In Tanzania, most children grow up bilingual. In their communities they will speak their home language, and while at primary school, Kiswahili. During their early education years, they will study English as a subject.
However, English competence is not required for entry into teacher training college in Tanzania, and consequently many primary school teachers lack the subject knowledge and capacity to teach. As a result, half of Tanzania’s students are unable to read in English when they leave primary school.
This becomes a problem at secondary school when English becomes the medium of instruction. It is an enormous challenge for students to learn and move effectively up the education system if they have never benefited from teachers who are fluent English speakers.
To help overcome this, Hornby and VSO worked with 24 schools in Muleba District, Kiteto District and across Zanzibar schools to improve the language skills of primary school teachers so that they in turn could better support their students.
Each of the six 24 schools received a small amount of money to involve parents in school activities. In January 2012, more than 160 parents attended Parents’ Day activities in Muleba. Other participants included village elders, school committee members, the village executive officer, and teachers.
They took part in day-long activities and learned about different school programmes, including PIE. Parents and teachers discussed how to help children develop general academic skills and English language skills. Afterwards, students performed plays, dialogues and other activities using English.
A programme to improve English in Rubya, Tanzania
Hornby funds are supporting a successful VSO English language project in Tanzania
Some 28 primary school teachers attended 40 hours of language classes conducted by a VSO volunteer. They learned about English grammar and vocabulary, about and different teaching methods for developing students’ listening, speaking, vocabulary and reading skills.
Each of the 24 schools chose one teacher with better English skills to be their study group leader, and this leader conducted weekly English language study sessions with their colleagues. During the sessions they completed PIE (Programme to Improve English) assignments, prepared visual aids for students, and organised Parents’ Day and resource development activities.
Each school received a small budget to develop English learning resources. Schools hired local artists who painted visual aids on the exterior walls of classrooms. These helped to integrate English into the school community. Schools also received a budget to purchase educational supplies. They bought poster boards and marker pens; Macmillan and Oxford student and teacher English textbooks; educational posters written in English; and English-to-Kiswahili dictionaries.
In total, the support from the Hornby Educational Trust has helped train 216 teachers; has provided text books, reading materials and learning displays for more than 18,000 students; and has engaged more than 900 parents and 24 Heads of School across Muleba District, Kagera District and across Zanzibar.
However, the achievements do not end there. In recognition of the benefits associated with using study group leaders to provide training, the Ministry of Education has scaled up the use of the method so that all secondary schools across Zanzibar can take advantage – something that is testament to the success of this project.