We hope your holiday season is off to a lovely start and that you are having some peaceful, enjoyable moments with family and friends. It can sometimes feel like the world is swelling with angst and disappointment, but in truth - there is beauty and goodness all around us. For me, getting reports about our students in Tanzania is one great source ofjoy. Another is being able to share that with you!
Right now, our project manager, Lucas alongside our friend and fellow educator, Madaga are leading our students through a rigorous and fruitful study camp. The idea is our response to gaps we have identified in our students' education experience. The reasons for these gaps include limited resources and high demands on teachers. Many of our students have struggled to earn good grades because they don't get the individualized attention they need to deepen their understanding of the concepts they are exploring in school.
Lucas and Madaga designed a month-long study camp (see photo of them planning), which they are implementing right now! The students come together in one village location and remain on site for the entire camp. We secured lodging for all the girls with local families and we hired cooks to provide them breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the month of study (see photo of women under the cooking structure). The schedule they are following is quite demanding.
- They wake at 6am for personal care, a morning jog and assembly (i.e., announcements, motivational speeches).
- At 7am they have breakfast, and at 7:30am they begin classes.
- At 10:30am they have a quick break for tea.
- Classes resume until 3pm at which time they have lunch.
- After lunch, they have a siesta to recharge their bodies and minds.
- Afternoon consists of discussion seminars. (See photo of a student leading a discussion section)
- After dinner, they continue with their studies in preparation for the following day.
When Madaga shared the "timetable" with me, I was surprised by how demanding it was. He assured me that the students are actually enjoying it. "It is of great benefit to them."The rigor of the schedule with time built in for self-care and reflection is providing a structure and intensity to their studies that they don't get during the school year.
The parents (photographed in front of one of the schools) came together for a community meeting prior to the study camp. They had a chance to ask questions before signing an approval letter and sending their children off to 'camp'. Lucas sent me a message via Whats App the other night to convey the parents' words of gratitude. He wrote, "They are not happy--but very very happy! They want to meet with you one day to say thank you in person because they say this is a good gift for them and their children."
This study camp is exactly the boost that students attending village schools need. In urban areas, the quality of teaching tends to be higher because teachers are more qualified and speak English (medium of instruction) with greater fluency. Students in cities also tend to get additional support at after school programs or with tutors.
Lucas and Madaga tested all students at the start of the study camp and will conduct a final assessment to measure gains through this program. We believe that we will see the impact of this intensive academic camp when our students transition into the next school year in mid-January. If successful, we hope to offer another camp in June when the students are on break between terms 1 and 2.
Of course, there are expenses for running a camp of this scale. We provide food, pay the cooks and teachers, and buy materials that teachers and students need for teaching and learning.
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Girls Education International