With so much of our focus and attention on economic growth and GDP performance, it can be easy to get caught up measuring progress in raw numbers. Sometimes it becomes so easy, in fact, that we lose sight of the mere thought of how happy we actually are. Increasingly, there is a push for an awareness of how happy we as humans actually are, and that how happy we are should also be a measurement of how much we have progressed as a civilization.
In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples.” All 193 United Nations member states have adopted the resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority. As such, it was decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on March 20th. This holiday was celebrated for the first time in 2013, and we continue to observe it today. Be happy, be healthy, and never lose sight of the pursuit of happiness!
Tell us a little bit about who you are.
My name is Elise McKenney. I live alone with my dog. My husband passed away several years ago, and my daughter lives with her boyfriend. I previously had my goddaughter live with me for a short time, and another young girl lived with me for a while as well. I was in a foster home as a child, and I have always loved kids!
Who do you sponsor, and what can you tell us about them?
I sponsor a female named Dorcas Lazaro, who is seven years old.
She likes to take care of the younger children, she wants to be a doctor or a teacher when she grows up, she takes her learning lessons seriously, and I know that her favorite color is yellow. She enjoys going to school and she likes learning.
How long have you been sponsoring?
I dunno! Like what, three months? Yeah, it’s been three months.
What were some of the factors that influenced you to become a sponsor?
My work has a week of--a week where they try to get everybody to participate in helping nonprofits. I’m a volunteer for a dog rescue nonprofit, and so I was looking for something else to be a part of. And then after reading some of the stuff about the Brighter Tanzania Foundation I thought it might be a good fit so I talked to my sisters. We were thinking about going in together, and then I thought that there were more people in my family that would like to sponsor but don’t have enough enough money to sponsor themselves. So I opened it up to everyone in my family and I was really proud of the children in my family who were willing to help out another child.
They were not aware that other kids were not able to just go to school like they were here and they were all very excited to just pitch in and help her!
How was the process of becoming a sponsor?
I was so excited! The actual application process was very simple, and it didn’t take very long. I received emails providing information on the child I and my family were sponsoring along with some picture and it was so very heartwarming! It was such a good feeling when I saw her picture; I just wanted to give her a hug!
How has your sponsorship affected you and your family?
For me it has been really heart warming and it just felt so dang good! Some of the others and I did a little shopping and went and bought her just a few little inexpensive things to send and all of the kids wrote letters to her just to tell her a little bit about themselves. The adults wrote letters and provided some pictures.
I think it’s been rewarding so far, it just takes a long time for the mail to get there but we’re hoping hear from her again soon!
Would you say sponsorship has changed your outlook on life?
I think yeah, to the point where it really makes us grateful for what we have and I think to really think about what it would be like to live in another country. There are so many things we take for granted is the whole thing, and it makes us more grateful for what we have.
What would you tell other people who were considering sponsoring a student?
It’s very rewarding and as far as the financial the stuff I checked out--as far as the financials, all of the information is available for people so you know exactly where the money is going. Just a very, very rewarding and nice experience.
So you would tell them to go for it?
Oh, absolutely! Just do it!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The thing for me is just that it’s a very rewarding experience to know that our money - even though it’s not lot - is able to give an education to a child who might not otherwise have access and it’s a very good feeling. You know, there are other things we can all spend our money on but this just so rewarding. It’s an awesome experience for the kids to be a part of, too. And my family is very close so this is just one more thing we can experience in life together.
Every March 8th, International Women’s Day raises awareness of the continued need to push for gendered equity around the world. This year, the theme is #beboldforchange. Yet the campaign leaves “how” open to activist interpretation.
Tanzanian women know how. Tanzanian women activist groups have been determinedly pushing for social, political, economic and health improvements since the country’s founding in 1964. They’ve won significant victories, including raising the minimum age for brides to 18. Child marriage is now illegal in Tanzania thanks to tireless activists.
Here are the top five issues Tanzanian women are fighting for:
Property rights & land rights: The central focus of this fight is educating rural women on their existing property rights, and pushing for more inclusive, fair laws. Despite a 2014 constitution change to increase women’s access to land inheritance, it’s still not the norm. It’s not traditional, and most women access land and property through a husband, brother, son, or father. If that male relative dies, the land could be seized, and the woman loses her farm, business or house. These challenges are compounded if the woman is illiterate or if the family has no paperwork to validate their claim to the land. Activist groups hold workshops to educate communities on land rights. A side benefit of this struggle is that the flaws in the land registration process (corruption, inefficiency, complexity) are being reveled, and new technology is being developed to make it easier to register property.
