Tanzania’s complicated education success story


Photo by Andrew Moore, used with Creative Commons license (see Flickr: andryn2006).

At The School Fund, we work every day to provide scholarships to promising students in developing countries, and we see the dramatic change education makes in each student’s life. But sometimes, the problem feels overwhelming. UNICEF reports that 65 million adolescents are out of school. These students face many challenges including the cost of school and supplies, the distance to school and pressure to earn a living.

But that doesn’t mean change is impossible. The former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, recently reflected on progress in Tanzania between 2000 and 2009. During that time primary school enrollment rates doubled and the number of high school students grew from 250,000 to 1.5 million.

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The impressive growth came at a real cost — both politically and economically. During this time 20 percent of Tanzania’s annual budget was spent on education despite great pressure to invest in reliable roads, support the military and provide clean drinking water. Making the choice to invest in education took courage and confidence that a better educated population will pay dividends in future generations. In his article, Kikwete noted, “Tanzania’s experience proves that transforming a country’s education system is possible, even if that country faces severe fiscal constraints. It is not quick or easy, and it often requires difficult trade-offs.”

While Kikwete’s account is inspiring, it only tells part of the story. Enrollment in primary school has nearly reached 100 percent, but less than 65 percent of children complete primary and only 30 percent enroll in high school. Equally troubling is that just half of students who finish primary pass the primary school exit exam. (For more, check out this  UNICEF overview of Tanzania’s education sector.)

For poor students, indirect costs of schooling remain prohibitively expensive. That’s why we put so much energy into fundraising for scholarships that allow students to attend the best schools in their communities. In 2016, TSF will provide 155 scholarships for students in Tanzania. Support for these scholarships arrives through many small donations — in increments as small as five dollars a month. Each small donation is precious to the students who leverage scholarships to build a better life.

In Tanzania, many students are ready to further their education. Unfortunately the funding isn’t all there yet. Until it is, The School Fund will continue to support bright, financially needy students because each year of education matters immeasurably.



TSF Tanzania Board Chairman Visits the MMM Center in Iringa

TSFTZ Chairman Fuad Abri Visits the MMM Center.

Since July of 2012, The School Fund has been providing homework help and English lessons to the 60 students TSF supports in Iringa, Tanzania.  These resources are available to the students at the Maisha Mikononi Mwako (MMM) Center  located at the Ummu Salama Elementary School, which is co-located with the Ummu Salama Secondary School, one of The School Fund’s four partner schools in Iringa.  Maisha Mikononi Mwako translates from Kiswahili to “Life in Your Hands.”

On Friday, March 21, 2014, Fuad Abri, the chairman of The School Fund – Tanzania (TSFTZ) and owner of ASAS Dairy Farm Ltd, visited the MMM Center to speak to the TSF students.  Maho Amos, MMM Director and Headmaster of Ummu Salama Elementary School, shared a report of Mr. Abri’s visit.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful visit with Mr. Fuad the chairman of TSF TZ. The students really enjoyed his presence at the MMM center because of the wise, educative, and encouraging words he shared.

The following are some of the points he outlined for the students:

  • He informed the students that TSF’s main objective is to encourage and support academic excellence for all vulnerable children in the developing world.
  • He reminded TSF iringa students how lucky and privileged they are to be sponsored by TSF and told them the only way to pay TSF back is to put even more effort into their studies and produce the best results.
  • He asked some individual students to identify benefits they feel they gain from TSF.  They mentioned the following:
    • Being able to use computers
    • Being able to journal with different people around the world
    • Being able to earn a secondary school education
    • Being able to meet with students from different schools
  • Mr. Abri also wanted to know what ambitions TSFTZ students have for their lives after completing secondary school.  They mentioned the following:
    • Most said they aspire to be doctors
    • Some said they want to be teachers, lawyers, and accountants
  • He emphasized to all students to be self-disciplined and avoid engaging in bad behaviors. He also cautioned them to be considerate of time because time wasted is never recovered.
  • He assured the students that it’s up to them to achieve their aspirations and that working hard in school will aid them in this goal.

Photo journey: TSF in Tanzania and Kenya (Part 2)

During our trip to Tanzania and Kenya in June, we met with students, partners, and made time to have a little fun. Here is the second installment of photos from that trip. Enjoy!

