy and numeracy performance.
This is what our six schools refer to as “Mmeweza.” Because of these achievements, the district has requested that we provide support to all the schools in the district. They also have expressed a wish that our training could be scaled across the country. A month can hardly pass without receiving a call from one of the district’s officials or a head teacher mentioning how they have missed us. Every time I go out to these schools, I look back on the past three years and realize that a lot has been done and achieved.
Amani Nicolas, a teacher in Tanzania, has worked with STS and the Whole Child Model extensively. His background in education and monitoring and evaluation has been very helpful in leading trainings, and his passion for the work he and STS do inspires everyone around him . On February 15th, he is presenting at the Comparative and International Education Society conference on improving teacher education.
Being a local here and being part of the WCM’s great transformations makes my heart so happy. It gives me hope that our impact could go further to the national level.