School Days

Jul 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Newsletters, Updates

Okaseni Primary School was built in the 1950’s when Tanzania was still a British colony. The inscription on the building reads “Knowledge is Progress”.

As promised, I’m going to tell you how we spent the funds raised over the last two years for malaria nets. Some of those funds we put toward education.

Every year, we pay the school costs for Okaseni children who might otherwise not be able to attend the local primary school. But we are keen to improve the quality of education itself at the school and after our last trip to Tanzania in 2010, Charleen McBeath, my sister and one of the original AVPA board members, suggested teaching the teachers. Students come and go, but teachers mostly stay, so any help we could give them would have long-term benefits for everyone.

We decided that I would do a workshop at the Okaseni Primary School during this year’s visit in June. On May 31, Charleen and I went to Collins Educational Supplies in Vancouver and purchased about $1,100 of teaching supplies and materials to take to Tanzania. (Thanks to my dear friend Valerie for this donation.) Dale and I managed to get them all packed into one very large suitcase and across three continents without too much trouble.

On Wednesday, June 13, we held a workshop for the teachers at Okaseni Primary School from 10 am until 3 pm. We invited the 15 or so teachers who work at the school and were pleased that 10 attended, including the principal and the head teacher. Each teacher was given a notebook, pens, pencils, markers, blackboard chalk, and a nametag.

Joseph Mushi, one of the teachers, presents his mini-lesson using a foam replica of the globe to review the continents of the world, with the other teachers as students.

The workshop began with a general discussion of teaching and the vital importance of teachers to the cultural and historical fabric/tapestry of all societies. We then discussed specific teaching aids and how they might be used in the class room.

The teachers then created five-minute lessons using foam replicas that we brought, which represented the globe, a plant, parts of the body (for example, the eye, the heart), etc.  Some of teachers presented their mini-lessons to the others, who then discussed the strengths of each presentation and how it could have been improved.

Next, the teachers checked out the maps, books, and dictionaries that we had brought. In pairs, they practiced using them, and one pair demonstrated their techniques to the rest of the class.

Our final activity was to discuss some hints on how to maintain a positive outlook while coping with the demands of teaching. At the end of the workshop, all the remaining supplies and materials in the suitcase were given to the school.

I review a list of teaching aids that the teachers had brainstormed earlier during the workshop that we held in June while in Okaseni Village. The purposes of the workshop were to discuss the profession of teaching and to practice using teaching aids.

Each teacher received a certificate of completion, given to him by the village chairperson, Melki Mushi. There was a standing ovation at the end, a thank-you speech, and many compliments about the workshop itself. Several teachers voiced the hope that they could have more workshops as they find them extremely useful and motivating. We were very pleased that the day went well and the workshop seemed to be well-received.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the day was the boxed lunch that we purchased for the teachers. They don’t always have access to such high-quality food and so chowed it down! Of all the supplies and aids that were shown, the English picture dictionaries that we brought were by far the most popular. In fact, I could have done an entire workshop using those books alone.

We were pleased to be able to work on our goal of improving the quality of education in the village, and this workshop, although quite short, was a good start towards fulfilling this goal. We look forward to many more workshops in the future.

After this workshop, we still had a lot of money left. There’s more to come . . . .


Sheena Ashdown
Africa Village Project Association

Justin Mushi (the head teacher), Mary Shayo and I talk about how to use a map of the world in the classroom. All the teachers received copies of this map for their own use. Schools in Tanzania are not well funded and have few such resources, so the teachers were thrilled.


These teachers work at Okaseni Primary School. About 500 students from Okaseni and the surrounding villages attend the school. Ten of these teachers came to the workshop that we held on Wednesday, June 13.

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