Pulling into the bus stop in Iringa, Tanzania. © Alessandra Hartkopf

In Wamunyu, Kenya, we were treated to an assembly with the whole school. Students brought their own chairs to the outdoor gathering space and performed songs before the speaking began. © Alessandra Hartkopf

Our after school program in Iringa, Tanzania empowers students to learn from one another, as well as the adults they’re used to hearing. Our “Technology Ambassadors” here help students in our program learn how to use the internet.

At Neema Craft Café in Iringa, Tanzania, a student performs in a talent show to raise money to build a jungle gym at his school. © Alessandra Hartkopf

Some of the girls in our after school program in Iringa, Tanzania wait anxiously for class to begin. © Alessandra Hartkopf

We took some time to visit the elephant orphanage in Nairobi, where caretakers feed baby elephant milk during their twice-daily parades. © Alessandra Hartkopf

Photo journey: TSF in Tanzania and Kenya (Part 1)

This summer, TSF returned to its roots in Tanzania, where we support 75 students with scholarships. The goal for that trip was to set up a pilot after school program for our 40 students in Iringa, Tanzania.  In Tanzania, where class sizes can often exceed 100 students : 1 teacher, collaborative learning is rare. Our after school program aims at improving our students’ quality of education and building leadership skills. The program is using small class sizes, peer tutoring, and student led lessons to help our scholarship recipients succeed in school.

After two weeks in Tanzania we travelled north to Nairobi and the surrounding towns where we met with some of our partners and scholarship recipients. We were treated to singing, dancing, and lots of discussion with our brilliant Kenyan students, many of whom we were meeting in person for the first time. Check out the first installment of photos from that trip below!

The walk up to Ganglionga Rock in Iringa, Tanzania. Ganglionga is a favorite among locals and tourists for its spectacular views of the small city. © Alessandra Hartkopf

In Thika, Kenya, our partner Agape Mercy Children’s Center runs an orphanage supporting children from toddlers to twenty year olds. The children consider themselves siblings. We ate the East African staple, ugali, with the whole family for lunch.       © Alessandra Hartkopf

When the leaders of TSF partner organization, Flying Kites, were choosing a location to build their orphanage, the question that drove them was: “Where would I want to live?” The location, atop a hillside in the Kenyan highlands in Njabini, is breathtaking and the kids who live there are some of the happiest we’ve ever met. Here, a student washes her socks after school.                     © Alessandra Hartkopf

In the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, about one million people live in an informal settlement the size of Central Park. ¬¬Residents have limited access to sanitation, clean water, and other government services like police and fire protection. French street photographer JR created this art installation on the tops of roofs in Kibera.
© Alessandra Hartkopf

TSF partner, Children of Kibera, in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya helps high achieving students from slums pay their way through prestigious boarding schools and eventually through University. Children of Kibera also runs a small, quality primary school in Kibera where we met this student.
© Alessandra Hartkopf

Life in their hands

Students listen to local leaders explain the importance of hard work at the reception for the launch of Maisha Mikononi Mwako (Life in your hands).

Written by Lee Marcus, a student at the University of Pennsylvania who is working with The School Fund in Tanzania for the summer of 2012.

Students began to file into Neema Craft Café on Sunday at around 1:30 PM.  “Mambo,” I said, handing each of them a TSF t-shirt. The room was set up for the launching of Maisha Mikononi Mwako (Life in your hands), The School Fund’s new after school program for 31 secondary school students in Iringa, Tanzania. The program aims to give students the tools they need to succeed in school and in life, providing them with academic support and technology training in preparation for high stakes Tanzanian National Examinations.

At Neema Craft Café, the guest of honor had arrived, five media representatives were on hand, and much of The School Fund Community in Iringa was present – headmasters from Lugalo, Ummu Salama, and Miyomboni Secondary Schools, Iringa Region Education Officer Mr. Joseph Mwinyikambi, Iringa District Education Officer Mr. Seme, and of course our students and their families.

