In a corner of Arusha School there is a room. Though the sign in the picture says nursery and primary, this room is open to all students. It is plastered from wall to wall with visual aids in every subject, colorful workbooks, boxes of supplies, a TV and some DVDs. After reading about and seeing in person how stark the classrooms are in some Tanzanian schools, the Resource Room of Arusha School, so reminiscent of its classroom counterparts in the United States, was completely unexpected. No bare walls and peeling paint here, not even desks that bolted to the chairs.
All throughout my trip, I puzzled over why this concentrated blast of visual and artistic material exists in just one room. To be fair, there are differences among Tanzanian schools in terms of what visual materials are available. For example, instead of selecting posters to hang in each room individually, the teachers at Arusha School take their students to the aforementioned resource room for their daily dose of creativity. Although the walls were bare at Meru School and Uhuru School—both government schools, private schools like Swifts and Shalom have a selection of posters hanging in the classrooms. In addition, there are paintings of body systems or maps of the world on the exterior walls of some schools.
A lack of resources may explain bare walls. But in all the places we visited there were no signs of past LTP work, even though we aim to provide visual aids, in addition to providing a creative outlet with LTP activities. It may be that visual aids become unusable over time or have been taken home by the students. According to our community partner Pelle, some teachers keep the past LTP work in their offices so that it is “safe,” but if it’s locked away it’s not useful for educational purposes.
This leads to one of the most prominent concerns that we have talked about in our DukeEngage reflection sessions: the sustainability of LTP. After all, our DukeEngage team is not unlike the resource room of Arusha School. We only work in one classroom at a time. We provide a concentrated burst of creativity and a wealth of different approaches to learning. This may prove useful, but actively promoting the continuation of LTP through students, teachers, and administration presents some formidable obstacles, including large classrooms, looming examinations, language barriers, limited resources, and time. We have formed lasting relationships with teachers and students from a variety of schools, but if these obstacles go unaddressed, the ideas we wish to impart leave the classroom with us. We have little idea of what impact we leave on the students and teachers of Tanzania. I hope that someday, there will be no more need for a resource room, and that the posters within and LTP materials will hang on every classroom wall of Arusha School and beyond.