A playground on a midsummer day is a whirlwind of activity. Children on the jungle gym hanging, climbing, swinging, running, tagging, sliding. Little ones in the sandbox digging, pouring, sifting, building. Kiddos on the pavement, hopping, skipping, cartwheeling, make-believing. They are having fun, yes, but they are also working hard at the work kids do - learning.
Play is essential in every child’s life, so much so that the United Nations recognizes it as a human right. Pediatricians identify play as a necessity for developing creativity, imagination, dexterity and physical, emotional and cognitive strength. (1) Through play children learn and develop social skills, too: how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflict, advocate for themselves and regulate emotions. It helps children develop traits needed for successful adult life, confidence and resilience among them.
Photo Credit: Saving Grace School
In 1929, Mildred Parten Newhall, a sociologist and researcher at the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development, developed a classification of six types of play. While at a busy playground, if you observe carefully, you might see each type operating.
The first can be found in the infants sitting on their caregivers’ laps reaching for the blue sky or wiggling in their strollers, feet kicking out. Newhall considered these random movements a form of play that she called unoccupied play. Slightly more advanced, an infant sitting on the grass with a few toys or a toddler digging a hole on his own in the sandbox are examples of solitary play. A more developed form of play might be the toddler standing on the sidelines watching a game of jump rope. This child is engaged in what is called onlooker play. (3)
Photo Credit: Markus Spiske/ Unsplash
Parallel play is the next stage and occurs as young children play side by side without interacting, marking the beginning of a desire to play with other children. When a young child begins to ask another why she is going down the slide backwards or talks about his swing set at home,associative play is at work. Associative play can usually be found in children around the age of 3 or 4. It is goal-oriented, does not yet involve rules and sets the stage for learning how to get along with others. Finally, social play involves following rules, cooperative play, role playing and the beginning of sharing toys and ideas. A playground example might be the children playing tag. Through this advanced form of play, children learn and practice cooperating, being flexible, taking turns and solving problems. (3)
In the U.S., concerns have arisen over the reduction of children’s playtime. Contributing factors include changes in the family structure and a hurried lifestyle; an increased focus on structured extracurricular activities at the expense of free play; in schools, a prioritization of academics and enrichment activities at the expense of recess; in some neighborhoods, a lack of safe play space and everywhere, an excessive amount of time watching screens. (2)
Different circumstances in many developing countries may also put play at a premium. This includes child labor and exploitation, armed conflict and limited resources.
Because of concern over reduced playtime, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued recommendations for parents.
Between the years of one and three, the AAP advises providing simple, inexpensive items for play. (As most parents come to realize, the box a gift comes in is often more exciting to a young child than the gift itself.) It is also recommended that these toddlers have opportunities to play with peers, engage in make-believe play and explore different types of movement such as jumping, swinging and running. The AAP encourages parents to sing songs and read books to their little ones. Finally, when choosing daycare or preschool, it is important to look for a setting that includes unstructured playtime. (2)
When a child is between the age of four and six, the AAP recommends scheduling time to play with friends, providing opportunities for singing and dancing, and seeking opportunities for slightly more advanced movement such as climbing and somersaulting. When reading to a child this age, the AAP encourages parents to ask questions about the story or role play with the child. Importantly, though many children begin using screens during this time, the AAP recommends firm limits. (2)
In days as far back as the fourth century BC, our earliest educators even recognized the value of play. Plato once said, “Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.” The importance of play for children is nothing new, but instead a concept we adults need to be reminded of as we navigate life in a busy modern world.
Never has there been a time more apropos for expressing our appreciation to teachers.
Schools and universities in 166 countries have closed in order to stanch the spread of COVID-19. Approximately 1.5 billion children have been affected. (1) Teachers have had to quickly adapt, feet to the fire, to teach these students from afar.
The challenges are immense. Most have turned to the use of technology. This may mean quickly getting up to speed with unfamiliar software or online programs. It involves reinventing lessons and finding new ways of doing things. And this is for those teachers and families lucky enough to have devices and broadband access at home to accommodate learning. (More on the digital divide later.)
Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash
According to Education Week, plans for synchronous (real-time interaction) sessions can take up to three times as long to plan. Plans for asynchronous lessons (occurring through online channels but not in real-time) can take five to eight times as long to plan. (4)
Teachers also face an onslaught of emails, texts, and telephone calls from parents, students and principals. Many of these teachers are juggling the needs of their own kids and families with the increased demands of their jobs.
Preschool and kindergarten teachers face different obstacles. With curriculum less academic and more focused on learning through play and interaction with one another, using technology for instruction is less conducive. Indeed, many preschools have strict no-technology policies. Studies on brain development discourage the use of technology at these younger ages. What then is a teacher of these youngest learners to do?
Some teachers have mailed sanitized activity packets home to parents. A packet might include play-doh, a few picture books and learning manipulatives.
Still, the use of technology has been used in small doses. In Education Week’s “What Happens to the Youngest Learners During This Crisis,” several teachers shared their adaptations. Some offer optional circle time over Zoom. The teacher leads students to sing their favorite songs, talk about the day and the weather or read a story. One teacher uses a photo of her classroom as the backdrop. (5)
Some schools have encouraged parents to share pictures and interact with other parents using free apps such as See Saw.
Teachers try to balance the need of providing constructive learning opportunities with sensitivity to the parents who are trying to teach and work from home at the same time.
Is Online Learning Effective?
Some 85% of educators who teach online courses believe that those that learn through online instruction are as successful as those who learn in the classroom. However, experienced teachers believe that in order for online instruction to be successful, it needs to include key elements. Simply sitting and listening to an online lecture isn’t enough. The instruction needs to include interaction with content, with the teacher and with peers. (2)
Photo Credit: www.thoughtcatalog.com
The Digital Divide
The pandemic has exposed many of the world’s inequities and the digital divide is certainly one of them. With only 60% of the world’s population online, a large number of children do not have equal access to instruction. In California, only 56% of low-income households have broadband subscriptions.
In many places, schools have needed to quickly come up with alternatives.
An investigation conducted by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune found that roughly 9% of school districts are using paper and pencil methods exclusively. Instructional materials are being delivered by bus or through the mail. (6)
One school district near St. Louis is creating Wi-Fi hotspots in parks using school buses equipped with Wi-Fi. If people don’t have connectivity at home, they can pull up to within 300 feet of the bus to download needed information. (6)
On the African continent, countries rank in the bottom third of those with internet access. This deems virtual learning difficult if not impossible for many schools. What many of the segments of the population do have is access to radio and television. An advantage to these modes of communication is that teachers need little training. In addition, both are familiar and engaging to students. Most African countries have at least one state-owned television station. They also have state, private and community radio stations. Some educational programming existed before the pandemic led to the closure of schools. For example, Botswana Television offers daily educational programming, mostly in math and science. Others have added programming to address student needs during the pandemic. (7)
Winnie, a student at Saving Grace School, shares an important message from home.
Regardless of the method used, teachers around the world have had to quickly alter their teaching methods in order to meet the needs of their students. Perhaps modeling the ability to do so may be one of their greatest lessons of all.
The African continent has not been one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19, but that is beginning to change. On March 25, The Guardian reported 2,400 confirmed cases and 60 reported deaths in 43 countries on the African continent. A large number of these cases (709 as of March 25) are in South Africa. (5)
Image Credit: Pixabay
Behind the Numbers - COVID-19 on the African Continent
Some have pointed out demographics specific to African countries that may help keep the number of deaths relatively low. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average age is the lowest in the world with only 3% of the population older than 65. (6) It has been reported that older adults are most at risk of dying after contracting the virus.
Some scientists have also hypothesized that high temperatures may be keeping the virus at bay with the number of infected still relatively low. (6)
Still, a number of other factors cause worry that this is simply the calm before a colossal African storm. First, substandard health care systems could exacerbate a crisis. This includes a shortage of hospital beds, lack of access to disinfectant as well as the personal protective equipment that is in scant supply elsewhere around the world. In addition, health care workers are not always well trained in protecting themselves by using this equipment. Finally, many of the health care systems are not digitized which will likely lead to an ineffective sharing of data. (3)
Many African countries face other challenges that could further stress the system. While social distancing has become a worldwide mantra, it is easier said than done in Africa’s overcrowded cities and slums. In addition, an informal economy is the norm in many spots. People must go out every day in order to simply feed themselves and their families.
