Education in Arusha, thoughts on week two by Hanna Metaferia

Arusha School, Swift, Uhuru, Meru, and Al-Hijra. Over the course of three weeks our DukeEngage crew has observed classes, taught students, teachers and inspectors a variety of LTP methods to incorporate in the schools’ curricula. Our preparation at Duke introduced us into a teaching method, “rote learning” which is widely practiced in private, government and public schools in Arusha. It implements a rigid, copy-paste, teacher-says-student-writes type of instruction that limits the students opportunity to participate in class discussions, group activities, and practice leadership skills. Rote learning manifests itself in a variety of ways. I have observed that the students are dependent on copying the teacher’s lesson in order to succeed and only given ‘right/wrong’ questions during class, limiting their ability to develop creative skills.

At Swift school when myself and Yvonne taught the Standard 6 class in Civics, whenever we would ask a question with an open-ended answer the students would stare at us with blank faces, and the teacher would have to rephrase our question so that it had a singular and familiar answer [for the students]. The students were not only unfamiliar with this style of “creative discussion” but more importantly, were too fearful to answer a question that they were not 100% confident they knew the answer to. This leads back to the copy-paste style teaching methods, which emphasizes information as factual rather than creative. This makes the teachers dependent on their textbooks and other schoolbooks, because their class is dedicated to explaining textual information rather than discussion or creative teamwork. What becomes more complicated is when the teacher is heavily dependent on the textbook for reasons other than the rote style teaching. Because teachers in Tanzania may not have the opportunity to attend college, or even complete secondary school, they may depend on the textbook because they trust its expertise more than their own. Moreover, there are instances when even the textbooks or exams have incorrect information, which sometimes go unnoticed by the teachers, creating a cycle of misinformation for the students.

Tanzania has one of the highest literacy rates in East Africa and that has been an enormous success. From our excursions around Tanzania we have seen how the level of education has amongst all socio-economic classes has improved. The country’s current goals employing new teaching techniques and encouraging higher education for all teachers, will surely motivate students.

(Two teachers pretending to be Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro for a GEOGRAPHY-themed LTP Alphabet Project)

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