Meet Grace. Grace Silas Laizer of Saving Grace School that is. Laizer is one of only three teachers at Saving Grace and responsible for its day-to-day functioning. Having received her teacher training at the Shinyaga Campus of Musoma Utalii College, she has been teaching since 2008. Skilled teachers like Laizer are in high demand in Tanzania and elsewhere throughout Sub-Saharan Africa as the region works to embrace all children within its educational system.
In 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a report on global educational goals it had set in 2000. “Education For All” was a global commitment to provide basic education to everyone. Its results shone a light on Sub-Saharan Africa where eight of its countries had fewer than 80% of children enrolled in primary school. In fact, more than half of children around the world not enrolled in school live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some good news came too - though this region in Africa continues to lag behind these international educational goals, it also saw a 75% increase in primary school enrollment between the years 1999 and 2012. (4)
With more children entering primary schools in Sub-Saharan Africa, many countries have critical teacher shortages. Rural communities have the greatest need. (2) In Tanzania, Laizer and other professionals like her complete their preparation in Teacher Training Colleges. These colleges provide three levels of training. The first is for Grade A teachers who will go on to teach pre-primary and primary students. It is a two-year program and emphasizes methodology. The second is for diploma teachers who will be trained to teach secondary students. Though able to teach at the secondary level, many diploma teachers instruct primary students because of the greater need. Diploma teachers study for two years in courses emphasizing methodology and ethics. Finally, degree teachers train for 3-4 years. They instruct in secondary schools and teacher training colleges. (3)
Even before the 2015 UNESCO report came out, Sub-Saharan Africa’s teacher shortage was recognized internationally. Between 2006 and 2015 UNESCO enacted TTISSA, a Teacher Training Initiative for Sub-Saharan Africa. Its mission was to improve access to and quality of education by addressing teacher shortages and a lack of training resources. The strategy included four components: to improve the status and working conditions of teachers, to improve administration structures, to develop strong teacher policies, and to improve professional development. (1)
Though the challenges are many, it is people like Laizer who may help every child in Sub-Saharan Africa find a classroom seat.