NJOMBE REGION, Tanzania (July 17, 2012) — “Previously, we didn’t use as many classroom aids like we do today,” said 12-year-old Hekima. “These days, teachers conduct lessons using aids, and you get to understand things better. We also get the chance to make these tools ourselves, which increases our skills and memory.”
In 2009, the Government of Tanzania, with technical and financial support from UNICEF, launched a strategy for improving teaching in primary schools. The strategy challenged the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ teaching methods and encouraged a more interactive and participatory learning approach. Since then, thousands of children in Tanzania have benefitted from this new style of teaching, which has increased confidence, self-esteem, curiosity and enjoyment in the classroom. The benefits have been evident across the board—students are more engaged and teachers’ morale has received a boost.
In-Service Education and Training (INSET) for teachers is an important part of improving the quality of education in Tanzania. Through INSET programs, teachers are kept abreast of ever-changing teaching and learning approaches, making them competent and effective practitioners.
Although resources like textbooks are limited, teachers and pupils are working together to create vibrant teaching materials that can help children learn effectively.
At the Makete Primary School in Njombe Region, a transformation has taken place. Students like Hekima are realizing that teachers are on their side and that what they learn in school bears relevance to the outside world.
“What I gain by making these aids are skills and knowledge. It teaches me something about everyday life, how things function,” he said. “Teachers are now keen on finding out if we understand, compared to before. Now, when a teacher enters the class, you get what they want you to learn. They ask you if you have understood them.”
Hekima’s classmate, 12-year-old Leurola, agrees. “Before, when teachers taught, they just talked,” she said. “They didn’t use actual examples... These days if a teacher is teaching about a color, for example yellow, you leave the classroom and look for yellow colors.”
Makete Primary’s headmaster, Zacharia Treve, is happy with the learning environment that is being nurtured. “We have made big strides in our classroom techniques and have reached a very good stage. If you looked at the way things were back then in this profession, things are very different now. Back then, when we were teaching, we didn’t use any participatory methods and didn’t involve children when assessing a lesson. Nowadays children participate fully as we ask them directly: What did they like? What didn’t they like? Did they understand the lesson?”
Mr. Treve encourages the use of locally sourced teaching aids to stimulate children’s imaginations and cut costs.
“Previously, we relied on teaching aids you had to buy, but it reached a point where the government didn’t have the funds to provide them. Instead [now] we use local aids, which the children and the teachers make themselves. There are times when our surrounding environment can be used. For example, they can be learning about colors of an object.
Outside the classroom there are different kinds of flowers which we can use. Or the classroom itself can be used in math when learning about shapes, and objects like desks can be used to teach about lengths, widths and height.”
“I have been able to make a clock face, and I am now able to tell the time,” Hekima said. “Our teacher says it is important to always be on time for school.”
Following the success of INSET, the government has made a firm commitment to roll out the program nationally. For the first time in Tanzania, all districts will support INSET-based primary school approaches.