Learning Science in Tanzania
Africa Schoolhouse helps equip classrooms and give girls the chance to realize their full potential.
Learning the sciences enhances a student’s success and has a powerful impact in particular on girls. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) helps girls to develop greater confidence in their skills and knowledge, have greater academic success, be prepared for a much wider variety of employment, and gain higher paying jobs. But what do students do when there is no access to science education or when they cannot learn science with proper infrastructure or equipment?
That is the situation in may parts of rural Tanzania. A lack of science laboratory infrastructure, teachers, books and teaching resources has often made it impossible for students to receive a science education. For many this has meant graduating from secondary school without fully learning the sciences and gaining the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Thankfully this has been changing in the past two years with the Tanzanian government’s directive requiring communities to raise the necessary funds to build one science laboratory per secondary school. Within a year of the mandate, many rural schools had laboratories, but some communities still struggled to find the funding.
Africa Schoolhouse recently raised the funds to assist the Iteja village communities to add three new science laboratories and sanitary composting latrines to the Milembe Secondary School campus. We have learned firsthand how powerful a well-equipped lab can be.
Recently I spoke with several girls at Milembe School about the new science laboratories. Fadhila is now completing Form 4 at Milembe School and dreams of finishing Forms 5 and 6 and becoming a nurse. She is one of the first girls in her family to go to secondary school and has already far surpassed her mother and grandmother’s fourth grade educations. For Fadhila, science education is critical to her life goals; yet, learning about science was more abstract at Milembe School, before they had a laboratory for experiments or teaching aids to help students visualize what they were learning. The new laboratory facilities, Fadhila notes, will help her on her path to learning science, completing high school, passing her exams, and eventually becoming a nurse.
Other girls at Milembe School discussed their excitement about learning science and how much this changes their education. Neema, for example, suggested that studying the sciences “helps people move from a lower stage of life to a higher stage.” Several girls talked about the necessity of science in achieving their life goals. One girl said: “Learning science will help me to become a great teacher.” Another told me: “I want to be a health clinic officer, but I need to start with science training.” Similarly, another girl stated: “I want to be an engineer and I really need the math and science studies.” The girls discussed the great need for science professionals in Tanzania and elsewhere and also considered the importance of learning environmental sciences to be better stewards of the earth.
From the Swahili Coast to Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, and Lake Victoria, Tanzania is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Yet its environment is at risk, and, as one of the world’s poorest countries, it has very limited healthcare. The country is desperately in need of science professionals. Africa Schoolhouse is committed to educating a new generation of science based female graduates who will have greater opportunities for work and the ability to help others through science knowledge and to steward the natural environment for future generations. With more fully equipped school campuses and teaching staff, students like Fadhila and Neema will have greater possibilities to learn science, complete their studies, and make their dreams a reality.
Dr. Aimée Bessire is the Founder and Co-Director of Africa Schoolhouse. Dr. Bessire has a PhD in History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University and teaches courses on African art and culture, the African Diaspora, American culture, cultural and critical theory, gender studies, popular culture, and the history of photography. Inspired by her long-term association with the village of Ntulya in Tanzania, she founded the non-profit “Africa Schoolhouse,” dedicated to building sustainable school communities in rural Africa for children without educational opportunities. Africa Schoolhouse completed the Ntulya Primary School for 600 children in 2010 and in 2011 opened a medical clinic in rural Tanzania. They have also completed the large-scale renovations of Mwaniko Secondary School and Shilanona Primary School. Their current project is to build the first Girls’ Boarding School in Misungwi, Tanzania.