Photo Credit: Avel Chucklanov / Unsplash
Poor sanitation may also worsen conditions. Of Sub-Saharan healthcare facilities, 42% lack an improved water source in close proximity, 16% lack improved sanitation and 36% lack soap for handwashing. (7) Many households also lack improved water sources as well as the hygienic practices that help prevent community spread of the virus. In the 38 countries for which data is available, handwashing prevalence was at approximately 50% before the crisis began. (8)
Also of concern is the high rate of HIV-AIDS on the African continent. In 2018, 25.7 million people in Africa were living with HIV. Approximately 1.1 million people were newly infected by HIV in 2018, nearly two-thirds of the global total. (9) In addition to HIV, many areas are also battling cholera, malaria and tuberculosis outbreaks. The COVID-19 high-risk pool on the African continent is a mixed story with a smaller than average group of older adults but a larger than average number of vulnerable individuals due to illness and disease.
A Closer Look at Tanzania
Following the first confirmed case of COVID-19, the Tanzanian government announced a series of actions to stem the spread. On March 17, President John Magufuli closed schools for 30 days across the country and suspended all sporting events. On March 23, travel restrictions were put in place. This included mandatory isolation for 14 days at designated facilities for those travelers arriving from the world’s most affected countries. All travelers are also ordered to undergo intensive screening upon entering the country, and advisories were given to all residing in Tanzania to avoid non-essential travel. (2)
More recently, President Magufuli made controversial statements encouraging Tanzanians to continue visiting places of worship. In response, the opposition party called on the government to ban all public gatherings and close the country’s borders. (1)
Tanzania reported 12 cases of COVID-19 as of March 23. (1)
Saving Grace School Continues to Track and Care for Students
While Grace and the other teachers at Saving Grace School adhere to social distancing guidelines and stay at home as much as possible, they attempt to remain in contact with school families to ensure that the students have remained healthy. To the best of its ability, Brighter Tanzania Foundation plans to cover costs associated with any student hospitalizations.
Photo Credit: Brighter Tanzania Foundation
The school lunch program continues during this time of crisis. After the school was closed, teachers visited families to notify them that students can come to the school during predetermined times for a meal. Students eat at the school in groups of five, staggered throughout the day. The teachers make certain that children wash their hands before and after their meal and sanitize the eating area after one group of students leaves and before another enters.
For updates on Saving Grace School during the Coronavirus crisis, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter @BrighterTZFund.
At a glance
Population: 11,865,821 (July 2020)
Political Capital: Gitega
Commercial Capital: Bujumbura
Ethnic Groups: Hutu, Tutsi, Twa (Pygmy)
Official languages: Kirundi, French, English
Religions: Roman Catholic (62.1%), Protestant (23.9%), Muslim (2.5%)
Fertility rate: 5.28 children per woman
Life expectancy: 66.7 years
Literacy rate: 68.4%
Natural resources: nickel, uranium, cobalt, copper, platinum, gold, limestone, hydropower
Currency: Burundi francs
GDP per capita: $700 (2017)
Form of government: Presidential Democratic Republic
Image Source: Wikipedia.com
Image source: Encyclopedia Britannica
Burundi is a landlocked country that shares an eastern border with Tanzania, a northern border with Rwanda and a western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The southwestern corner of the country also borders Lake Tanganyika. The country is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland but also one of the most densely populated countries on the African continent. Most of the population is concentrated in the north and on the northern shore of Lake Tanganyika. (1)
Photo Credit: Matthew Spiteri / Unsplash
Most of Burundi’s landscape is hilly and mountainous. The country is located just over 200 miles south of the equator but has an average altitude of 1,700 meters; therefore, the climate is generally moderate.