Each of these individuals spoke to our students and their families, urging them to take life into their hands. This is a chance, said Principal Muhammed of Ummu  Salama Secondary School, to take life into the palm of your hand, where you control what you can achieve. This is your responsibility, your chance to excel in front of adults that believe in you, said Mr. Benjamin Kabungo, headmaster of Lugalo Secondary School. Madame Ramlah, headmaster of Miyomboni Secondary School, was the last to speak, and waited for parents and other community members to leave. “This is your opportunity, to be disciplined, to work hard,” she said, candidly. “Take it.”

The students arrived for their first day of Maisha Mikononi Mwako, timetables in hand. Students in forms 1 and 2 had English class, in which Mwajuma Abdallah explained in detail the nuances between the definitions of the words “request” and “ask.” One classroom over in form 3, students took a diagnostic test in Kiswahili grammar, language, and literature. Mr. Nkungu took the examinations home

in a folder for marking and analysis. Over in form 4, Hekima Mhole shaded the region on a coordinate plane that depicts the different combinations of mangos and oranges he could buy. The energy and positivity was contagious.

At the end of the day, students filed out of classrooms, looking as if they had just been pushed by exceptional teachers. Some of the form 3 boys pounded me with clenched fists. I felt the energy, the life in their hands, a powerful feeling that made all of us smile, because we are all in this together. Students and teachers believe in each other, and that is what makes our aim, for all of our students to excel, possible.

Clinton Global Initiative University 2012: Follow-up

Hi reader! So I’m sure you all remember the Clinton Global Initiative University. One year ago, The School Fund’s founder Matt made this post, reflecting on his experiences at the conference, including winning the Commitment Challenge and meeting President Bill Clinton! One week ago, a number of dedicated team members traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent TSF at this year’s CGIU. They heard passionate, inspiring speakers, participated in constructive and collaborative workshops, and helped spread the word of The School Fund to other hopefuls. We asked a few of them some questions about their time at the conference, and they were kind enough to share their once-in-a-lifetime experiences with us here:

Q: Why did you want to go to CGIU? What were your expectations?

Mariana: “To promote TSF, and network with other young projects in hopes of perhaps partnering with some of them. Also to gain inspiration and motivation from all the amazing speakers!”

Q: What did you get out of the experience?

Sandra: “I loved getting to spend some quality time with some of my TSF team mates, gaining some inspiration from incredible minds like Clinton and Albright, and meeting with young students like ourselves looking to do some good in the world.”

Q: What was the atmosphere of the conference?

Christi: “Focused.”

Sandra: “Hopeful and energetic.”

Mariana: “Dynamic.”

Q: What was your favorite part of the conference?

Christi: “Having dinner with the other members of TSF after hearing Bill Clinton speak.”

Q: What commitments/organizations stood out to you (other than TSF of course!)? 

Sandra: “There were some innovative commitments highlighted by President Clinton including students making bamboo bikes and another hoping to reform the prison system to give released convicts a second chance in the work force.”

Christi: Code the Change is helping non-profits get volunteer computer programming, which is a huge need and an awesome idea.”

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to say about the trip/conference?

Mariana: “It was definitely a worthwhile experience. It was a great opportunity to learn from other organizations and from the challenges that other young change-makers have faced (and how they have overcome such barriers).”

A great time was had by all and we were happy to attend another year at CGI U!

Student Spotlight: Daniel Mayor

Say hi to Daniel Mayor.

Odds are, the lives led by Daniel and yourself are quite different. When you were his age – 14 years – you probably would come home from a government-funded school to the house of your parents. Daniel, on the other hand, has no recollection of his parents and normally lives with his grandmother, but is currently sleeping outside in markets, for this is his only opportunity for receiving free (read: possible) education.

Daniel’s favorite subjects are English and Math and he hopes to be a teacher someday. He enjoys reading in his spare time, with his favorite book being Beach Day; Daniel also likes to pass the time by rapping. He’s currently working on a rap song about his school, The Mawuvio Programme. His praise for the school and the opportunities he has are unending: “mawuvio outreach programme i think it is the best school in the world because before i came there i didnt know anything and now i learn a lot.”