Regional trade access: Increasing access for East African business women to regional trade is a newer issue. A bill recently passed by East African Community (EAC) partner states, is intended to address women's safety in border areas, increase economic opportunities and legal support for women entrepreneurs, and remove gendered barriers to trade. Women empowerment groups have been fighting for this issue for several years. The participating governments also want to see women's businesses succeed, as that means an increase in regional trade, economic growth and job creation. However the means by which this bill could achieve these goals has not been clearly described, partly due to a lack of data on how many traders are women, and how exactly women are affected. There's also no clear way to hold participating states accountable to increasing women's access to trade. At the very least, this bill could be a vital stepping stone to increasing visibility on the issue.
Bookkeeping and entrepreneurial skills: Many women in Tanzania, whether rural or urban, find it necessary to start their own businesses to have work and earn enough money to care for their families. Even when their husbands have work, one income isn’t enough to support a household. Women are also significantly more likely to invest more of their income back into their families. On average, women in developing countries spend 80 cents of every dollar on family needs, while men, on average spend 30 cents. This means that the success of women’s’ business is critical for children’s health and education. Additionally, as the number of women owned business increases, as well as the number of wife-managed businesses increases, women have more economic power to voice their opinions and concerns in the public sphere.
However, these entrepreneurs often have no experience or training and struggle to scale their business. To address this challenge, a wide range of women’s empowerment groups, businesses and international organizations offer programs to offer mentorship, training and resources. Ensuring women have the skills and resources need to succeed professionally is critical for advancing several agendas, such as women’s rights, children’s’ health & education, as well as national poverty reduction and economic growth.
Reproductive Rights: Tanzania, like other east African countries, has made a deliberate effort to improve the quality and reach of its medical infrastructure . With the help of NGOs, there has been some success, but there is still a chronic shortage of medical professionals and medical infrastructure. This deficiency disproportionately affects women, as sexuality, birth control, and menstruation are taboo topics. Even when clinics with birth control options are available to teen girls, they may not seek out these services for fear of censure. It is also commonplace for public schools to expel pregnant students. Over 50% of all births in Tanzania take place at home. Despite innovative solutions (LINK) to help get pregnant women into clinics & hospitals, 8000 women still die in childbirth, many of which are teen girls. Human rights activists and health care NGOs, both Tanzanian & international, work to decrease social stigma and increase access to health facilities with trained professionals.
Secondary School Education: Tanzania has made exceptional progress in achieving similar enrollment rates for boys and girls in primary school. Yet there are still significant obstacles for girls to enter and complete secondary school. These include long distances to school, poverty, traditional gender expectations, pregnancy and early marriage, especially in rural areas. Tanzania has 1.5 million teenagers out of school. While primary school is critical for ensuring literacy and numeracy, it’s secondary school that opens the door to higher-paying office jobs, as well as access to university education. There is also limited access to vocational training for girls.
Women leaders in Tanzania are building schools that target disadvantaged populations. (Brighter Tanzania is lucky to work with one of those leaders, our head teacher Grace, who worked hard to get her teaching credentials and runs a free school for improvised and orphaned youth, Saving Grace Day & Boarding School.) Some of these new schools in Tanzania target teen girls who were denied education because of pregnancy or poverty.
This is a challenging issue to address, because it’s not just about discrimination. It’s about limited resources, and the challenge of how to build a fair education system with a broad reach in a nation where more than half the population is under 25. Increasing access to education has been a consistent drive for Tanzania since their founding. Yet the effects of widespread gender discrimination is a blind spot for many public schools.
The World Day of Social Justice is celebrated February 20th. The UN presents a new theme each year to focus international efforts. This year’s theme is "Preventing conflict & sustaining peace through decent work.”
This is a great theme, because it’s got several ideas wrapped up in one sound bite. Let’s unpack it a bit. Essentially, the UN, as well as other international organizations and activists, argues that:
1) People have the right to pursue safe & dignified livelihoods to support a basic living standard.
2) When people have access to and training for reliable work, regardless of gender, nationality, race, etc., then communities, nations and whole regions have the potential to prosper economically and socially.
3) When people and nations have the means to focus on growth & improvement, then there is value in reducing and preventing the sort of conflict and violence that disrupts social and economic activities.
The UN presents a long-term, large-scare vision of what the world’s future could be like if we all pull together. This vision is centered on the 2030 development goals. At Brighter Tanzania, we contribute to these goals by focusing on Tanzania. We aim to foster economic growth, improve quality of life & provide a more equitable future for Tanzanians by harnessing the power of education, nurturing students' creativity & supporting the local economy.