The Hutus were the first people to settle the area now known as Burundi, arriving prior to the 1300s. Later, the Tutsi settlers arrived. While the majority of Hutus were agriculturalists, the minority Tutsis raised cattle and became the aristocratic class. Still, it is believed that the two groups lived peaceably prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the nineteenth century.
The Germans arrived first, in 1894, claiming both Rwanda and Burundi and calling it Ruanda-Urundi. When the Germans invaded Belgium at the beginning of World War I, Belgium retaliated by moving troops east from Belgian Congo into present-day Burundi and occupied the area. Though Belgium ruled the area until 1962, they handed administrative power over to the minority Tutsis, exploiting the uneven status of the two groups. Antagonism between the groups grew with the Hutus at times being subjected to forced labor. Other stigmatizing political actions were taken including a law requiring everyone to carry a race card. (3)
When Ruanda-Urundi gained independence in 1962, the two regions separated, becoming the Kingdom of Burundi and the Republic of Rwanda. ( 3) It wasn’t long before ethnic conflicts erupted. By 1963 thousands of Hutus fled the region. In 1966, the Burundi monarch was overthrown, and the Republic of Burundi was established. The next several decades were marked by instability and violence. In 1972, a reported 120,000 Hutus were massacred in the South. In 1993, the president of Burundi was assassinated which triggered a full-out ethnic war in which 300,000 died. The following year a plane carrying the next Burundi president and his Rwandan counterpart was shot down in Rwanda triggering an ethnic genocide in that country. The Burundi Civil War that began in 1993 persisted through 2006. (2)
As recently as 2015, violence was sparked anew when President Pierre Nkurunziza declared that he would run for a controversial third term. Hundreds were killed and half a million people fled, many of them to Tanzania.
In Burundi, the cow is considered sacred. Traditionally, people named their cows giving them monikers describing their beauty or character. Specifically, Ankole cattle are considered the embodiment of beauty. The Burundi people revere their cattle to such a great extent that they recite poetry to them as they lead them to water or out to pasture. (4)
Photo Credit: Mike Suarez / Unsplash
Not surprisingly, beef is not eaten in Burundi. Goat and sheep meat, on the other hand, is commonly eaten. Other staples include beans, sweet potatoes, plantains, peas, cassava, maize and fruits. A popular snack in Burundi is the profiterole - a French filled pastry.
Oral literature is an important part of Burundi culture. With a low literacy rate and the turbulence of civil war, written literary works are difficult to find. Storytelling, however, relays Burundi values. Many of the stories revolve around cattle.
Singing is also an intrinsic part of the culture. Imvyino, songs with a strong beat and short refrain, are sung during family gatherings. In addition, men sing Kwishongora, rhythmic songs with trills and shouts while women sing bilitos, softer songs.
Craftmaking can be found in Burundi, too. The Tutsis are known for their basket weaving while the Twa are known for their pottery.
In the world of sports, the Burundi people love football. In fact, the country even has a national team. (5)
Burundi faces several complex challenges ahead. The flow of refugees into and out of the country is one that impacts everything from education to infrastructure to healthcare. With the renewed violence in 2015, many were forced to flee, and now the densely populated country with limited resources is working to reintegrate the refugees. Over the past decade, over 500,000 Burundi people have returned home. At the same time, Burundi hosts other refugees fleeing Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition, environmental challenges abound. Deforestation and soil erosion has resulted from overgrazing. In fact, little forested land remains in the country. With 90% of the population relying on subsistence farming, this environmental degradation impacts the ability of the country’s inhabitants to feed themselves. Finally, destruction of habitat threatens the wildlife population.
A third challenge for the country is human trafficking. Following decades of unrest and with high rates of illiteracy and poverty, Burundi’s population is vulnerable, children and women the most vulnerable among them. Unfortunately, trafficking for labor and sex are another destabilizing problem in the country. (1)
“We must do far more to advance Sustainable Development Goal 4, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
-UN Secretary-General António Guterres
In a nutshell, Tanzania has come a long way in advancing education for its citizens, yet still has a long way to go. On this International Day of Education, taking a good look at the Tanzanian school system in 2020 helps illustrate the continued need for schools like Saving Grace.
