When we look into the world of our scholars, we see their desire and their struggle to obtain a quality education. Looking more closely into the education space and world of teachers in Tanzania, TFFT sees the same desire to create a healthy and successful environment for learning, but also the strain and challenges in accomplishing those goals.
Limited financial resources are a significant challenge in providing a successful learning environment. Coupled with class sizes that are double, triple, and sometimes quadruple the size of an average American classroom, the challenge to teach effectively seems impossible. Hiring well-trained, qualified teachers armed with adequate resources, who can handle the demands of an average-size Tanzanian school classroom is similar to finding a diamond in the rough.
In light of these many challenges, Mr. Abduli Mdee is a true success story – he is our diamond. A 40 year old, married, father of two, he has devoted the past 17 years to teaching, now serving as Head Teacher at Usa River Government Primary School. From a young age, Mr. Mdee was encouraged to pursue teaching by his own teachers who could see his talent and love for educating others. He received his Teaching Certificate from Mtwara Teachers Training College, Diploma in Teaching received from Eckernforde Tanga University, and specializes in teaching Mathematics and Science courses.
“I understand that to be a good educator, I should be a lifelong learner and always work to try new things in my class,” says Mr. Mdee. “Individuals should continue to grow, those who stay stagnant and don’t challenge themselves will fail.”
Mr. Mdee has faced many of the same obstacles and challenges that so many Tanzanian teachers encounter: over-crowded classrooms, lack of teaching and learning resources, dated and poorly-equipped laboratories, poor and insufficient toilets and teachers’ houses. While his position does not pay very much, earning a monthly salary of about $360, Mr. Mdee is passionate about the work he does.
It is teachers like Mr. Mdee that TFFT seeks to embolden and enrich through our Teacher Training Programs. TFFT’s programs provide instruction focusing on teaching techniques, curriculum planning, and teaching aids – a whole toolkit of new strategies for teachers to strengthen their skills. These programs enrich and enhance teachers’ skills, while also providing a huge shot of confidence. The challenges that teachers face are great, and a TFFT professional development opportunity provides a better understanding of classroom instruction techniques, lesson planning, resources, and teacher mentoring programs.
As researcher Mary Mosha outlined in her August 2017 article “Challenges of Teacher Education In Tanzania”, ”Pre-service training alone is not enough whether one acquires a teacher certificate or a first degree.” The article continues, “….a single teacher training course is not sufficient to keep one intellectually alive. Curriculum always changes and knowledge and teaching technology develop. “Education is a life-long and continuous process.”
To meet those needs, TFFT runs Teacher Training programs aimed at strengthening classroom skills. In just the past month, TFFT hosted two such programs targeted at improving the teaching skills of government, primary school teachers. The first, a two-day training workshop was provided to all teachers from four target primary schools (Lemanyata, Olkokola, Engorika and Lengijave) in Arusha District Council. This workshop introduced teachers to student-centred classrooms via the participatory method. Close to 120 teachers participated, and while some of the teachers were somewhat hesitant to get involved at the beginning, they engaged in the two-day session, connecting and embracing the training. Instruction on lesson-planning was offered as well as the concept of expanding beyond the lesson plan as an interactive technique.
“Some of the teachers were able to produce micro-teaching examples on the final day that were meaningful, participatory and well structured,” said TFFT Country Director Thabisani Ncube. “Others, however, still have quite a way to go. We did build some good relationships though, which will ensure that follow-up training.”
Additionally, TFFT conducted a five-day training workshop on how to set up and run a school-based mentoring program for four partner primary schools. Twenty-eight teachers and education actors attended the workshop that was developed in response to the needs of the schools. While the content was complex, the highly interactive and practical nature of the sessions ensured that the teachers’ capacity to change the culture of their schools to one that was more reflective, collaborative, and innovative was enhanced.
“The teachers were able to run a mini professional development session, practice mentoring someone else in the group, and were able to start the process of setting goals and planning for their schools,” said Ncube.
“They [the teachers] really engaged on some of the practical and interactive activities, and were interested in the school-based data we gave them as a reflection tool for setting school goals. The final day was very affirming and positive and the teachers seemed to be keen to get started.”
Mr. Mdee believes that the investment TFFT made in him, as well as many other teachers, through continued professional development will help to improve the quality of instruction and students’ learning outcomes. Using his Teacher Training seminars as a resource, Mr. Mdee now has new classroom techniques and tools, including the use of video in his classroom. He has learned how to make his lessons more interactive and engaging. The greatest change to Mr. Mdee’s teaching style has been to use differentiated teaching techniques and teaching aids in enhancing instruction to his learners.
He has seen the benefits to his teaching and offers advice to others who have not had the opportunity to participate in TFFT’s Teacher Training:
“Connect with TFFT if possible. With TFFT you will have the chance to access professional development opportunities and being able to learn a variety of new teaching techniques. TFFT is an opportunity for in-service trainings and has allowed me to update my teaching skills.”
Mr. Mdee is fiercely committed to his work. He believes in the work of teachers as a critical role to not just educating a child in his classroom, but educating the whole community. We stand strong beside him in this belief. It is his belief, and the firm belief of TFFT as well, that teachers are critical to the future success of students—and the future of Tanzania.