From Paper to Practice: Creating Safe Spaces in Tanzania’s Classrooms

Teacher Development Grant

 2022-2023 Project Summary

Salome Lally

Mwangaza Education for Partnership • Ilboru, Arusha

Mwangaza Partnership for Education is a Tanzania-based, NGO that addresses challenges faced by schools throughout the country. For over 20 years, Mwangaza has provided leadership training to school administrators, learner-centered methodology to teachers, and health, wellness, and empowerment training to women, girls, and whole communities. In 2017, Mwangaza launched the Safe Initiative, a program addressing the teasing, bullying, sexual harassment, and other kinds of violence – particularly for girls – rampant in many secondary schools. Peace Clubs, student-led organizations focused on improving wellbeing, are one key component of the Safe Initiative.

In 2019, Mwangaza initiated a Teacher of the Year (TY) award. This award honors outstanding educators who seek to continually improve their classroom teaching and the broader educational environment in Tanzania. Nominated teachers have demonstrated a commitment to improving their own classroom instruction and the environment within their schools. These programs create an opportunity to address a gap in the current Tanzanian education system.

Through the Safe Initiative and Teacher of the Year’s focus on equipping teachers and staff to address challenges, and through the grassroots student-led Peace Clubs to promote understanding within the student populations, real change is possible. This change is rooted in teacher-led leadership in the classroom on the one hand, and student-led leadership addressing cultural challenges via Peace Clubs on the other.

The project vision is to bring these recognized TY educators together on a quarterly basis to identify relevant topics, select articles/books to read, reflect on the content, develop strategies, and return to their home locales to lead, disseminate, and grow together with a cohort of 5-6 regionally located teachers. These teachers may be from a single school, or multiple schools in the area, but located close enough that the cohort could meet monthly to reflect on the successes and challenges experienced in implementing strategies in their own classrooms.

This grant program would provide the means and support for these teachers to work together to reinforce their own learning and to expand their influence within their own classrooms and schools. It is important to note that teacher involvement in this program will require the foundational support of the schools’ headmaster. Corporal punishment is still practiced Tanzanian classrooms even though widely believed to stifle students ability to learn. In a 2019 article from All Africa, Elin Martinez noted most teachers said “they resorted to violence because it’s the easiest way to deal with a very large number of children in the classrooms.” She then notes one teacher within a group who was against violence in his classroom. ” He was aware that resorting to violence only induces anxiety and fear in his students, interrupting their learning. In his opinion, teachers should find positive ways to encourage children to enjoy learning, understanding why students sometimes don’t comply with teacher’s instructions.” Providing the opportunity for the TYs and their cohorts to investigate, challenge, and develop alternative discipline options for their own classrooms is an impactful example of how this project supports the evolution towards safety Tanzanian classrooms.

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