Recent Advances in Tanzanian Education
One of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is that “all countries must offer free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education by 2030.” The government of Tanzania has made some recent improvements as they move towards this goal.
First, primary school enrollment (grades 1 through 7) has vaulted from 53% in 1975 to 94% in 2018. (5) This increase was helped along when the government, in 2015, banned all school fees that prohibited students from poor families from attending. (2)
In addition, gender equity has been achieved in primary schools. (1)
Quality Lacking in Primary Schools
While attendance has reached a high rate in primary schools, the quality of education remains deficient. U.S. AID reports that only 5.4% of students read with comprehension. (1)
At the end of primary school, all students take an exam that determines acceptance into secondary school. With preparation inadequate and students unable to retake the test, secondary school is prohibitive to some.
Quality, Enrollment and Gender Equity Poor in Secondary Schools
Let’s start with enrollment. A little over half of Tanzanian children enroll in lower secondary school and even fewer are able to complete it. (1) Those who do attend are often stymied in receiving a quality education because of very large class sizes (an average of 70 students in a classroom); facilities that lack essentials such as libraries, labs and learning materials; and qualified teachers, particularly in math and science. (2)
Photo Credit: Doug Linstedt/Unsplash
Unfortunately, gender equity has not been achieved in secondary schools as it has in primary schools. Only one in three girls who begin secondary school are able to complete it. (Read more about gender inequity in our blog post, “Here’s to Malala!”) Government policies that discriminate against girls exacerbate the issue. Girls can be expelled from school if pregnant or married. (2)
Hurdles to Receiving a High-Caliber Education in Tanzania
Although the government has abolished student fees, parents still bear costs including transportation, uniforms and school materials. As a result, the most marginalized families are unable to access education. Also, because fees were banned, many schools have holes in their budgets, rendering them unable to fund basic needs such as school maintenance and the hiring of more teachers. (2)
Transportation is another obstacle, particularly in rural areas. Schools are sometimes located far from students’ homes. With few or no transportation options, they must either walk long distances or not attend. Some secondary students are able to board at private hostels, but this option is out of reach for poor families. (3)
Abuse by adults en route to school or by school staff harms children and sabotages their educational opportunity. Corporal punishment is legal and still used in the classroom. In addition, sexual harassment and abuse are common. (2)
Aside from abuse, girls in secondary schools are especially vulnerable to inadequate conditions. They face obstacles due to a lack of sanitation facilities. During menstruation, girls often miss school. (2) (Read more in our blog, “World Toilet Day.”)
Children with disabilities are another group that face sometimes insurmountable obstacles. Because of a lack of inclusive equipment and qualified teachers, few who are disabled attend secondary schools. (2)
As a new decade dawns, many eyes will watch for continued improvement in the Tanzanian school system. Others, such as the teachers at Saving Grace School, will continue to provide a safety net for those most marginalized.
Photo Credit: Brighter Tanzania Foundation
#GivingTuesday marks its seventh year on December 3, 2019. It is a day that is important to nonprofit organizations such as Brighter Tanzania Foundation for ways measurable and immeasurable.
#Giving Tuesday Outcomes
First, the measurable. What began in 2012 with $10 million donated to charities has grown into a goliath global movement. In 2018, donors gave $380 million to various philanthropies online in a 24-hour period. Here at BTF, we earmarked our 2018 #GivingTuesday campaign for library improvement. The $615 in donations enabled us to purchase two new bookshelves, 30 new books for the children and six new books for the teachers.
Donations for education have stolen the global show. Back in 2017, nearly 40% of contributions went to supporting educational causes. It is clear that many align with our beliefs here at BTF - education provides a solid pathway towards eradicating poverty and inequality. At Saving Grace School in Arusha, Tanzania, 340 impoverished children have received a pre-primary education that they otherwise would not have been able to access.
Now, let’s talk about the immeasurable. In a previous blog, “Early Education Influences Adult Success,” I wrote about not only the benefits of early education but its far reaches. In a well-known study called the Perry Preschool Program, researchers studied 123 at-risk, low-income preschool students in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The results demonstrated that children with an early education are more likely to grow into adults who are employed, raise their own children and own a home or car.
