In the summer of 2009, Sherilyn Grant, a dedicated elementary school teacher and fellow Divinity School graduate from Regent University accompanied us again to Tanzania with a specific burden in her heart. She came to Mtwara, Tanzania to consult with the Regional Minister of Education (REO), observe the needs in the elementary and secondary schools in the region, and make a strategic plan to impact their top need. After a week of intensive visits to schools, hours of dialogue and fact finding with school principals, administrators and teachers, and interviews with the REO (Regional Education Officer), Sherilyn (Sheri) decided that the greatest need was teacher training. And so, Sheri sought to return in 2010 with a group of American teachers prepared to equip the Tanzanian teachers further in their subjects--using their curriculum and using tools and materials that would readily be available to them in Tanzania. The Elimu Education Initiative was born!
The secondary school teachers in particular felt inadequate to teach effectively the material they had. They themselves may have only finished high school and then gone on to Teachers' College, so they never had advanced training in any of their subject. On top of all this, getting assigned as a teach to Mtwara is like being banished to Siberia. It is the bottom rung of the food chain as far as schools go in Tanzania. Incredibly oversized classes, lack of materials and few teachers make the situation a dire one. Very few students graduating from Mtwara Secondary Schools go on to University. The universal testing scores coming out of Mtwara are very low compared to the rest of the nation. The teachers were begging for input and a chance to have additional training.
The following summer, 2010, Sheri returned with 3 teachers (Janice, Maria & Shirley). For months they planned, prayed and looked over curriculum books from Tanzania. They divided out the courses (English, Chemistry, Math, and Leadership Development) to each of the teachers and each woman spent hours preparing specifically to reteach the material in the curriculum using various Student-Centered techniques and creative angles. For one week in Tanzania, these teachers met with and trained 150 Tanzanian Secondary School Teachers for 7 hours a day. The feedback was amazing! The teachers were so moved by the Americans' love for teaching and love for the students! They couldn't believe that these teachers LOVED teaching! That love was contageous. It transformed the atmosphere in the seminars. The REO was delighted. The Elimu Education Initiative was invited back again the next year.
Last summer, in 2011, Sheri led another team of teachers, 4 in total again (Sheri, Mandi, Cindy & Maria). One woman, Maria, was a returning teacher from the prior year's pioneer team. This team focused on Leadership Development, English and Math. 65 teachers spent the week with our teachers. This time, the American teachers focused on Leadership in the mornings and the specific subjects in the afternoon. The time was more intimate and the American team was able to focus on some of the more eager teachers. The Tanzanian teachers once again said that they came away with valuable tools that they could use and implement immediately. Another successful Elimu Initiative!
This March, at the graduation ceremony for the Antioch Missionary Bible College in Mtwara, the REO, in his speech, announced that for the first time in many many years, the standardized testing scores in the Sciences of the Mtwara Secondary Students had risen and surpassed the scores of the other two categories of scoring (Language Arts and Mathematics)! He attributed this rise in the testing scores to the direct result of the implemented practices learned from the Elimu Education Initiative and our team of teacher-trainers! Glory be to God! Sheri, along with her teams had strategically impacted Mtwara, its teachers and its' students with the love of God and their love for teaching.
There was no Elimu Education Initiative this summer, but we hope to recruit another team of teacher-trainers for summer 2013. Stay tuned for more information about this.