A smile spreads across Sion Fupi’s face as she presses play on the MP3 player for the first time and hears the opening song of the Mambo Elimu radio program. The Mambo Elimu Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) series provides accelerated, early primary education to out-of-school children in remote areas of northern Tanzania. It is part of the Radio Instruction to Strengthen Education (RISE) Project, implemented by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), support from the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Sion is one of 44 community mentors being trained by RISE in the use of MP3 technology to lead children’s participation the programs. This training is an especially big boost for Sion, whose community was affected by a violent attack in which her Mambo Elimu Community Learning Center (MECLC) was destroyed.
Sion is the mentor of Lalarami center, one of three MECLCs in Katikati village in the Kiteto District. The village is 5 km away from the nearest school. In addition to managing her own family duties, Sion worked tirelessly to encourage families to take up the opportunity to educate their children through Mambo Elimu. The local community showed its support by building a permanent brick classroom for the Lalarami center to ensure their children had a good learning environment and that the radio lessons would be heard whatever the weather.
Tragically, the center was destroyed 11 months ago during a violent clash between pastoralists and agriculturalists living in the same village but with conflicting interests and livelihoods. When Sion’s Mambo Elimu center was reduced to ashes, it was devastating for all villagers, as the center was a peaceful learning place for children of all ethnicities and backgrounds. Sion sadly reflects: “I used to have 41 children in my class. After the fighting, some families ran away with their children and are not yet back. I am not sure when they will be coming back because there is a lot to be done to enable us to resume our normal life.”
A Step Towards Healing
Some families, including Sion’s, have returned to the area to try to rebuild their lives. Since her return, Sion has been working closely with the Ward Executive Committee and district officials to ensure that the Lalarami MECLC became active again. In early April of 2009, Lalarami center restarted its education activities with 16 children participating in the Mambo Elimu programs, for now under the shade of a tree. Sion is now busy mobilizing more villagers to enroll their children so they can restart their learning, and efforts are underway to ensure that the children get a proper classroom once again.
The determined and ever-smiling Sion remains hopeful for the future and believes that learning together is a powerful step towards healing her community. She says, “I am certain that the news of the Mambo Elimu sessions re-starting will speed up the return of our community because the EDC–RISE Project has helped us grow to realize and appreciate the value of education.”