Thursday, 28 August 2014

Teacher Training with Village Education Project Kilimanjaro

Tacking the harder problems in Tanzanian schools...

Katy Allen is an ex London lawyer who has been working to improve the standard of English in government primary schools in this region of Tanzania for the last twenty years through the charity she started, Village Education Project Kilimanjaro, VEPK..

Katy started by refurbishing schools – mending leaking roofs and putting glass in the windows so the classrooms aren't filled with dust when it’s windy.  She soon realised that although Tanzania has done a good job of getting children into school, it has been much less successful in getting them to learn there.

Problems are huge.  Teachers are told where to teach and spend many hours travelling on very poor roads to get to work, using up a high proportion of the meagre salary to do so.  

Teacher training covers content not methodology so teachers generally spend lessons copying notes from (often inadequate) textbooks for the children to try to copy down into their flimsy exercise books, understanding nothing.  That is if they are lucky enough to have a pen. In this class a quarter of the class did not, and had to wait for their friends to finish and lend them one. 

Some of the classes are enormous, up to 109.  There are not enough classrooms so half the children come in the morning and half in the afternoon.  Even so there are two classes in the room above so while one class is being taught the other is supposed to sit waiting.  There are no pupil books or teaching aids.

VEPK runs seminars for Maths and English teachers, teaching them participatory teaching techniques using materials found locally such as bottle tops.  They also run one to one sessions with teachers explaining the topics they find hardest.  They show them how to analyse the results of the trial exams to work out which topics their children are struggling with - standard procedure in the UK, but a revalation to these teachers. They are also producing and trialing new text books

The enthusiasm in which Katy and Barb were greeted in each school we went to was evidence of the high regard they are held in by teachers and children alike. The lessons I saw were interactive, pacy and fun - a far cry from the standard lessons here.

You can read more about VEPK's work here.

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