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Homeless schooling

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Education, Tanzania

Each day en route to work I pass a perplexing sight - a large single parent family living and learning under a giant fig tree. The hustle and bustle of crowded Dar es Salaam contains a large green space by the coast - like NY's Central Park. Within it resides Agnes and her six children.

Lessons under the tree

Curiosity finally got the better of me and I stopped by to chat this morning and hand out some sweets for the children. As usual, Agnes was spending the morning home schooling her children; aided by a blackboard and a hand drawn map of Africa.

As I suspected Agnes trained and practiced as a teacher, before running foul of regulations. She's lived for several years under the tree illustrated and clearly has a low regard for bureaucracy and rules that now no longer apply to her. Despite clearly being homeless and a 'family in need', it appeared that her children are relatively well nourished and healthy (I was asked for an anti-malarial bed-net) and that the home (or perhaps homeless) schooling was doing the trick.

Her children spoke English confidently and I suspect were probably getting a better rounded primary education than many in formal schools - if UWEZO's child literacy statistics are to be believed. At least the teacher was showing up regularly - which is not always the case according to one recent local survey.

The lesson to me was I suppose that education comes in all shapes and sizes and formal schooling isn't always the solution. I spent some time this week discussing how funds from Global Partnership for Education might support Tanzanian children and the relative merits of formal and non-formal delivery.

Whether Agnes's approach is a step too far in the non-formal direction must remain to be seen. Something to mull over during the Christmas break..

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  1. Comment by Caroline Kende posted on

    Thanks Ian for your excellent blog. See our recommendations re Global Partnership for Education in our policy paper on eduction "A Twin Education Crisis is Holding Back Africa"

    Caroline Kende-Robb, Africa Progress Panel

  2. Comment by Meg Walsh posted on

    I made my way to your blog as I've just been reading about 15 Christians being murdered in Musari....I then looked at recent happenings in Azare, where I worked in the mid-seventies. The women teachers' college is still there, but what really shocked me was when I saw the photos. In my time in Azare, no girls had their heads covered like this. They had the most amazing braided hairstyles and there was a uniform.....a knee-length cotton pinafore. It wasn't all roses but from the point of view of religion, it was very tolerant. A friend of ours died and a British teacher made a simple coffin with his students who were 90% Muslim. I wish you the best of luck in Tanzania.

  3. Comment by Ian Attfield posted on

    I would not disagree with APP's use of 'crisis' in referring to African education systesm and the dilemma of rapid expansion leading to very low learning outcomes. See my forthcoming post on primary exams results in Tanzania, with the headline pass rates plungin like a rollercoater!

    Interesting observations Meg, you'll see from earlier posts I worked in Northern Nigeria until 2010. Long timers there talked of the pre-Sharia law days and described a city I struggled to recognise - with tree lined streets and a bustling social life.

  4. Comment by streetlevel posted on

    I love to see how much Agnes is doing not only for herself but for her children. It takes a lot of inner strength to do what she is doing and I admire her for it. thank you for bringing this to my attention.