In this project report, we'd like to share with you some highlights from our December Study Camp. Throughout the year, our students attend 9 different secondary schools, as determined by the Ministry of Education based on their national exam scores. But in December, Lucas and Madaga brought all of our students together to attend a rigorous 30-day study camp. The students were engaged in learning activities starting at 7am every morning. After a break in the day for lunch and a nap, they returned to school for afternoon classes and evening discussion seminars. On the weekends they enjoyed time to play sports and relax together on the campus of Kichangachui Secondary School in Kigoma town.
Collaborations for Success
The headmaster of Kichangachui was crucial to our camp's success. He provided classrooms for lessons, rooms for boarding, water from their tanks, and access to the school’s technology tools: printer, photocopy machines, laptops to prepare tests and reports, and a projector to use instructional media. He also provided first aid when students had stomach or head aches. Given that they were there for an entire month, he also provided essential feminine hygiene products for the girls so they could partake in their studies without interruption.
The participating Kichangachui teachers were committed and enthusiastic. They employed innovative, learner-centered teaching approaches. They organized group discussions and encouraged students to articulate their understandings and unique persepctives. The students were encouraged to work together, learn from one another, and support each other throughout all learning experiences. They also focused on defining their academic and career goals.
In the Words of our Students
Through reflective journals and interviews, Madaga collected some feedback from our students to share with you. Here is what some of the girls had to say:
On facing challenging subjects with competent, supportive teachers:
“I used to hate Mathematics and English Language right from when I joined in form one, now I have realized that learning mathematics and speaking English language is simple, what is needed is to make thorough practice”
On gaining confidence with English:
“We used to feel shy to speak in front of others fearing that they would laugh to us, but now we are in a solid position to speak English wherever we are. Our camp has indeed helped us”
On being able to articulate their goals and ambitions:
“We have been groomed in such a way that now we can learn under determination for our future, some students aspire to be doctors, teachers, pilots and others engineers. We real acknowledge our donors”
On being a girl student:
“Living in one place under good care and supervision has helped us to avoid from peers and temptations especially the boys who used to harass us by convincing to engage in sexual relationship with them which actually ruined our academic progress. This is because many girls face environmental constrains because they find themselves lacking proper guidance and counseling necessary to achieve their goals”.
Attending boarding school is a best-case scenario for girls in Tanzania, but it's not an option for everyone. While we can’t change the situation of our girls and move them all into boarding schools, we can continue to provide these study camps between terms. Through these intensive summer camps, we believe that the girls will continue to foster deeper relationships with another, develop life-long goals, and improve their academic skills.
Each Saturday, they took a test to assess learning from the previous week. Test scores recorded during the camp showed improvements across subjects for all students! One of our students tested very low on the first math test in the camp. By the end of the camp, she had improved greatly and hopes to continue on an upward trajectory. She had this to say:
“I am happy that I used to hate mathematics but this study camp has enabled me to know proper way of studying mathematics, I have improved gradually in just a month I am about to score higher grade than the previous where I scored poor. I will use the skills that I have gained here in order to perform well in mathematics because my major is science combinations where mathematics is paramount.”
Another positive outcome of the camp was that parents saw the impact! They gained a renewed appreciation for the value of their daughters' education. They saw that with this intensive support, the girls' academic skills improved and they gained clarity about their futures. One parent said the following:
“I extend appreciation to our donors and the entire management of Project Wezesha and Girls Ed for their humanitarian support to our children. My daughter has improved academically, she is now having a good morale of studying. Also she has promised us that through the program, she will advance her career.”
Facing the Challenges
While our first study camp was a great success, we also faced challenges that we will have to address in future camps. We ran this camp on a shoestring. For $2500 we housed and fed 41 students for 30 days, we paid teachers, we bought materials, and we supplied food and hired a cook to prepare three meals a day. For our next camp, we will have to increase the budget by a minimum of $750. We must be able to provide first aid, reliable transportation to the hospital in case of emergency, additional cooks in the kitchen, and additional paper and ink for printing tests. The headmaster of the host school supported us in overcoming these deficits during our December camp, but our goal is to cover these costs on our own in the future in order to maintain our 'in kind' support from the headmaster and the school (space, boarding, classroom equipment).
Looking Forward to June
We are very excited about our June camp! Thank you for being among those who care for our girls in Tanzania! Stay tuned for updates in June. I will be over there for the first two weeks of the camp and I'm really excited to co-teach some lessons, collaborate with the headmaster, and see the magic unfold!
Executive Director, Girls Education International