Quality, equitable education is critical for many of the 2030 development goals. Education is key for people to access work with a living wage and growth opportunities. At Brighter Tanzania we're tackling poverty by giving free education to kids. We provide a well-rounded education and a nurturing environment for young children so they have the foundation for success for secondary school, and then in their professional ambitions.
We offer standard academic subjects such as math, English, Swahili, and art. We also offer a “real World Learning” program which develops valuable social skills and basic vocational skills. A typical class day is composed of standard academic subjects as well as exercises to encourage teamwork, sharing, empathy, and creative problem solving.
The vocational component of our program is just getting started. Given how young our students are, we’re only teaching simple subjects, like cooking, sewing, cleaning, etc. These skills would be helpful at home. As we get older students, we plan to add more advanced subjects.
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.
Saving Grace is dedicated to providing free, well-rounded education and basic vocational skills to impoverished Tanzanian children. We've grown a lot since 2014, we now have 68 students and our Real World Learning Program is up and running. We're not stopping here, we have big plans to offer even more to the Arusha community.
Our Real World Learning Program:
We want to ensure that our students leave Saving Grace with well-rounded skill sets. In order to achieve this, we focus on a real-world learning model that teaches not only academic skills, but vocational skills and important soft skills. The academic subjects include art, English, Swahili, reading, writing, and math.
The Real World Learning Program teaches emotional intelligence and life skills, like work ethic, problem solving, creativity and empathy. These "soft skills" are actually critical to an individual's long term success as adults. Children who are taught "soft skills" are more likely to successfully navigate social challenges common to teenagers, due to increased self-control and empathy.
The program includes practical, vocational skills as well, such as gardening, tending chickens, cleaning, sewing and cooking. These basic, practical skills enable our students to help their families at home and learn work ethic and responsibility. These simple skills also create a framework that our students can expand on when they're older, in order to have more earning power as adults.
Currently, our students are aged 3-8. We hope to incorporate older students and expand our Real World Learning Program to include computer and financial literacy courses.
Our new Teacher, Joyce, is a wonderful addition to our school. Joyce has taken on the Baby & Nursery classes, allowing Grace to focus on the 1st and 2nd graders. We’ve already found a 3rd teacher to hire and have increased our funding goals to provide for her salary. Hopefully we’ll be able hire her soon and take on additional students.
Our fundraising goal has increased from $15,000 in 2016 to $20,000 for 2017. This increase reflects the needs of our school, as we have more students – and staff – than we began 2016 with. The increase is also in preparation for boarding students, at which time our costs for food, electricity, water, supplies, and teacher salaries will all inflate.
We’re also getting ready for 4 new boarding students. Grace will be on the lookout for children in need - particularly orphaned or homeless children - to fill these beds. The majority of our students live within a mile of the school. However, the rooms might also be made available to potential students who live too far away to walk.
We’ve also increased our fundraising goal to purchase a plot of land. Currently, Saving Grace is in a rented space. There are only 10 rooms and 4 toilets, and the courtyard is quite full when all 60 students are on break. We plan to purchase a 10-acre plot of land on which we can build a new facility, with space to expand as necessary. A 10-acre plot will cost approximately $10,000. Moreover, we will need to begin purchasing materials to build the new facility, which should cost another $5000.
Tanzania has undergone extensive changes, from multi-tribal society, to German and then British colony, and finally an independent republic. Education in Tanzania has changed just as extensively over time. In modern Tanzania, education has been a central interest for public policy and national advancement. The pre-eminent scholar of Tanzanian pedagogy is Dr. Philemon Mushi. A link to his work can be found at the bottom of this post.
In the pre-colonization, tribal Tanzania, education varied widely from tribe to tribe, and was partial driven by tribal identity and then later by the two expanding religions, Christianity and Islam. While cultural norms varied in each tribe, these tribes valued education as a means of preserving their cultural values, skills, and codes of behavior. When Islam and Christianity began spreading through the region in the 19th century, these competition religions both heavily emphasized education as a means to secure cultural and ideological influence. These religious schools taught literacy & cultural values as a means of gathering converts and projecting influence. They did not seek to end regional illiteracy, rarely educated women, and often made race distinctions based on tribal affiliation.
Map of modern day Tanzania
During the colonial period, (1880-1961) colonial administrators expanded on the pedagogical foundation established by Christian schools. However, these schools sought to promote colonial, rather than religious interests. The German & British colonists needed the locals to accept and support their demand for raw materials and cheap labor. Education, (again, lacking gender, class and tribal equity) was used to legitimize colonial rule of first the Germans, then the British.
