“I want equal rights to quality education”

Jambo! My name is Rose Marimbo and I’m excited as I am overseeing the implementation on the ground of a new Equal Rights to Quality Education project for African Initiatives in Tanzania. It is a big project as African Initiatives has secured funding of £1million from Comic Relief over five years.

I am excited because this project will help girls and boys to claim their right to quality education. In my country there are more than one million children aged 7 to 13 who are not in school.

The project works in 44 primary schools and 26 secondary schools. Our mission is to improve school conditions for 26,000 primary school pupils and 23,000 secondary students. I’m Project Officer at CASEC (Community Aid and Small Enterprises Consultancy), one of African Initiatives’ implementing partners in Tanzania. Personally I will be looking after schools in the districts of Kilolo (southern part), Mbulu and Karatu (northern part) in the north of the country. My colleagues at CASEC and other African Initiatives’ partners will supervise other school districts.

The Equal Rights to Quality Education project aims to improve access to education, quality of education, the governance and security of schools, the numbers of students transitioning from primary to secondary and the organisational capacity of implementing partners.

Access to education is a priority. I will advocate the importance of education so that parents take their children to school. In the city, a lot of parents are already educated, while in the interior, few fathers or mothers went to school and they don’t understand the importance of education.

In rural areas, parents believe the children can live like them – they want their children to farm or raise cattle. In addition many parents are very poor – they might need to choose between food and paying for a primary school uniform or secondary school fees. However, parents need to see the impact of involving their children in farming and livestock or keeping them going to school – they need to understand the short- and long-term outcomes of their decision.

My family is Chagga and from Kilimanjaro Region. My dad passed away when I was age seven and in Standard 1 form. I was lucky because my mother became a single mum but she was also a businesswoman with agriculture and was determined to give my two brothers and I an education. After school I did a BA in Public Administration and Management at Mzumbe University near Dar es Salaam. Then I volunteered at ACE Africa, an NGO in the city of Arusha (where I now live), and after joined CASEC (as Project Officer for the Equal Rights to Quality Education Project).

The challenges with education in my country can be divided into two parts: hardware and software. The hardware issues are about infrastructure – problems with classrooms, teachers’ accommodation, toilets, availability of water, distance from school to home. The school environment isn’t good for students or teachers.

Then there are the soft issues such as a lack of awareness of the importance of education, a lack of teachers – science teachers, in particular. This is a big problem in Tanzania. Most students do not study science because there are no science teachers and no science library in the school.

Another challenge is the big number of students who drop out of school. Tanzania has the largest percentage of students in the world who fail to make the transition from primary to secondary school. Only about a third of children go on to secondary school and most of them are boys. Girls living in pastoralist communities are most at risk – girls are often forced to get pregnant or to marry during the three-month break between the end of primary and the start of secondary. Did you know that between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of teenage pastoralist girls are married? This is why this new education project will increase advocacy on child rights.

The Equal Rights to Quality Education project will also look at teacher training, both in the early stages and to update skills after 10 or 20 years of teaching. In addition, the project team will work with school inspectors to establish and deliver quality, monitoring processes. Because the salary is low and the living conditions not good, teachers can lack motivation, so we will be reminding teachers to prepare lesson plans and record grades.

The project will include the establishment of health clubs so students can learn about disease, female genital mutilation, and the impact of early pregnancy. Plus we are working on a children’s rights policy at a district level – for example, how children can report abuse.

I am grateful to the supporters of African Initiatives for helping to improve education in Tanzania. I know it is the role of government to produce social infrastructure and services for communities. However, for many reasons, we have a lot of natural resources, including beautiful national parks, but the government cannot reach all people. Donors and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) support government efforts.

So I would like to thank the people of the UK for supporting children who are really in need. I encourage you to continue funding projects like this as they really make a difference. Without this African Initiatives’ project, many children in rural Tanzania would not have the chance to get educated. It’s very important for me to say thank you as the children can’t say it to you directly in person.

I like African Initiatives because they work in partnership with African grassroots organisations. In addition to CASEC, the Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC) and the Community Research and Development Services (CORDS) are also involved in the Equal Rights to Quality Education Project, looking after the districts of Ngorongoro, Monduli and Longido. African Initiatives supports us all.

Working through local partners is good. The African Initiatives’ team knows that Tanzanian organisations like CASEC make great implementors as we really understand the environment and the needs of the community. The people trust us. Some Westerners can have misconceptions; they can think Africans can’t perform well.

I also learn a lot from African Initiatives because they help with strengthening our capacity. They train us on Excel and how to produce training manuals. This is very useful to us.

I’m proud of Tanzania. I love the peace and harmony of my country. Nyerere was the father of the nation, the first president of Tanzania after independence. He brought us up to think about sharing, unity and solidarity – about how we could contribute to the community. We were taught to be proud of our tribe but not against other tribes like in Rwanda.

My ambition is to help the people and, after 10 years, I would like to have my own NGO. After my father died many people contributed to my school fees – not just my mother – and that taught me a lot. Without support I would not be working on this education project today. I want other children to have the same opportunities as me. Thank you.

To help fund African Initiatives’ overseas projects, please donate here.