The children of the study’s initial participants are now being studied, and it has been reported that they also have benefited from their parents’ education. Theparticipants’ childrenhave better social and emotional skills, are more likely to be healthy, earn more, graduate from high school and go on to college. The benefits of early intervention have been passed on to the next generation.
In short, investing in education has a multiplier effect. The $615 that was donated to BTF in 2018 didn’t just benefit children such as Emmanuel, Caren and Abu, it is improving the chances that these children will grow into adults that escape the cycle of poverty, have healthy, stable families, and help build more resilient communities.
On the #Giving Tuesday website, people are invited to share their stories of giving. Some write about organizations to which they have donated their time. Others write about family members who have been on the receiving end of valued and even life-saving services. This year BTF has shared the story of Abu, one child who has received an education, medical care and love through Saving Grace School and BTF.
Read our story! If you vote for it (daily through Dec. 10 if you are so inclined), it could help BTF move on to a judged competition. Stories that receive the top 20 votes become eligible for judging and a chance to win up to $10,000! Following is the direct link to our story where you can both read and vote: https://binkd.co/n3KHH
Of course, we urge you to support us through donations to our own #GivingTuesday campaign, too. Giving comes in many forms, whether it is becoming a volunteer, providing a monetary donation or spreading the message of our mission by word of mouth or through social media.
Update on Abu
Finally, for those of you who have followed Abu’s story, we have updates. This fall Abu participated in the children’s HIV clinic at Selani Hospital. He learned about health, nutrition and medication. The following day he received liver function lab work and received good news. All tests were within normal limits. Grace also reports that he is continually improving academically, his behavior is positive, and he has lots of friends.
Image Source: www.worldtoiletday.info
Phase 1 of Foundations for the Future, the Brighter Tanzania Foundation capital campaign, includes the installation of toilets. This is significant. Today, only about 40% of schools in Tanzania have adequate latrines. (4)
It is not a pleasant topic to talk about. Yet with so many Tanzanian schools lacking basic sanitation or hygiene services, it needs to be discussed. Let’s talk toilets.
The World Health Organization defines improved sanitation facilities as ” facilities that hygienically separate human excreta from human contact.” (7) They include toilets with sewer or septic connections, pour-flush latrines, ventilated improved pit latrines and pit latrines with a slab or covered pit. Unimproved sanitation facilities include pit latrines without slabs or platforms, open pit latrines, hanging latrines, bucket latrines or open defecation. Schools must go one step further in order to meet the criteria for basic sanitation services. They must have one usable improved toilet for girls and one for boys. Hygiene services are defined as handwashing areas with soap and water. (7)
Source: Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools Global Baseline Report 2018
Several populations of children are left particularly vulnerable when the schools they attend lack improved facilities. One group is the disabled. A survey in 2009 showed that disabled children in Tanzania could not access 96% of facilities. A second group is girls. Many of the latrines are especially inappropriate for girls, many of whom end up missing school during their menstrual cycle. (4)
Last year, the World Health Organization released its “Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools Global Baseline Report 2018.” One of its authors wrote of the importance that adequate sanitation and hygiene holds for girls. “Girls attending schools with functional single-sex toilets that provide a private place to wash and change and a reliable supply of water and soap are much more likely to be able to manage their periods with confidence and dignity.” (6)
Of course, the direst consequence that children face from a lack of improved sanitation at schools and at home is poor health. It is believed that poor water and sanitation contribute to malnutrition. An alarming one-third of Tanzanian children under 5 suffer from shunting. In addition, poor sanitation leads to diarrhea-related illnesses. (3) Recently, Tanzania was home to an outbreak of cholera. Between August 2015 and January 2018, 33,421 cases were reported. This included 542 deaths. Over 11% of those afflicted were children under 5. (2)
Some may be surprised to hear that diarrhea-related illness is one of the major causes of death in children under 5 in Sub-Saharan Africa. (5) And it is preventable.
Teachers and students at Saving Grace School use a faucet outside of the building for gathering water and washing hands.
