This time last month I was still in Babati, a bustling market town three hours south of Arusha (the stepping off point for climbs of Mt Kilimanjaro and safaris in Tanzania). As first time visitors to Africa we’d already experienced the eye opening wonders of a week long safari. In Babati our Tanzanian experience was immeasurably enriched through the involvement with the So They Can team.
As the Education Director of the LBW Trust I was visiting the So They Can Project in Tanzania to witness at first hand the impact that this project was having in this rural, subsistence farming area of the country. In addition, I was in the enviable position of being able to contribute to the project in my professional capacity as a coach and facilitator for Growth Coaching International. Fortunate too, that The Growth Coaching Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company supported me to make the visit.
The week spent at Babati, was, in equal parts, inspirational and challenging. Inspirational because the work that So They Can is doing is really making a difference, and challenging because Babati district really is an area where the provision of education in this rural area is not a simple matter!
We visited two So They Can core schools on our first day. We were treated like royalty, with the Village representatives, the Parent representatives and the teachers all joining in. We met four of the volunteer graduates supported by the LBW Trust. They knew exactly who was supporting them and were incredibly grateful and excited to be part of the program. At one of the schools the Head Teacher had invited one of the volunteers to provide a brief history of the school which he ( Baracka), did with great pride. The schools were so proud of the work they are doing with So They Can. The professional learning provided by the facilitators is really lifting the teaching standards and hence the results.
The other aspect of the So They Can Program in Tanzania is the Mamire Teachers Training College. So They Can entered into an agreement with the Government to build the College, provide resources and ongoing support for the staff. The Government is responsible for the running costs of the college. The LBW Trust funds two programs at the College, a micro prac teaching program so that students are able to teach for two days in their first year at the college and a Volunteer Graduate Program. We spoke to students who have experienced the ‘micro prac sessions’ that the LBW Trust is funding. They spoke of the importance to them of getting into classrooms in the first year of their training. Currently forty three graduates are appointed to the nine So They Can schools where they take classes, reducing the teachers’ load so they can participate in Professional Learning and, where space permits, create additional classes at the lower levels. Given the class sizes in Pre Primary are around 100 and in the other classes 75 + this is an enormous help. We are currently waiting for the Government to make good on it’s promise to employ 2500 additional classroom teachers through Tanzania. We also visited the College on the first day. In addition to the programs the LBW Trust is funding, we are helping So They Can to build an additional classroom. The slab had already been and construction well underway. A meeting with the Principal, Nada assured us that the partnership with So They Can which has funded the construction of the College and the provision of resources has impacted immeasurably on the teacher training received by the students.
After this inspiring introduction to the work of So They Can, it was time for me to get to work. I conducted workshops and planning sessions for the So They Can team as well as for Head Teachers from the twenty six supported schools. In addition I worked with the Regional and District staff who are responsible for the schools in Babati district. I spent a day coaching each member of the So They Can Team, led by Delfina Rueben and Godfrey Mogusu. The commitment of this team of nine is admirable. The hospitality they afforded us will never be forgotten.
In short, it was a life affirming, life changing experience for me. I’m hoping that the work I did was useful and that I’ll be invited back next year!