Smiles, field work and changing communities with Tanzania Cheshire Foundation
It’s been several weeks since my last blog, I cannot believe time is running so fast ! I’ve been very busy with some trainings and the main objective of my mission for Tanzania Cheshire Foundation which is to get feedback from the field, and improve Inclusive Education roll-out.
We work with a special tool to conduct questionnaires in schools, build from Washington Group Questions. It’s a set of questions designed to identify people with a disability. The questions ask whether people have difficulty performing basic universal activities (walking, seeing, hearing, cognition, self-care and communication) and were originally designed for use with the general population. October was dedicated to a subject that I love a lot, it’s about interviewing children about their aspirations, the job they want to have, their ambitions for the future, if they know children’s rights also.
I have travelled to 14 schools so far, and I could see people living in very difficult conditions, in very dry and remote areas, where they need to walk several kilometers to find water.
Here are two themes I could work on with some feedback from the field:
Performance and teaching methodologies regarding Inclusive Education
I could measure so far the progresses and challenges on Inclusive Education. All teachers/head teachers met during the school visits mentioned the importance of Inclusive Education trainings. They are now able to identify CWD for future enrolment proposal.
Almost all teachers have received the training on Inclusive Education, and the one who were not in office have been trained by their peers who received the training. The most important change in the classrooms has been the sitting arrangement. All the teachers interviewed mentioned that now, children with disabilities can sit at the front of the class, even if challenge remains important as classes are overcrowded (average of 120 children per class…). Concerning multiple or severe disability, teaching is still a challenge. For example, in one of the schools, there is a deaf and dumb child. Teachers try to communicate with him using local signs they have invented, but they don’t know if the child can read. He is only participating to mathematics examinations, as this is the easiest subject to teach him according to teachers. They are not sure if parents use the same sign languages at home, so it could be confusing for the child. Teachers mentioned they would need more training to be more competent with some types of disabilities (to know sign language for example).
Hunger and lack of food
In every school we have visited, head teachers were categorical, mentioning that children were hungry while they attend school. Most of them arrive at school without receiving breakfast, they only receive one meal per day, consequently they lack attention at school, are less healthy and productive.
Excepted in two schools where parents contribute for that in food and cash (only for exams classes), meetings are organized between parents and teachers to sensitize on importance of food. But students from other classes are hungry. In one school, some children from low incomes families (only) receive porridge in the morning.
Hungry children do less well in school, are less healthy and productive, and sometimes, even if teachers propose to take extra time after class to provide additional explanations, they prefer going back home to have lunch.
I have been really touched by emotion after all these interviews and meetings. We are very fortunate in our countries, and it has been really hard to be aware of the living conditions of some of the children.
I could write my first school report this week and I have around 200 questionnaires to analyse. I could also participate to Ward Education Officers training as they will help us to observe teachers during class and give us information on how inclusive education is implemented in schools. This is very important for the project to improve and monitor progress of children with disabilities.
To share a nice moment with my colleagues on the field, I cooked some French specialities: crepes ! We had a great moment !
I am very proud of the work that TCF is implementing because we have been able to see that we have new joiners in the schools. Sometimes, Children with disabilities are hidden by their parents and they stay at home. But with the work of TCF, advocacy of community volunteers on inclusive education and the trainings of teachers, parents bring their children to school. They now have a chance to learn and have friends. I have been surrounded by hundreds of children smiling during the school visits, it has been so moving ! I was really feeling I was here for a good reason.
I am so grateful so far to have been given the opportunity to take part to this Pulse Program. But I think it was not enough for me…so with GSK Nyon, we are organizing a collect of clothes, shoes….for children and adults, because everybody can help needed people. I’m sure it will be a success, I will talk about it later with some goods news I hope !