Strengthening Teaching aAnd Raising Achievement iIn Pre-Primary And Primary Schools (STRAPPS) is a 16-month project after a pilot phase in 2016. STRAPPS was implemented in six schools of Kitangari and Muungano wards in Newala, Mtwara region. The schools are Kitangari B, Muungano, Mnali, Mpotola, Nanda and Mning’aliye.
STRAPPS focused on strengthening teaching and raising achievements in pre-primary and primary schools in Newala District. The project followed a holistic approach that involved responsive schools, communities, teachers and government officials working together to positively impact education. Resulting to students attending school more regularly, students getting food at school, staying in school longer, earning higher grades, and thereby progressing to the next stage of their education.
Professional development for teachers, education managers and officers: In strengthening teaching for the purpose of raising academic achievement one can not ignore professional development since educators are the key agents of change in academic matters. Thus the project designed tailor made short courses such as Educational Leadership and Management, Teaching, Learning & Assessment (TLA), Mentoring & Peer Coaching, Parental and Community Engagement,and Inclusive Education, Gender in Teaching and Learning, Material Development and Use & Interactive Pedagogies and Numeracy.
Action research: An action research was carried out to explore the existing community support structures in the provision of Early Childhood Education with a view of establishing strategies that enabled parents and the community to support their children to develop literacy and numeracy skills in their early years. The study brought out the challenges and opportunities of engaging parents to support the delivery of quality early years education. Generally, the study contributed to an understanding of the landscape of community engagement to support the development of literacy and numeracy skills in Newala district.
Community Engagement: STRAPPS had a community engagement aspect using different methods to increase community awareness and participation in education and engaging with the wider communities within the wards. The said methods are stipulated below,
The use of comic magazine: The magazine released 3 issues of 2000 copies that were dsitributed freely to Kitangari and Muungano wards community members. The messages in Kingo stories were simple and effective education messages that were made available to community members including parents and children. This messaging incorporated educational information campaigns, with a strong focus on gender issues. In addition, community workshops were conducted stressing on the various messages from the magazines.
The use of Theater Troupe: A theater group from Newala was used in conveying messages to the community on the importance of participating in their children’s learning both at schools and home and support institutional structures such as school management committees, addressing the capacity issues posed by the non-remuneration of para-professional teachers (whilst honoring the right to fee-free education) and contributing to a conducive overall learning environment. The use of theatre arts groups influenced parents in all six schools had overriding impact for the mobilization of the communities towards quality education.
Introduction of Reading Clubs: STRAPPS introduced Reading Clubs to all the six project schools with the aim of addressing the poor reading culture concern and bridging the gap between interest in reading and academic outcome. The schools’ head teachers, classroom teachers and parent representatives received an detailed overview of the purpose and structure of the clubs, The clubs had a specific structure which supported physical development, numeracy and literacy skills while at the same time lured young learners to the world of books. There were specific club activities, which called for commitment, cooperation and collaboration among teachers, parents and\or community members and children\learners. The activities were: Initial Assembly, Free play, Story telling, Reading and Final assembly.
STRAPPS through capacity building to teachers, education officials and parents and community engagement achieved:
Strengthening of the already established school feeding program in the project schools and establishment of feeding programs in some school which did not have feeding programs
STRAPPS project has changed the community in their attitudes towards education. Every school in the community is willing to invest and contribute in cash and in kind towards learning in Pre-Primary and STD 1 – II school children. Indeed, there was the involvement of parents to volunteer cooking at schools and the communities to identify and employ teachers in early childhood education as well as having inclusion and identifying children with special needs
Purchase of a photocopy machine in one of the project schools
Building of new latrines and renovating dilapidated latrines
The impact of teachers being confident and being able to communicate with their leaders in solving their challenges when compared with other wards and in other districts
Hiring pre-primary teachers
Development of teaching and learning materials
The capacity of the Faculty members of the Kitangali Teachers’ Training College were enhanced as the college was involved in all the stages of the STRAPPS Project. They gained skills in facilitation and mentoring by working with the AKU-IED Faculty along with the Professional Development Tutors who are alumni of the Aga Khan University
Establishment of reading clubs
Building of pre-primary classes
One of the school becoming role model school with the district and awarded a motorbike
Improving standard 7 National examination results, in 2017 & 2018; Kitangari B became the first school in the district and region and brought best out the best student in the region
The cooperation between the school, the school community, the District authorities, the Regional Leadership and Ministries of Education, Science and Technology; and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Administration was enhanced as evidenced in the full participation of every party in the STRAPPS Project
Like in the book of Charles Dickens, where the main character Oliver Twist asked for more, the communities around the project schools are asking for more presence of STRAPPS via AKU-IED in strengthening teaching and raising the achievements in Pre and Primary schools. This was well framed in the speech by the Guest of Honour where the desire and the need for the continuation of AKU-IED, this being an authentic request.