After independence, (1961) the education policies were driven by political needs. Like most newly independent states, it's people and government were highly idealistic, had dreams of a just, modern, independent nation with a growing a stable economy. Yet just after colonization, Tanzania's fledgling government faced huge obstacles. It's estimated that 85% of the population was illiterate, as well as extremely poor. Hunger, widespread diseases, low average life expectancy (37), and high infant & maternal mortality rates were also major obstacles. Periodic droughts, food shortages, and limited access to international aid further complicated matters. The Tanzanian government and a number of local and international NGOs had to recreate the educational system to build up a literate work force. 90% of the population lived in rural areas, and used hand tools to produce food crops and cash crops. By necessity, the rural population would be the driving factor of the new economy, and yet they were so scattered, that it was very difficult to extend the social services needed to improve their living conditions and agricultural productivity. Political leaders of the time emphasized that independence only gave people the option to improve their lives, not a guarantee. If people wanted better for themselves and their children, they would have to be educated in order to understand their situation and participate in civic discourse.
Adult education was critical for the new nation. Adult education in the 60's and 70's emphasized self reliance, self development and community development. These programs taught literacy, numeracy, nutrition, hygiene, agricultural practices and national ambitions. Villages across Tanzania were encouraged to engage in their own development projects, roads, schools, and other infrastructure, but these efforts were highly uncoordinated. Adult education programs repeatedly addressed the need for increased agricultural productivity, and President Nyerere eventually cribbed his plan for Folk Development Colleges from the Swedish system of Folk High Schools.
In the 80's and 90's education policies shifted to focus on the growing demands of globalization and the needs of a modern society. In the late 90's, children and girls became increasingly important. Female literacy rates were correlated with other coveted social economic statistics, like lower mortality rates, and higher economic growth. Our own Saving Grace School ensures that young children and girls from impoverished families are given a quality education.
Saving Grace students aren't just taught academics, but social skills as well. Here we see two of our students learning to confidently show what they've learned.
Many of the challenges that plagued Tanzania after independence are still prevalent, and education is still seen as the key toward long-term, sustainable improvement. The current education policies focus on increasing teacher training standards, increasing total primary enrollment, increasing girls' primary school enrollment, and increasing secondary school graduation rates. Our Saving Grace Day and Boarding School focuses on younger students, and ensuring they have the foundational skills to succeed in secondary school. Many NGOs also emphasize the need for business, entrepreneurial and legal rights education so that women and men can build and maintain a diverse range of businesses and fully participate in civic discourse.
Here we see Saving Grace students practicing their writing.
Source: History and Development of Education in Tanzania :
Located on the east coast of the African continent, Tanzania is a picturesque country known for its national parks, multitude of wildlife species, and wonderful safari tours. The country boasts over 125 ethnic groups, most notably the nomadic Maasai people. English and Kiswahili are most commonly spoken, being the country’s official languages, but due to the multitude of ethnic groups inhabiting the country, over one hundred languages can be heard, many of them of Bantu origin.
Over 80% of Tanzania’s population are rural farmers. The majority of these farmers are “small holders” (subsistence farmers) who use manual labor and hand tools. Tanzania is pushing to modernize it’s agricultural industry to not only provide more food security for a growing population, but also to economically empower the impoverished rural population.
Education is highly valued in Tanzanian society; however, most individuals are only afforded the opportunity to attend primary school, which was recently mandated as a free service by the Tanzanian government. Despite the mandate, public school isn’t truly free: books, supplies, uniforms and school meals all have an associated fee. Many Tanzanian families struggle to afford these fees.
Our school, Saving Grace Day & Boarding School is located in Arusha. Arusha is a small urban center in northern Tanzania. The capital of the Arusha region, the city of Arusha is home to many governmental institutions all well as a large number of banks, schools, and businesses large and small. However, one of the largest income sources is tourism, due to its location near the Serengeti National Park, Olduvai Gorge, and Mount Kilimanjaro. Arusha is popularly known as “The Safari Capital” and has cultivated award winning safari parks. The Serengeti National Park is a great place to spot “The Big Five,” Elephants, Wildebeest, Zebras, Cheetahs & Lions. Olduvai Gorge is an important archaeological site home to some of the oldest human remains. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, by Geir Kiste
Area: 947,300 sq km
Life expectancy: 61.71 years
Median age: 17.5 years
Education expenditures: 6.2% of GDP (2010)
Literacy: 70.6% (approximately 75.9% for males, 65.4% for females)
School life expectancy: 9 years
15,816 primary schools in operation
Only 1% of the population aged 15 years old and above have post-secondary education.
