Books and posters in Katy's flight baggage
Update Winter 2024
Greetings and I hope your new year has begun well.
The new school year started in Tanzania on 8th January, and in Rwanda the second term started on 15thJanuary.
I arrived in Tanzania with three large bags full of books, wall charts and posters for the new schools we are working in in Rwanda and for my new work with the teachers at Bright School in Tanzania. A very nice woman at check-in at Heathrow ignored the fact that each bag was over its weight limit, and so 200 books, 80 black and white wall charts and 22 colour posters larger than A1 size all arrived intact. I had a 46kg baggage allowance and ended up taking more than 75kg for the cost of one extra bag. The black and white wall charts accompany the NOEC (New Original English Course) Book One and the charity’s printer found new roll-able material that is indestructible. The colour posters accompany the Jiandae course and they are printed on roll-able paper only a little less robust than that used for the wall charts.
The Jiandae course is a language awareness course that I wrote some years ago as an introductory course before the use of the NOEC. From my experience in the primary school classrooms I could see that the crucial development of thinking skills was lacking across the primary curriculum, and also that the pupils’ knowledge of their own country and culture was limited. Not only that, but knowing that later education would all be conducted in English was no motivation at all for the young pupils to learn English. The course comprises a teacher’s book for each of the two year course and 11 colour posters for year one and 9 colour posters for year two. The course uses extensively the ‘think-pair-share’ technique and so encourages expression and confidence. It is all conducted in Swahili, but the pupils learn English words which have long been adopted into the Swahili language, and so they find the learning very easy. For instance, koti = coat, jaketi = jacket, soksi = sock(s), posta = post office, benki = bank, reli = railway, treni = train, chokoleti = chocolate, and so it goes on. This gives ample opportunity for the pupils to explore their own language and life. Then they are introduced to the English speaking countries of England, America, Canada and Australia, and the people, clothes, animals, money, flags, inter alia, by way of comparison. It is a full course, and the books were piloted with great success some years ago when we ran our project in the Manyara region of Tanzania. The Tanzanian government is considering introducing English into Standard One. This was done in 1998 and then stopped in 2015 as it produced no better English results overall. English is now taught from Standard III, as it was pre-1998. The Jiandae course would be an excellent substitute for introducing English in Standards I and II, as it concentrates on nouns, and so avoids any sentence structures which the Standard I and II teachers would find hard to teach correctly. Anything learned incorrectly by young learners can take forever, if at all, to un-learn and re-learn.
Before I left England I had the great pleasure to meet the Honourable High Commissioner for Tanzania in his London office. He gave me over an hour of his time and was very interested in the books I had taken to show him, and to hear of my comments and views on the current English syllabus and the need for more help to be given to the teachers. We talked about both the Jiandae and the NOEC books, and he listened and understood the need for each. He was enthusiastic to the extent that in my presence he telephoned the deputy Permanent Secretary to the Minister for Education in Tanzania and asked him to help me to get an appointment to see the Minister. After the meeting the High Commissioner poster a picture and a summary of our meeting on his social media pages. His summary read:
‘It was a pleasure to meet Ms Katy Allen-Mtui (MBE), the author of JIANDAE – a language awareness course for Standard I and II in Primary Schools, and the co-founder of Education East Africa charity. We exchanged a wide range of issues related to skills development in Tanzania……..Education East Africa charity believes that in primary education, besides introducing fundamental skills – literacy and numeracy – the overriding set of skills that should be introduced are thinking skills. Those include the skills of logic, analysis, explanation, problem-solving, sequencing and creativity. I believe the Education East Africa charity can provide valuable input to the UK’s development work supporting the education sector in Africa. I commend Katy and Dilly Mtui for their noble work in Tanzania.’
Upon arrival in Tanzania I pursued a meeting with the Honourable Minister for Education, Professor Adolf Mkenda. That was arranged for Tuesday 30th January in the political capital of Dodoma. It is a nine-hour coach journey from where we are in Kilimanjaro to Dodoma and so two whole days were spent travelling to get there and back. Our meeting was scheduled for 3pm. Unfortunately, the Honourable Minister was delayed in getting to our meeting and had to rush to another meeting. He had very little time to spend with us, and his lament was that his Ministry has no spare money to spend on books. The trip was a disappointment. However, if we use the NOEC books and the Jiandae course at Bright School we can once again prove the value of the two courses for learning English as well as developing important thinking skills.
I was in touch with the Honourable Minister for Education, Mr Gaspard Twagirayezu, in Rwanda before I left England, and he hopes that he will be able to meet us soon. We are working on that, and we hope to take some of the teachers and local officials to the meeting so that the Honourable Minister can hear first-hand how much the use of the NOEC books helps not only the pupils but the teachers as well
The 18th January 2024 marked the 30th anniversary of my coming to Tanzania to live and work. For the first seven years I lived with James and Dora and their children in their homestead with no electricity or running water. Dora helped me considerably to settle into life in the village. At the beginning she would come into my small one-room house every evening and sit with me and speak to me. I would sit with my dictionary and try to expand my use of Swahili. One evening Dora told me that a neighbour had had a baby. I did not know the words for baby girl or baby boy and so used what I knew for girl and boy. I ended up asking her if the neighbour had had a girl or an umbrella! Mwavuli (umbrella) was confusingly similar to mvulana (boy) for me at that stage. To mark the occasion of my thirty years we met for lunch and reminisced and caught up.
Thank you once again for your generous support of our work. With predictions of a quarter of the world’s people in 2050 being African, it seems more important than ever that the young children should have a good education. Regrettably, primary education is not fully understood by some leaders as they lack experience of how children learn and the development of their cognitive ability. In our small way we keep fighting, and that is only possible with your help. Every penny and cent that you find for our work makes a difference.
Thank you, and all good wishes,
The Hon. High Commissioner Kairuki and Katy i
Katy meeting the Hon. Minister Professor Mkenda
Katy, James and Dora marking 30 years