Zanzibar: Education Within Reach

Community centers, radio program help young children overcome obstacles to learning
Hidaya Mbarouk Khatib, Zanzibari TuTu Club Student

Six-year-old Hidaya lives in the remote village of Tumbe on the island of Pemba, part of the Zanzibar archipelago just off the coast of Tanzania. Born with a physical disability that severely impairs her ability to walk, Hidaya has not been able to attend the local school with other children her age. Although Hidaya can walk for short distances, the nearest school is located well over a mile from her home. With no wheelchair or paved sidewalk, it is too far for her to reach. Hidaya’s father died when she was three months old, leaving the family in a state of hardship. Her mother, Shadida, was born with the same disability and has struggled to provide for Hidaya and her five older siblings. Without access to transportation or financial resources, Hidaya’s prospects of attaining an education looked grim.

But now through the Radio Instruction to Strengthen Education (RISE) Project, a collaboration between Education Development Center and Zanzibar’s Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, and support from the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Hidaya has been given a chance to learn. RISE uses Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) to provide pre-primary and early primary education to the most under-served children, such as girls, children with disabilities, and those living in remote areas. The Tucheze Tujifunze (Kiswahili for “play to learn”) broadcasts integrate the formal Zanzibar curriculum with local games, songs, stories and other activities, so that Hidaya and her peers are now learning basic Kiswahili and English literacy, math and lifeskills as they sing, play and clap along with the interactive radio lessons.

A Place to Gather and Participate

In Hidaya’s village, as in hundreds throughout Tanzania, RISE has helped community members to establish Tucheze Tujifunze clubs, known as TuTu Clubs. Whether in the shade of a mango tree or in a concrete building, TuTu Clubs provide a place for children like Hidaya to gather and participate in their Tucheze Tujifunze lessons. They are guided through the broadcasts, as well as post-broadcast activities, by a local community mentor trained by RISE staff in effective IRI methodology, and child-friendly, student-centered, inclusive pedagogy and classroom management.

In Tumbe, the Makadara TuTu Club has been established just one hundred yards from Hidaya’s home. According to her RISE mentor, “Weather permitting, Hidaya attends every class. She can’t come when it’s raining unless she can find someone to carry her here. But even then, sometimes she crawls just to make it.”

Hidaya’s mother knows how difficult it is to attain an education in Tumbe, particularly with a disability. “I was never able to attend school,” she says. “I see this opportunity for my daughter and it is wonderful. It is too dangerous for Hidaya to get herself to the formal school, but with the TuTu Club I know she is safe. Even though my daughter is disabled, she can learn with all the others at the TuTu Club.”

The RISE Project is reaching nearly 12,000 children across Zanzibar. By reaching out to the most isolated and under-served children through this inclusive and innovative delivery model, RISE is helping to turn Zanzibar’s goal of quality universal primary education into a reality.

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