BOSTON, Massachusetts — Education in Tanzania has been bleak. Most elementary school-age children dropped out of school, and teachers had no books or desks for their students. In 2018, almost half of Tanzania’s population was alive less than $1.90 per day. Families below the international poverty line have been consumed trying to survive each day, pushing education down their list of priorities. Schools, children and their families in rural Tanzania had it even worse. That is, until Nancy Scull and Betsy McCombstook took over outing with her friends In 2007 she attended the Meali Public School in the Arusha region of Tanzania. Soon after touring the school, Scull and McCombs founded Friends of Meali International, a non-profit organization that has continued to improve education in Tanzania ever since.
Tanzania’s education crisis
Although education in Tanzania has improved, it still has a long way to go. earlier this year, only 5.4% primary school students could read clearly. Public schools are still struggling to obtain the necessary materials to teach children and face an ongoing shortage of teachers.
When USAID partnered with the Tanzanian government in May to help alleviate the country’s education crisis, it identified four major education challenges for the country.
The student-teacher ratio is very large
Public schools have a high turnover rate of teachers, particularly in rural Tanzania.
Young girls are more likely to drop out than boys because of poverty, teenage pregnancy, marriage and gender-based violence at school.
Public schools produce an inferior education
Strategy of the Friends of Meali International
When Friends of Meali International started, it helped the Meali Public School by buying materials, building classrooms, and paying scholarships. In just five years transforms the organization Meali and was able to move on to help other schools. The non-profit organization has developed a two-tiered strategy that it is applying to the two new schools it has taken over, Losirwa and Oldeani.
Initially, Friends of Meali International focuses on “capital improvement projects” for a school. In previous projects, they built a canteen, library, and data center, and installed solar power on every campus building.
Friends of Meali International then run programs that community members say their school badly needs. Some previous programs have included scholarships, advanced English courses and free lunches. The organization’s philosophy is that these programs provide impetus to schools in the communities they serve.
Since the first donation to the Meali Public School, Friends of Meali International has seen more students – with a large increase in girls – enrolling in elementary school and more students entering secondary schools, with one student now attending medical school.
Annually serves the non-profit organization nearly 2,000 students in rural areas. The organization has improved Meali to the extent that it is stable. Friends of Meali International plans to expand and help other public schools in Tanzania once they complete their current projects.
The organization says it has seen amazing improvements in Tanzania’s students – particularly young girls – in ways they never expected. “Despite their many difficulties, these children have the same ambitions as other children. They want to be teachers, doctors, police officers, computer experts,” the organization writes on its website. “By removing some obstacles and improving their educational environment… more students can dream!”
– Delaney Murray