Child labor: 21% children aged 5-14
Population below poverty line: 67.9%
Emma Hill is a technical writer who lives in Madison with her boyfriend and cat.
What do you do for BTF?
I help research & write blog articles, and I help feed the social media machine. I also helped with the African Eats cookbook. I recommend the ebook. Check it out here http://www.blurb.com/b/7687289-african-eats
How long have you been involved with BTF?
I’ve been involved since September 2016.
What do you like most about working with Brighter Tanzania?
I like being able to learn about an entirely new subject. I didn’t know much about Africa or Tanzania when I started, and it’s been great learning about another corner of the globe.
What’s one interesting fact about you?
I’ve travelled to 12 countries.
What’s one major accomplishment you’d like to see BTF achieve in the next year?
I would like to see a working vegetable garden, a coop of laying chickens, and perhaps a milk goat. Saving Grace has such young students, and their households don’t always have enough food. I think a veggie garden and eggs would benefit the students’ physical & cognitive growth. An expanded sponsorship program, or a variation might provide the funding needed to start and maintain a garden & animals.
How has working with BTF changed you?
Working with BTF has helped me become more aware of what I have, and to be grateful for the things that are too easy to take for granted. Saving Grace students and their families endure hardship and obstacles with hope and dignity. I hope that my efforts at BTF can at least indirectly help their children secure a better quality of life.
Have you met any of the Saving Grace students?
No, I have not meet any of the students. I love learning about them from Facebook, Felicia’s trips, and from emails with Grace.
Women in Tanzania are in the midst of a historic struggle. They demand land ownership.
Photo by maxpixel
While it’s legal for women to own land, only 20% of women do. It’s common for a woman to access land through a husband, father or brother. If the provider dies, the woman and her children risk being turned off their property by other relatives, or by governmental or corporate interests collecting land for agricultural development.
Traditional cultural attitudes, bureaucratic mismanagement, corporate corruption, and lack of sufficient rural education pose obstacles to women's ability to own land or defend their ownership to competing interests.
It’s common for land ownership to not be documented. This can make it hard for women (or rural farmers) to defend their property rights. Recently, USAID launched a pilot project to map geographic and demographic data using mobile phone technology. The program aims to help Tanzania’s authorities secure village land rights and speed up land rights registration. It remains to be seen it the program's initial successes can be applied throughout Tanzania. (1)
Owning land is a critical step in securing stable homes and business. Land ownership enables Tanzanian women can control what their farms grow and invest in modern farming methods.
Tanzanian farmers with small plots of land are threatened by large agricultural corporations. Local farmers are often uneducated about their land rights and are often unable to get bank loans to support their farms. Tanzanian women demand that laws be more protective of small farmers. They also want more land rights education and citizen participation so that small farmers can give "informed consent" when major corporations want to use their land.
The push for equitable application of land and inheritance laws is largely the result of two related forces:
1) the steady increase in adult education and women’s literacy and
2) women’s gradual economic empowerment.
Due to changing economic pressures, and increased access to education, more and more women are starting businesses. They have a stabilizing effect on their local economy by providing employment, selling to residents and buying from local vendors. Women who contribute to, or fully provide, the family's income have more power at home and are more likely to assert their political rights.
In Tanzania, inheritance laws and land use rights are especially contested. There are a number of discriminatory laws that prevent women from inheriting or owning property, and general ignorance of how to best make use of existing property laws. In the past few years, Tanzanian women have been agitating to change discriminatory laws and increase women's education of existing laws. When women are able to control their land, they are better able to feed their families and run a sustainable business. Educating women on land rights often has the effect of educating the whole community, as men and women will grapple with this threat to tradition and the potential for economic advancement.
These shifting attitudes on inheritance and property also enable defense for land use changes. In Tanzania, like much of East Africa, agriculture is king. Agriculture makes up a significant chunk of rural and national employment, and a significant chunk of the land used. Yet many of the farms are run by "smallholders", single families who use hand and animal labor to farm small amounts of land. It's very inefficient, but most of these farmers are too poor to buy modern equipment.
The Tanzanian government is faced with the difficult task of making the agricultural industry as efficient as possible. Their growing populations and fragile economy require it. But issues like corruption, poorly documented ownership, illiterate farmers, negative bias against herding communities, and speculative land grabs have made a fair redistribution of farming land almost impossible. Whole communities are sometimes forced off their land and under-compensated.
Yet communities that are educated on their civil rights and property rights can assert their rights.
If Tanzanian women succeed in securing their true property rights, they’ll have taken a major step toward alleviating poverty and social inequities in their communities.
Brighter Tanzania Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.
Phone: (608) 886-9160
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