a reflection on teaching in Tanzania, by Nate Glencer

Teaching LTP in Arusha has been an experience full of challenges. From creating lesson plans, to dealing with large Swahili-speaking classes, and even simply finishing a telephone conversation, seemingly straightforward tasks have been circuitous and difficult. However, legitimizing LTP as a method of teaching has been refreshingly effortless.

Before arriving in Arusha I expected much of our teaching labor would be directed at teachers themselves. I had assumed teachers would be wary of trying a new method of teaching, especially one that relies on students to learn in small groups and presupposes that learning can be accomplished on one’s own or through discussion with one’s peers. Instead, every teacher I have worked with has been excited and supportive about learning and implementing LTP in their class curriculum. From teacher’s workshops to teaching in public and private primary and secondary schools I have yet to encounter a teacher adverse to the methods of LTP.

Still, I’m not ready to wholly discount my initial expectations. In speaking with my fellow students, I’ve heard that some teachers discount LTP as impractical for any number of reasons. However, what really makes me question LTP’s staying power is the uncertainty of what will happen once we Duke students leave. LTP in Tanzania is a strange thing. Classroom resources from globes to protractors are coveted, so allowing students to command expensive photographic equipment is a cultural oddity. The value of LTP comes from involving students in active learning. Students learn through doing, and document that participatory action in visual aids. The value of this process is clear in student’s eager participation in projects.

When considering LTP in the context of Tanzania, our discussion centers on teachers’ willingness to continue LTP on their own. When it comes down to it, some teachers will accept the challenges of LTP lesson plans and put in the extra work, but some will also consider LTP to be more trouble than it is worth. Resources are the issue for LTP in Tanzania. Teachers feel they need more to effectively implement LTP in the curriculum. If each school had cameras and a printer, it would be easy to plan lessons and use material on-site. However, the reality is that there are not enough cameras or printers to do this; a resource library is the only feasible option we have at this time.

Passion for LTP and an understanding of its benefits abounds in Tanzania. When we leave will the educational culture allow LTP to assimilate as a year-round teaching method?

To truly flourish in Tanzania, LTP needs to become domestic—and it’s on its way to becoming homegrown. Already the acronym has changed in common parlance. Instead of Literacy Through Photography, LTP has grown to be Learning Through Pictures, a title more apt for its use in Arusha. Further, this year the Arusha Municipal has both encouraged and financially supported LTP trainings and lessons. LTP is still novel to Tanzania and with that newness comes remarkable excitement, but also paralyzing apprehension. I have confidence though that LTP will not always be so exotic to Arusha. Already, concrete steps are being made to make LTP a Tanzanian endeavor, one piloted through official channels. LTP will certainly, and hopefully swiftly, become a natural method of teaching and learning in Tanzanian classrooms.

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