Imagine that wide-eyed look a child gets at his first sight of a train. The child’s excitement grows as the train comes nearer, bounding on his nose and waving at the train engineer and maybe pulling on a imaginary horn cord to encourage the engineer to give him a toot. Children in Tanzania get that look when a bus comes up the dirt road, especially when it contains strangers from another land. Across Tanzania we encounted children wearing the blue skirt or shorts and white shirt uniform worn while at school, or play or leaving the school for home.
On my August 2010 trip to Tanzania, we had the opportunity of visiting one of the schools in Dar es Salaam as guests of the Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoots program where the education level of the 4000 enrolled children along with many schools in Tanzania is slowly rising from a grade three level of education to a grade six or higher. Teachers in Tanzania face the task of learning new technology, sometimes learning the educational material just before they teach it, making the educational content relevant for the children’s future roles in society and teaching in a classroom with as many as 150 students in it, the average classroom size is 120 students. Children share the few desks or sit on the floor. Most are eager to learn. Most are shy to greet visitors but excited to have visitors greet them back with “Jambo” or a hand wave.
Our first visit to a classroom introduced us to the school’s new video system where a teacher can show a pre-programmed set of material, stop it mid progress at any time to add additional information and allow students to ask questions, and provide a greater range of information than available with the few meager supplies of educational books on hand. At another class, the teacher asked questions, sometimes getting answers from many students, often getting a huge show of raised hands, and sometimes only getting one or two answers. The children were highly eager to learn, paying close attention and treating all of the well-dressed and helpful teachers with respect.
See my slide show “Roots and Shoots at Work in Tanzania” for more pictures from this visit.
Because traffic in Dar es Salaam is quite slow, we were late, so we next went outside to where the children in the Roots and Shoots program had a tree waiting to be planted. After the teacher asked the young leader of the group, “why did you select this spot” he received the answer that the spot was “safe from flooding and would grow there into a good shade tree”. My husband and another woman did the first task of putting the tree into the hole, with several others helping to fill in the dirt. For his efforts, the children rewarded my husband by naming the tree the “Bob tree” or “Baba tree”, baba meaning grandfather in Swahili. The school principal has promised us regular updates on the progress of the Baba tree.
In return for the honor of the Baba tree, the Jane Goodall Institute along with donations from us visitors, gifted the school with some well needed gardening supplies for working the walled and secured area behind the school into a garden. Students received the watering pots, hoes, rakes, garden hose well. Because agriculture is the primary source of food and income in Tanzania, all of the students are likely to work agricultural jobs and tasks as adults. Practical education along with reading, writing and arithmetic helps to make the education relevant for the student.
Our last stop before saying goodbye, was a visit to a classroom where students in a special program had learned three dances from one of the local tribes and performed them for us. Two young men played drums quite professionally while the eager young dancers and singers kept us clapping and entertained. This pilot program may become the start of an entertainment segment for the growing tourist industry while teaching the commonality of dance and song and the many differences that come from the 120 tribe Tanzanian culture.
Roots and Shoots, our sponsor for this visit to a Tanzania school, is one of the programs started by the Jane Goodall Foundation. Roots and Shoots provides a basic educational model that educators can use to help their students become interested in the environment and become a positive force for change. Roots and Shoots has been picked up by 120 countries worldwide.
See the Roots and Shoots Program for more information on how to visit Gombe Stream, where Jane Goodall began her chimpanzee research accompanied by Jane Goodall Institute people or to donate to this worthy cause.
One other way to help students like the one’s we visited in Tanzania is to donate badly needed educational supplies. See “Where to Donate Educational Supplies” to be a force for changing the lives of students around the world.