New schools in Tanzania have triggered an explosion in the demand for secondary school education. A 400 per cent increase in enrolment in only four years has taxed the educational infrastructure. The schools cannot cope with the numbers of new students, and the country now needs 85,000 more teachers. The Tanzanian government has launched a powerful public-private partnership scheme called “Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow”. International technology brands and important not-for-profit organisations are taking part in the scheme exploiting eLearning to expand the capacity of the secondary schools. Trials are taking place in Mbezi Beach, an up-market suburb of Dar es Salaam.
By Reuben Kyama and Naftali Mwaura
The President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, gave top priority to education and training, declaring his belief that there is “no development without education”.
“Every year the priority is going to be education. I see education as the only way to bring this country from poverty to prosperity.”
In order to support the rapidly growing school system and deal with the unparalleled shortage of 85,000 teachers, the Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow initiative will use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and involve Tanzania’s Ministry of Education and Vocational Training with multinational technology companies like Accenture, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft and not-for-profit organisations, like NetHope, Plan International, African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), World Vision and BSI Limited.
The multinational firms have provided seed money. The non-governmental organisations are developing best practices and community involvement and measuring the impact of the partnership.
eLearning for the 21st century classroom
With new learning technologies and a new fibre-optic network, Tanzania beyond Tomorrow is expected to enormously expand the reach of the country’s teachers. Neil Critchley from Technology Consulting UK says, “We are not bringing the computers to the schools to surf the internet. We are bringing computers to teach them their core English, Maths and Physics.”
The eLearning programmes will also develop critical thinking, sharpen analysis and extend educational team work.
Jill Bishop from the Tanzania Education Trust said the project “recognises the convergence of education and information technology as an enabler of transformation of Tanzania through her young people as well as the need to develop 21st century skills in order to compete effectively”.
Lead co-ordinator Jessica Long said a single teacher will be able to run several classes at once by relaying lessons through a computer.
“A teacher can be based in Dar es Salaam yet reach classrooms connected to the national electricity grid or the Internet. The project will transform the current traditional model. Teachers once limited by out-dated and restricted teaching materials will switch to digitised content and self-paced interactive learning delivered by information technology.”
Accenture Development Partnerships, leading the design and pilot phase of the project, indicate that the programme will use various curriculum systems required by secondary schools, vocational and teacher training institutions so that the pilot phase can be replicated across Africa.
Infrastructure still a challenge
The project partners note the huge problems in expanding ICT in Tanzania. Only 20 per cent of the rural people have access to the Internet and 70 per cent of schools in the countryside lack electric power, critical for anchoring ICT infrastructure. The ‘Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow’ project plans to use fibre-optic cables and renewable energy sources such as solar power to deliver an Internet-based curriculum to schools cut off the electric power grid.
Government officials say the project will bring teachers and technology to 1.5 million students in the rapidly growing school system.