On Wednesday evening I went to a careers event based around getting work in International Development. It made me want to be more focused, and also think about the issues I saw in Tanzania that I'd like to know a little bit more about, and hopefully help solve.
The one particular issue is of the quality of education. Tanzania has universal primary education - it ticks that lovely UNICEF box. Which means that since 2002, when it was introduced, they've struggled to get enough teachers to cope with the vastly increased number of pupils.
Primary school leavers were trained to become primary school teachers to boost numbers, for example. The policy means that while all children get a start, it's arguably the worst possible kind of start. Worse, all their lessons are in Swahili. Which is fine. Until you consider that all secondary school lessons are in English.
Those teaching primary school English, therefore, are unlikely to have completed more than four years of having to use English at school (most primary school teachers were Form Four leavers, and didn't go on to A Levels). Consequently their English often isn't very good, and they're not well trained as teachers either, which doesn't bode too well for their chances of being excellent teachers of English.
So even those students who perform well overall in primary school, are likely to struggle if they can afford to pay for a place at secondary. That is unless they excel at English, and the odds are stacked firmly against that possibility.
Therefore I think that any sponsorship of school students needs to go hand-in-hand with a programme to ensure that the education donors are paying for is good enough quality. Not something we've done enough of with Hoja so far, but something I'd like to see.
The other issue that came out of the tests at the end of our tutoring programme, was the gender gap in education. Hoja always have to add more girls to the sponsorship programme, and it seemed fairly clear from the numbers that the gap only grows as pupils move up the school.
The secondary school pupils we have at the VTC are a case in point - we have a secondary school class at the VTC, as well as the construction, tailoring and carpentry students. The girls were achieving the same results as the girls we sponsor at Government schools, but the boys were well ahead of their Government school counterparts.
All pupils were given the same lessons at the tutoring programme, and the same tests based on those lessons. Our boys were better at learning and remembering than the boys from other schools. Our girls weren't - the fact that many of the girls at other schools were often without teachers didn't seem to make a significant difference to their ability to learn. Why?
Admittedly, I didn't compare their results to their primary school exams - it could simply be that the girls at the VTC have made more progress, but started some way behind. That doesn't stop the performance of girls being well behind the performance of boys, however.
So, I'd like to know a little bit more about that, and how we might be able to help all of the local schools achieve more for their pupils, particularly girls, and particularly the primary schools. And particularly in English teaching.
At the moment I have lots of tabs open in Firefox, though, of pages I've found that could be helpful. So I'm going to dump the links here, because otherwise my computer will keep throwing hissy-fits. They may or may not be useful and/or interesting.
AGE (Advancing Girls' Education) in Africa
Camfed - Water in the Sky (film)
FT seasonal appeal: Report on Zambia
Girls' Education in Africa: Translating Policy into Action
When girls go missing from the classroom
So much yet to learn about girls' education
Why investing in girls education makes sound economic sense
Barriers to girls education in Africa: FAWE's succesful intervention
Teachers for rural schools : experiences in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda
Global Gender Gap Report
Girl Power: girls' education, sexual behaviour and AIDS in Africa
Educating Tomorrow: Lessons learned from girls' education in Africa
Girls’Education in Africa: The FAWE Response to EFA Highlights for the year 2000
AED: Girls' education reports
Practising Gender Equality in Education
Seeing for Yourself: Research Handbook for Girls' Education in Africa
Promoting Girls' Education in Africa: The Design and Implementation of Policy Interventions
Girls Education in Sub-Saharan Africa