Last year, Hazel’s Footprints Trust provided an Educational Project Grant to EdUKaid to support renovations at Mkwajuni Primary in Tanzania. The grant of £9714 paid for the renovation of seven classrooms. This has been an incredibly successful project completely transforming the school and the lives of its children. The improvement in academic results and school ranking has been particularly impressive in such a short space of time moving from 24th place in the district to 13th place. What an awesome achievement that has been made possible thanks to the supporters of Hazel’s Footprints Trust and the exceptional work of EdUKaid.
End of Grant Report – Mkwajuni Primary
by Teresa Wells, Programme Director, EdUKaid
“We have the best results we have ever seen” – Mkwajuni Head Teacher
I am delighted to be able to send you our end-of-grant report on the Mkwajuni Primary School Renovation Project. This has been an exceptionally successful project which has dramatically improved the lives and opportunities of 432 of the most disadvantaged children and given much-needed hope to a whole community. This project has been particularly important given the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of these children and wider communities – thanks to you these children had received hygiene awareness sessions which will have undoubtedly saved lives over the past few months.
As an EdUKaid partner school these children have also benefited from our outreach programme delivered during the 3-month school closure and the COVID-19 awareness project which provided whole communities with the information and resources they needed to protect themselves.
Mkwajuni primary school was one of the worst performing schools in the rural Mtwara district – its particularly remote location creates additional challenges such as extremely poor access, lack of clean water (closest pump is several kilometres away), high levels of preventable sanitation-related illness, poor teacher retention due to neglected facilities and a shortage of even the most basic resources. Whilst only 236 were children enrolled at Mkwajuni, there were at least 200 more children living in the area who should be attending – many had dropped-out due to the appalling facilities.
This aim of this project was to improve the basic fabric, resources, sanitation facilities and quality of teaching at Mkwajuni Primary Schools significantly enhancing education for these children and providing a quality learning environment. This project aimed to dramatically improve the school environments through crucial renovation work alongside activities to build the capacity of teachers and school leaders. This was done whilst also engaging parents, the local community and the education authority to encourage local ownership and create lasting improvements to teaching and learning. A critical aspect of this project was to secure the engagement of the local community in basic school maintenance and resource making through training during the renovation period and providing the tools needed for general upkeep and long-term repair. The idea is to reduce the need for future renovation and decrease reliance on overseas aid.
Whilst Tanzania had a relatively low number of confirmed cases, the reality on the ground was very different. Testing stopped in April and people were told not to seek medical help if they had symptoms. We believe Tanzania is now past the peak of the infection but we are unlikely to ever know the true human cost.
For many in Tanzania, the impact of lockdown has been more of a challenge than the virus itself. Schools were closed for over 3 months with most children having little or no access to any form of education during that time – this is a particular issue for girls and disabled children who are at an increased risk of neglect or abuse and those older children who will be sitting important exams later this year. Thankfully, the children at Mkwajuni and other EdUKaid partner schools were luckier than most.
Over the past 12 months we have undertaken the following activities:
- Community meeting to engage parents, guardians, and wider community in the project. This was attended by nearly 200 people with 122 volunteering to take part in the renovation activities
- Full renovation of Mkwajuni Primary School including:
- Repairs to 7 roofs including replacement of tin and beams
- Replacement of window frames and provision of insect screens
- New concrete floors in 4 buildings and minor repairs to floors in the others
- Re-painting the complete exterior of all school buildings
- Re-paint all interiors
- Replacement of 3 blackboard and repairs to 4 others
- New doors on all classrooms
- Painting of murals and learning aids in 3 classrooms for youngest pupils
- Construction of ramps and handrails to improve disability access
- Installation of guttering, drainage with a rainwater harvesting system and storage tanks to collect and store clean water
- Repair of broken furniture and provision of additional 40 new desks
- Renovation of existing latrines (long drop toilets)
- Construction of handwashing systems (Tippy tap) – a simple solution using sticks and water containers allowing children to wash their hands
- Delivery of community maintenance training session to 119 community members covering basic carpentry, decorating, and plumbing to keep the school in good repair long term
- Delivery of community resource making training – creating teaching and learning materials such as alphabet cards, maps, simple toys as well as creating a vibrant and stimulating learning environment through painting murals and pictures on classroom walls
- Provision of maintenance toolkit for the community to keep the school in good repair
- Provision of books, chalk, paper, pencils and other basic teaching and learning resources
- Delivery of 4 head teacher meetings and 3 teacher development sessions
- Delivery of 4 community sessions attended by over 300 people aimed at improving understanding of the importance of education and encouraging parents and guardians to recognise that girls and disabled children benefit from an inclusive approach.
- Construction of new block of latrines which include a washroom providing girls with the facilities and resources to manage menstruation in private
- Community celebration to mark the completion of the renovation work attended by local dignitaries and over 400 parents, guardians, and members of the local community
- Delivery of 4 hygiene awareness sessions to school children and wider community demonstrating good practice and educating participants about its benefits
- Delivery of 2 COVID-19 awareness raising sessions designed to help children and community members understand about the virus and the measures they should take to prevent its spread
- Delivery of masks and soap to the families of the disabled children who were most at risk from the virus.
