As I write this, Ikirwa students and staff are enjoying a well-deserved mid-year break. In the face of the pandemic our student body has continued to grow and thrive, reaching 180 children, 70 of them boarders. Our students continue to work hard on their studies and are making tremendous progress.Their dedication and hard work never ceases to humble me. The results they deliver in-spite of the daily challenges that seem to come from every corner, are nothing short of amazing.Your continued support of the students and their academic success is truly appreciated by both us and their families. Your continued contributions open doors and opportunities that they, our children, would not have otherwise had.
This year has been a crazy one to say the least. As the world begins to re-open, we keep in our hearts those comminities that continue to face losses and hardships brought on by the pandemic. We count our blessings because our staff and students have remained healthy and safe and, while nations closed their borders, Ikirwa staff and students built new partnerships and relationships with their peers from across the world using technology the school has thanks to our wonderful supporter network.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the globe, schools everywhere closed, sending teachers and administrators scrambling to figure out how to continue to educate their students from a distance. In the U.S., many of us were fortunate to be able to send Chromebooks and Ipads home with students, and though our classrooms looked different on Zoom and Google Meets, a new sense of school “normalcy” took hold after a few weeks. On the other side of the world in the village of Midawe in Tanzania, Ikirwa School experienced something different. When Ikirwa closed in April 2020, its students were sent home to small villages, many with little to no electricity, most without the support and resources needed to continue their learning.
For the next five months, Ikirwa’s teachers worked tirelessly, committed to teaching their students without the benefits of modern technology. Teachers worked feverishly to create learning materials, review, correct and compliment students’ work, ensuring they continued to support their academic advancement despite COVID obstacles. Parents came to school weekly to pick up learning materials and return work that their children had completed; where parents were unable, staff made these trips. Staff maintained contact with all families, delivering weekly learning packets to those that couldnt collect them, ensuring that emotional support was offered and access to food was available as needed
To supplement the teachers’ efforts, a global network of Ikirwa supporters grew to raise funds and mobilize American students to work with their Tanzanian counterparts. Lead by the Ikirwa School Project board director and veteran educator, Rose Hogan, they worked with the Academic Master day and night, with 7hr time difference to find ways to virtually support both teachers and students by:
- Providing “Professional Development” and resources to the Academic Master and teachers.
- Teaching students how to use and organize online classroom apps and materials for teaching and learning.
- Introducing and teaching the staff how to use Jamboard and Google Docs, Forms, Slides and Classroom
- Allowing the students and teachers to access and complete work/assignments from home
- Researching old Tanzanian National Exams to build/create countless Google Forms in all subject areas
- Supporting and reviewing material for the September 2020-2021 National Exam - Secondary School placement for Class 7
- Adapting curriculum being used in classes in the U.S. to the Ikirwa context to bolster learning
- Teaching students how to set up email accounts, as well as using the Internet to research topics
In addition, Rose brought these collaborative learning experiences to her classroom in the U.S. Several 8th Grade English students from Pelham Middle School in New York, worked weekly through the spring of 2021 with peers at Ikirwa to teach them the basics of computer literacy. Bill Gates has once said, “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” These Pelham students brought this quote to life through their Eighth Grade Community Project, which included teaching Ikirwa students how to:
- log onto Google
- find and understand helpful key words/phrases for conducting Google searches
- find credible websites
- paraphrase researched information
- develop a Google Slide presentation with information researched and found online
- confidently present their findings to 50 students and teachers from across the globe
The impact of this global collaboration was not only felt by the students of Ikirwa, who were proud of the work and skills they learned, but also had a tremendous impact on the middle school students in Pelham. They truly enjoyed and were grateful for the opportunity to see the world through a different lens. They are now active members of a global community, with a new-found understanding and appreciation of other countries, cultures and contexts.
The professionalism exhibited by the teachers at Ikirwa and their desire to seek and accept global support to supplement the education of their students is a testament to their dedication and embracement of Ikirwa's global mission. Providing an exemplary education based not only from knowledge gleaned from books, but exploration, research, and partnerships with schools and organizations throughout the world continues to be our driving force. What may not be as obvious is that the support of our global, grassroots community is not only the financial engine that makes Ikirwa possible, but also a shining example for our students of how an idea can bring together people from every corner of the planet, inspire continuous collaboration and go from being a dream to becoming reality.
In the words of Lois McMaster Bujold: "Some people grow into their dreams, instead of out of them."