Photo credit: Brighter Tanzania Foundation
In 2016, the Tanzanian government issued a report, “National Guidelines for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Tanzanian Schools.” In it, the authors recommend that sanitation and hygiene practices be incorporated into the school curriculum. The report made clear that it is essential not just to have toilets but also an area for handwashing. Teachers are encouraged to teach, demonstrate, practice and observe the handwashing in practice. The authors also encourage schools to engage their communities on this issue to ensure that the messages and practices are being reinforced at home. (4)
The toilets at Saving Grace School are referred to as squatters.
At Saving Grace School, the children use what are called a squatters. (Pictured above.) The school has two, for boys and girls. The facility would likely be considered an improved facility. Still, the two stalls serve over 70 children. It is easy to see how upgraded toilet facilities would top the priority list as BTF and Saving Grace School continue to work towards building a brighter future.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
William Arthur Ward
For many of us, the holidays kick off a season of thanks and giving. This November, we are embracing the spirit of the season, and expressing our gratitude with a new social media series, “30 days of Thanks.” We have much to be thankful for here at Brighter Tanzania Foundation:
Experiences: Welcoming 85 students into Saving Grace School who may have otherwise not had access to education.
People: Engaged staff, board members, and volunteers in the USA, and engaged students and communities in Tanzania working hard in their classes and community. Superb families and friends supporting activities both in and outside of the classroom, and volunteering across state and continental boundaries.
And so much more…
There is a saying that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. We don’t want this Thanksgiving season to pass without taking time to extend our gratitude to all those who make this a vibrant community. Though there is not always a forum to share it, know we are inspired by your energy, attitude, and enthusiasm, and we thank you for the difference you make to our mission.
Look for our social posts, pictures and highlights daily throughout the month of November. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and watch for posts here celebrating BTF’s 30 days of thanks. We hope you’ll join us by sharing your gratitude with those who support the mission of BTF. Share a note of gratitude with a board member, volunteer, or teacher that you are thankful for, or give thanks by submitting your posts tagging us at BTF and using hashtag #BTF30DaysOfThanks.
Our 30 days of thanks are just getting started.
It is difficult for many of us to remember the days when information of all kinds wasn’t within reach of our fingertips, just a click or two away. Yet, many (44% globally) still do not have this connection. Its reach is inequitable, dividing developed from developing countries, rural regions from urban, young from old.
Photo Credit: Luke Chesser / Unsplash
In observing International Day for Universal Access to Information on September 28, UNESCO calls attention to these disparities and challenges us to “empower disadvantaged communities.” (1)
It was African civil society groups, pursuing greater information transparency, that requested this annual observation. (3) The international holiday is in its fourth year following the adoption of the concept of “Internet Universality” by UNESCO in 2015. (#AccessToInfoDay #RightToKnow)
African Advancement on Digital Rights
African states have a history of interfering with digital rights in ways that include restricting content, setting up financial barriers and passing regressive laws. In order to redress this inequity, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) was formed to promote the use of information and communications technology to support development and poverty reduction. Recently, the organization created the Africa Digital Rights Fund with the aim of awarding approximately 15 grants annually to organizations in countries across Africa. The grants are offered to initiatives that advance digital rights. This could include advocacy, litigation, research, policy analysis, digital literacy and security skills building. (5)
In this, its first year, CIPESA’s digital fund has awarded $65,000 to ten initiatives across 16 countries including Tanzania. (5) A sampling of these initiatives follows:
The African Human Rights Network Foundation, Tanzania - Sixty Tanzanian human rights defenders will be given training and opportunities to reduce internet security risks.
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa - This human rights center will document and analyze digital threats to civil society in Egypt, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia.
Internet Society, Namibia - Journalists and editors will be provided assistance to fact check misinformation in the run-up to the November 2019 elections.
What is the Picture on Information Access in Tanzania?