At the end of the 2019 school year in December, Mkwajuni’s headteacher reported a significant improvement in levels of both pupil and teachers’ attendance in the 3 months directly following the renovation. This trend continued until the schools closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19 and, now the school has re-opened, is getting back to that level. The headteacher reported that both children and teachers are motivated by the improved environment and enjoy being in the school – he believes that this has made a significant difference in motivating children to return to school post lockdown.
During a focus group session in February 2020 parents told us that they were no longer worried about sending their children to school in case they became ill through the poor facilities. They told us they understood the value of education and were committed to ensuring regular attendance. In July they told us they were grateful for a safe environment for children to return to. Teachers continue to report high levels of motivation and their attendance in the classroom post closure is at the highest level ever. Teachers told us that this is the first time they have experienced any form of professional development since they left training and they were enthusiastic about the opportunity to be part of EdUKaid’s wider programmes. The school has successfully recruited 2 new teachers who heard that Mkwajuni is now an EdUKaid partner school – this is a significant outcome as previously it struggled to fill vacancies. Our local team met with both new teachers who told us that they wanted to work at an EdUKaid partner school due to their reputation.
We are already able to report progress on the following outcomes:
1. Children clearly have greater access to quality education which provides them with opportunity to fulfil their potential
2. Teachers are more motivated to teach and better prepared to meet the ongoing challenges they face
3. Parents are taking greater responsibility for their children’s education – this has been evidenced by the level of their engagement in the renovation and training as well as improved attendance figures
4. The wider community is developing an increasing sense of ownership for their schools – over 300 members of the community attended a celebration event to mark the completion of the renovation and many have continued to participate in everyday activities.
5. Attitudes towards gender and disability are improving – 4 children with special educational needs have enrolled at Mkwajuni since the delivery of the awareness raising session and the improved latrines mean that girls are able to attend school during their periods
Monitoring information collected at the end of July 2020 has provided evidence of the following results:
- Pupil enrolment has increased by 42% – the majority of these new enrolments were Standard 1 and 2 (7 and 8 year olds) and children who had previously dropped out returning.
- Pupil drop-out rate has decreased by 72% exceeding our projected figures.
- Pupil attendance has already improved by over 66% – this is the highest level increase we have witnessed across all our renovation projects.
- Number of pupils successfully transitioning to secondary school increased by 5% – we expect this to increase further in 2020
- No teachers have left and for the first time in its history the school has a full staff team
- Teacher absence rates improve by 95% with teachers recorded as being in the classroom 93% of the expected time
- Adult to pupil in class ratio is now at 40/1 – community support in lessons has made a huge difference but due to the increase in enrolment and improvement in attendance we are still seeking to train additional classroom assistants to meet the 30/1 target
- The head teacher has attended 4 capacity building sessions and is reporting an improvement in their skills, knowledge, and confidence in meeting ongoing challenges
- 98% of parents and guardians participating in community involvement activities have reported an increase in their skills and knowledge
- Parents and guardians are actively engaging in school related activities – the number of attendees at the end of renovation celebration was unprecedented as was the number of attendees at end of year graduation celebrations.
In addition the 2019 primary school leaving examination results released in 2020 have shown the following:
- An improvement in the overall average score from 131.27 in Nov 2018 to 151.72 in Nov 2019
- Increased from 24th to 13th place in the district rankings
- Increased from 250th to 99th place in the regional rankings
- Increased from 3,448th to 1,857 place in the national rankings
We were able to complete the renovation under budget by £80 mainly due to favourable exchange rates and being able to reduce transport costs by combining with other activities. This enabled us to construct a shelter for the pre-primary class who do not currently have a classroom – this is a common occurrence in rural Tanzanian schools and we hope to address this when we are in a position to raise sufficient funds. The cost of the masks and soap delivered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was met through individual donations.
Our UK Director was due to visit the school in July 2020 but, due to COVID-19, this has not been possible. We will arrange a monitoring visit as soon as it is safe to do so. Our local team have, however, provided photographs on a regular basis and conducted a number of focus group meetings and interviews which have provided the feedback detailed in this report.
We are incredibly grateful to the Trustees for recognising the value of this project and for enabling us to transform the lives of these children and give hope to the whole community. This project has exceeded our expectations with some of the best improvements in performance ratings we have ever seen – thank you for making this happen.
I do not know how to say thank you enough times to truly express my gratitude. Our children had little hope and now they have all the hope they need. We have the best results we have ever seen and this is in just 1 year – I know we will improve every year until we are the best we can be. Thank you.
Ally M. Mcota – headteacher
I came to work at Mkwajuni because I heard it was an EdUKaid school – I know these schools do the best for the children and for teachers.
John Mbawaya – deputy headteacher
On behalf of the Mkwajuni community, I say thank you – we have been forgotten by our government but you have found us and saved us.
Chair of school management committee
My children are safe and learn well – I thank god.
Hamisi – parent of pupils age 7, 8 & 10
I like to come to school and I was happy to come back after it opened again. I missed my teacher and my friends and my lessons.
Mohamed – pupil age 12
I have liked to be in the classroom and have learnt so much – I never had school myself as my family were too poor but now I see my children need to go to school to have a better life.
Rose – classroom volunteer and parent of pupils age 5, 8 & 9
I have a desk with one other – before I sat on the ground. It is better for writing.
Fatuma – pupil age 9
I like that we have girls’ toilets and somewhere to wash our hands – it makes me happy.
Fatuma – pupil age 12