Kujengana  •  Cocoa Honors project for Mwaya Secondary School

January 2011  •  Tenende, Tanzania

PROBLEM

The group of students at Mwaya Secondary School in Kyela District that has the lowest retention rate between classes is girls finishing Form 1. Specifically, in 2010, 54 percent fewer girls started Form 2 (231) than who started Form 1 (106).

CAUSES

Some research will be done on the causes of the retention problem in July 2011. But based on experience at similar secondary schools in Tanzania, factors will include:

• Inability of families to continue paying school fees

• Dropouts due to pregnancy/marriage

• Students are needed for labor for their families’ farming/herding activities

• Poor test scores that discourage student from thinking they have the capacity to succeed academically.

GOAL

Improve the retention rate for girls between Form 1 and  Form 2.

STRATEGIES

1. Textbooks

• Cocoa Honors is funding $4,500 to supply a small library of textbooks for Mwaya students, as per the National Examinations Council of Tanzania’s standard curriculum. The emphasis on student books will be in accordance with our stated goal. Thus roughly 40 percent of the books purchased will be for the Form 1 curriculum, 30 percent for Form 2, 20 percent for Form 3, and 10 percent for Form 4.

• Girls get priority access to the books. As administrators check out textbooks to students, a quota will be set by the headmaster to ensure disproportionately more books are checked out to girl students.

• An emphasis on English and sciences will address the need for help in the language of exams and the countries shortage of science students.

2. Equipping teachers

• Getting teachers on board is essential to success. We will work with the headmaster to emphasize the problem as reflected in the data, and to bring teachers into the fold by gathering additional thoughts on strategies to combat the low retention rate.

• We will further work with teachers during staff meetings to push noncurricular methods of improving students’ results.

• We will equip teachers with resources on those noncurricular methods (participatory learning, teaching for understanding, self-esteem building, etc.)

• We will equip teachers with quality textbooks and supplemental books to enable them to better teach the required topics using more accurate and complete sources.

3. Empowered Girls

• We will establish an Empowered Girls club at the school, to provide a noncurricular means for girls to become equipped with knowledge and resources to improve their lives and education.

• We will fund a small stipend for a teacher to be a faculty adviser for the club, ensuring continuity.

• We will fund an essay contest for students to bring light to a particular obstacle to girl education and let the girls themselves suggest methods of overcoming these barriers.

• We will partner with local organizations and individuals who can occasionally contribute the the basic learning that most girls in rural schools lack: Basic sex education, self-esteem building, conflict resolution, their rights as females (including the right to say no to sexual advances), and showing women professionals who can serve as role models or even mentors.

LIMITATIONS

• Our budget is TSH 6.5 million ($4,500). The cost to provide every student at the school with a complete set of textbooks (minus English literature and Kiswahili literature books) is TSH 75.5 million ($52,450). Extensive sharing and prioritizing will need to occur.

• The student-teacher ratio is 137:1. Teachers are underpaid (less than $200/month for a qualified teacher). The school lacks staff housing, requiring long daily commutes on foot or bicycle for some. It’s possible that not all teachers will be on board for the push in addressing the retention problem or have the capacity to be part of the solution.

• Resources don’t permit a comprehensive approach to educating parents and elders on the long-term benefits of educating girls.

• Other problems affect our desired outcomes: The lack of a science lab limits test scores in sciences. No electricity means no studying after sunset (6:30 p.m.). Lack of staff housing means teachers are often not available outside of class.

MEASURABLE OUTCOMES

• The retention rate for girls between Form 1 and Form 2 (46 percent) will move closer to the retention rate for boys (82 percent).

• Improved scores for all Form 2 students on the national exam.

• Girls with improved confidence, class participation, and expectations for their futures as students and career women (as opposed to solely domestic roles).