In 2016 Tanzania passed the Access to Information Act in order to provide greater transparency and accountability of public officials. Supporters believe the legislation is important to fight corruption, participate in democracy, correct misinformation and access social and economic rights, education and literacy skills. (6)
However, some critics contend that exemptions and loopholes in the law make it difficult for those requesting information and easy for those withholding information. For example, the law allows an exemption for those cases where another law governs the release of information. International standards recommend that access to information laws should be given precedence to other laws. (8)
Internet access among Tanzanians has rapidly increased in recent years with the number of users rising by 16% in 2017. (9) Over the past decade, more and more Tanzanians have begun using cell phones as a result of cheaper phones and cell services. The majority of Tanzanians gain access to the internet through their phones. The inequity, however, remains stark. A mere 14% of the rural population has access to the internet in contrast to 55% of urban dwellers. In addition, fewer women than men have access. (10)
Population: 5,970,646 (2018)
Official languages: Tigrinya, Arabic, English
Religions: Sunni Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant
Fertility rate: 3.9 children per woman
Life expectancy: 65.6 years
Literacy rate: 73.8%
Children under 5 who are underweight: 39.4%
Natural resources: gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, fish
Form of government: presidential republic (1)
Image source: Wikipedia
Located on the horn of Africa, Eritrea lies between Djibouti and Sudan on the Red Sea. Ethiopia shares its western border. Eritrea boasts a long coastline of 1200 kilometers. Off of its mainland are 350 islands known as the Dahlak Archipelago.
Image source: World Atlas
Though a relatively thin stretch of land, Eritrea has three geographical regions, each with a different climate. Along the coast lies a strip of dessert. Because of its high salt content, the land is infertile and the climate arid. The northern portion of the Ethiopian plateau also known as the Central Highlands is the most fertile part of Eritrea. The climate is temperate and the land fertile. The western lowlands are semi-arid.
Of the large number of ethnic groups that reside in Eritrea, the Tigrinya is the largest. As a result, Tigrinya is one of three official Eritrean languages. The others are Arabic and English.
One of the cultural traditions for which Eritreans are known is the coffee ceremony. The ceremony takes place often at the end of a long day and the coffee and accompanying snacks are offered to family members, guests and neighbors. No quick run to Starbucks, this languorous ceremony can sometimes extend for several hours. A woman in the household roasts the green coffee beans over a charcoal fire, grinds the beans and prepares the coffee, often with sugar. She then serves the coffee in small handleless cups. Incense is burned throughout the ceremony to enhance the aroma. (4)
Eritrean cuisine has both Ethiopian and Somalian influences. A traditional Eritrean meal is tsebhi, a spicy stew made with mutton, lamb or beef. It is often served with taita, a sourdough flatbread, and hibbet, a legume paste. The meal is often served on one large, shared plate. Because of Eritrea’s colonial history, Italian food is also easy to find, especially in urban centers. (3)
With its access to the Red Sea and natural resources, Eritrea has been invaded and dominated by other peoples throughout history. In the late 19th century, the area came under Italian colonial rule until independence was gained in 1941. It then went through a ten-year period of British administrative control until the United Nations established it as an autonomous region in 1952. When Ethiopia annexed the region in 1962, a 30-year war for independence began. Finally, in 1991 Eritrea became a truly independent nation. Since that time, only one president has served - Isaias Afwerki. Tensions continue to remain high between Ethiopia and Eritrea. (1)
Following the battle for independence, an effort was made to increase the number of schools in both urban and rural areas. Still, the rate for children attending primary schools is 81%. The rate drops to 30% for lower secondary schools. Higher rates of absenteeism from school are found in rural areas with 31% of nomadic children not attending. One fun fact about the Eritrean education system is that children are taught in their mother tongues in primary school while instruction in secondary schools is in English. (5)
Advances and Challenges
Though Eritrea is a patriarchal society, the government has passed legislation protecting women’s rights. This includes the prohibition of female mutilation, gender-based violence and underage marriage.
Image Source: Jack Ninno/Unsplash
However, Eritrea faces a number of challenges both natural and man-made. Frequent droughts and dependence upon subsistence farming for 80% of the population continue to bring hardships to the population. In addition, the government is authoritarian and repressive. For example, Eritreans are faced with mandatory conscription into military or civilian service for indefinite periods of time. A large exodus of Eritreans has taken place because of human rights abuses, a lack of political freedom, militarization and a lack of opportunities. These migrants are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, an increasing problem. (2)
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