Though Ghana is an outlier in children’s education in Africa – with a 95% enrollment rate – Daniel would be subject to losing his education without funding, destined to join the other estimated 470,000 children who are out of school due to corruption. That’s a real-world example of where TSF comes in: head on over to Daniel’s profile page to help him continue his love for the Mawuvio Programme by donating to his 2013 Fund.

Thanks for reading!

Sharing Case Competition Love!

Happy Sunday, everyone!

I thought I would share some of the awesome feedback we received after the UPenn Case Competition was finished. We asked all the high school students to answer some questions about their experience working on the case and share their favorite part of the experience. Their answers definitely put a smile on my face! I love how inspired they all are to make a difference.

Here are some of my favorite gems:

Why did you want to participate in this competition?

My teacher alerted me of the devastating problems of Tanzania and how this competition could help solve them.

I wanted to help out the kids and give them the best education possible because I feel like I have a really good education.

I wanted to participate in this competition because I want to be a part of making education an important part of everyone’s life.

After finding out how little kids in Tanzania needed to attend school, I realized we could be the ones to start a movement. (<— I especially LOVE this!)

How did you prepare for the competition? What kind of support did you have?

We approached the problem one week prior, and worked efficiently after school. We received support from the staff and administration

We thought about what we would want if we were in their shoes. This really motivated us to do our best!

What was your favorite part of this experience?

When I put all the information on a business slideshow. I started crying with its beauty. Also, feeling after I presented was nice too.

I love the unforgettable bonds that I formed with my team. I’ve talked to and spent a week with people I don’t usually interact with, which is really cool.

The everlasting bonds that will last a lifetime. I spent a significant amount of time with classmates that I normally do not talk to every day. I really thank TSF for giving us this opportunity.

Learning that we really take things for granted and that it doesn’t take much to make a change.

It’s always awesome to hear some great feedback! Are you interested in being a part of the Case Competition this April? If so, head over here to learn more about what the competition is all about and to sign up if you’re ready to tackle the challenge! We would LOVE to have you!


Dancing for Dreams!

Here at The School Fund, we are no strangers to thinking outside the box to accomplish whatever task we have at hand and our newest partnership is no exception. We’re extremely excited and pleased to announce a partnership with Kenya Dream and Ken-Ya Dance – a charity dance show case event featuring dance crews from around the area of San Jose, CA and winner of America’s Best Dance Crew: IAMME! Kenya Dream sums up their mission beautifully:

“We aspire to bring together and unite large groups of people for a common cause and to help raise awareness of the ideals of philanthropy, charity and education through dance. Dance is a form of expression for many of our performers and an entity that we respect and work towards creating a unified community and appreciation for it. All proceeds of Ken-Ya Dance will be going towards Kenya Dream, a community-based organization dedicated to improving educational facilities in Kenya, thereby enhancing the learning experience one school at a time.”

And the cherry on top: Kenya Dream and TSF’s partnership means that all donations collected for Ken-Ya Dance will be donated to Kenyan students funded though TSF.

Ken-Ya Dance NorCal 2010:

February 19, 2010
San Jose Center for Performing Arts
255 Almaden Boulevard, San Jose, CA 95113
4:30PM to 7:30 PM

Want more info? Head over to Ken-Ya Dance’s Facebook to get more details and RSVP to the event!

QR Challenge in Full Effect!

Scan this code with your smartphone and it takes you to the new School Fund promotional video on YouTube! In conjunction with our high school outreach teams, we are going to be hanging posters with this code in different places all over the country, from California to Illinois to Rhode Island.

The idea of the campaign is to spread awareness about The School Fund in a fun, interesting, and innovative way (plus, a little mystery never hurts!). High school students are encouraged to hang as many posters as possible to get the most scans as possible by coming up with their own strategy, including how many posters to hang and where to hang them – the high school with the most “scans” will win a prize as well as encouraging others to become aware of the educational gaps which exist in developing countries.

As always, we encourage the high schoolers to upload photos of their TSF-related activities, including the QR campaign. If you want to see QR challenge updates, head over to our Facebook page and like us! We’d love to hear from you!

Want to help spread awareness about TSF but aren’t involved with the outreach teams? Feel free to download this .pdf and hang where you’d like! If you decide to use the QR code for anything from posters to tshirts, we’d love to see what you come up with! Please post any pictures to our Facebook page!