I am a member of and the Impact Evaluator for the Education Team of Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI), a charity run by students from the University of Cambridge. This initiative focuses on collaborating with and inspiring local change-makers in Tanzania, including members of several Tanzanian Universities (Ardhi, UDSM and UDOM). It offers partnerships and support to small businesses by implementing innovative projects alongside them, and then handing the successful ones over to the communities themselves, or to local government departments that have the resources to expand them. Thus, CDI uses a human-centred approach to make a sustainable impact.
Currently, secondary schools in Dar es Salaam widely suffer from limited classroom resources, a lack of learning materials, poor infrastructure and pollution (mainly dust and litter). Class sizes can range between 50 and 100 students, and as a result rote learning is the standard technique for teaching. Youth advocates say schools fail to teach the skills and intellectual prowess employers are looking for. On top of this, each year, 900,000 young Tanzanians enter a job market that is generating only 50,000 to 60,000 new jobs. As well as producing good employees, the education system should endeavor to produce job creators by equipping youth with entrepreneurial skills. But, at school, students rarely get a chance to be creative or solve problems autonomously - in fact, they are often scared to express their own opinions for fear of being caned.
The Education stream is one of the four projects that CDI encompasses (the others being Engineering, Health and Entrepreneurship), and targets the current shortcomings of the Tanzanian school system, instead setting up interactive workshops and programmes in order to allow school students to explore new ideas and possible career paths. In this way, we hope to instigate long-term sustainable positive change in the community, rather than partaking in short term “voluntourism”.
In 2016, CDI Education piloted a new programme called the 'Think Big Challenge'. Its aims were twofold: firstly to give young people an opportunity to develop employability-boosting/entrepreneurial soft skills not covered in the standard curriculum, and secondly to empower students themselves to work towards mitigating some of the problems associated with the Tanzanian educational environment mentioned above. The challenge required teams of secondary school students from across Dar es Salaam to research, design and implement sustainable solutions to pressing problems experienced in their schools and communities. Over the course of the programme, CDI facilitated students in the physical manifestation of their initiatives and trained participants in skills such as critical evaluation.
In self-evaluation surveys following these workshops, students reported they felt they had improved in 11 out of 12 skill areas, including evaluation, teamwork and confidence. Meanwhile, the 13 successfully implemented initiatives were varied, creative and combatted very real problems. They ranged from teaching the jobless how to bake and sell cakes, to transforming paper litter into fuel for cooking; from setting up a silent study area in a disused classroom, to informing the community about the importance of education for women.
This summer, we are planning on expanding current models of extra-curricular learning and challenges from 3 to 18 schools, in collaboration with a local Tanzanian NGO called Bridge for Change. The 'Think Big Challenge' is being subsumed into the larger ‘Careers Network Support’ programme, which is going to be rolled out across the 18 schools in three cycles over the course of 2017. CNS aims to combine entrepreneurial skills development with careers advice so that students leave school more employable, more self-sufficient, and better able to make informed decisions about their futures.
In order to assist CDI in achieving these goals, and hopefully impact the lives of around 1800 students in a constructive way, I need to raise enough money in order to fund my travel and maintenance while out there for two months. As part of my role as Impact Evaluator, it is my job to conduct interviews, surveys and organise focus groups with the students and local participants in order to comment on the effectiveness of the Education project and make suggestions for how our approach could be improved in the future. I will write a full report at the end of the summer, which will most likely be used in future years as an information guide and a guideline for new projects.
To be part of this initiative is an extremely exciting opportunity, and I am looking forward to exchanging experiences and compiling ideas with the Tanzanian team in order to formulate the most constructive and efficient solutions for the community at large. I would very much appreciate your help in getting me to Tanzania and, hopefully, assisting significant sustainable change!