The COVID pivot: Education

In this post, Education Project Director Nikita Jha tells us about the adaptations she and the Education Project volunteer team have made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDI Education Project for 2020 was originally centred around three projects, two new ideas and a third building on a project from 2019–KomputHER. However the project has now been pivoted to take a more feasible, relevant and sustainable approach by shifting operations online. In doing that, it’ll be centred on two areas.

First, it will maintain the focus on KomputHER but will be geared towards digitising the content in the form of an app. The aim will be to lay the logistical foundations for this project by ideating on implementation, developing the content, building partnerships and securing the funding that will ease operations for future teams.

The second project strand is an awareness building campaign to increase parental engagement in children’s education, proposed in light of prolonged school closures during the spread of COVID-19. The primary medium for this campaign will be radio, which has a wide and diverse audience in Tanzania. The target for this project strand will be to conduct preliminary research on the current level of parental engagement with children’s education, and use the research results to design the campaign content.

Nikita and her team of volunteers have continued to work remotely with diligent application throughout the summer, and have laid an excellent foundation for the incoming Education Project co-directors and volunteers.

By Nikita Jha Education Project Director 2019/20

Nikita is a Postgraduate student at Newnham College.

A Summer in Review

Eight weeks ago, we started off as two organisations working on four projects and over the course of thirty-five working days, we end as a team – one team united in the shared commitment to deliver an equitable, prosperous, and sustainable future for all. There certainly have been challenges – it has at times been difficult, demanding, and draining. And while it might not have always seemed or felt this way, as we finish and reflect, it has without a doubt been an immensely rewarding summer.

Over our thirty-five project days:

  • Our Entrepreneurship Project ran nine seminars and one network event which had nearly fifty participants
  • Our Health Project ran three workshops in two schools on four different topics which all aimed to increase awareness of sexual and reproductive health amongst school girls
  • Our Education Project ran eight KompyutHer sessions which helped fourteen young women enhance their businesses and
  • Our WaSH Project connected twenty-one latrines to our simplified sewerage networks to provide access to safe sanitation for more than two hundred people in the informal settlement of Vingunguti.

And this is only part of what we’ve been able to accomplish this summer.

On behalf of CDI’s Executive Committee, I thank you all for doing a part – your part. Thank you to our volunteers, our Trustees, our partners, our donors, and our supporters – thank you for believing in us and in our work as we endeavour to re-imagine the world. I am proud of how far we have come and all that we have been able to do. But this doesn’t mean that we are done and that there isn’t more left to do. Your commitment begins again here and now. This is our charge to you all: (Continue to) Do your part as the hope of tomorrow and as the promise of today.

By Peter Lee FRAI, FRGS, FCPS Deputy Director 2018/19

Peter is an MPhil candidate in Social Anthropology at Corpus Christi College.

Meet the Education Project Director 2018/19

Hi! My name is Ke and I recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies. It was natural for me to join CDI as I have always been very interested in understanding development issues since I was an undergraduate. After gaining a technical background in development during my academic studying in Cambridge, I became more aware of the importance of human development such as discourses on gender equality in project implementation in the context of globalization. I believe the fundamental solutions lies in education: as famously quoted from the father of this concept H.G. Wells, “human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” This is the reason I am leading CDI’s Education Project this year, with a focus on introducing more dynamic teaching schemes to local primary and secondary schools aimed at tackling the established rote-learning issues. In addition to this, we plan to build an educational network for out-of-school girls to enable them more opportunities to thrive. 

The Education Project’s comprehensive portfolio includes initiatives such as the Think Big Challenge, Career Network Support, KompyutHER, Youth Empowerment Club, Emotional Wellbeing, Career Hub and English Club. After years of piloting various initiatives, we have gained invaluable operational data and know-how in carrying out these streams. This ensures our programmes’ constant improvement each year, with ever greater effectiveness and sustainability. For instance, in the case of the English Club, we have learned from the past that external voluntary organisations should not act heavily in teaching roles due to their limited local presence (CDI and KITE only operate for two months a year during the summer). With this in mind, in 2019, we will underpin the importance of an education system that develops students’ interests as an essential skill for both academic study and future employment. Hence, CDI’s Education Project 2019 will aim to generate a system solution at the root of the problems, which focuses on sparking the motivation and interests of both students and teachers. This will involve progressive activities in terms of the difficulties of English usage, from the storytelling of traditional Tanzanian stories in English to English drama competitions to debates in English, thus gradually leading to a higher commitment to studying English among students.

Working on the committee of CDI has been an ideal opportunity to learn how to lead a project, realise an intellectual blueprint through team working and practice my passion in a real-life context. The beauty of working with CDI is the first-hand experience gained of making an impact in this complex and uncertain world. As I arrived in Tanzania, I felt the relentless feeling of fighting on a battlefield – working out the ‘impossible’ while adapting cross-cultural differences quickly. Yet, I do not have even one moment of regret. On a daily basis, I enhance my skills in project management, problem-solving and conducting effective communication with the committee, external shareholders, local schools and authorities. It has been a second-to-none learning experience for me in how to be resilient individual and a team leader.

In a nutshell, CDI has been an amazing experience in so many ways. It’s the first step for me to understand the industry by leading a project. It continues to enrich my learning experience in the field of development and prepares me to take on more responsibilities in the future. More importantly, I believe I have made some lifelong friends in the team who are just as enthusiastic as me about making a concrete impact in the global community.

By Ke Zhang, Education Project Director 2018/19
Coco is an MPhil candidate in Development Studies at Lucy Cavendish College.

Education in Tanzania: The Future

By Sophie Wilson


Welcome to Part II of this post on Education in Tanzania. In Part I, I asked:-

What are the challenges currently faced within Tanzania’s Education sector?

I talked about the sector’s key challenges, with specific focus on gender, equity and access inequalities, graduate unemployment, education quality, resource constraints and emotional wellbeing.  

In Part II, my question will be:-

Which trends present future opportunities for Tanzania’s Education sector?  

How far should our expectations for the future of Education in the Global North be reflected in sub-Saharan Africa and Tanzania? To what extent is this future ‘digital’? Will the sector ‘leapfrog’ traditional developmental curves and start embracing the benefits of technological change immediately?


Population and connectivity growth

The global population is expected to exceed 9 billion in 2050, with half of this growth expected to occur in Africa, according to the 2015 UN World Population Prospects [1].

Combined with improved infant mortality rates, this growth will increase the under-15 population, which today stands at 41% of the total population of Africa. The 27 most under-developed countries in Africa will also produce some of the highest fertility rates [1].

Sub-Saharan Africa has the fastest-growing school-age population of any region in the world – for every 100 primary and secondary-age student in 2014, in 2030 there will be 138 and 148 respectively [2]. This will dramatically increase demand on existing educational resources.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 14.42.33

Caption: Students at Mlimani Primary School, 2018

Already, there is a deficit of trained teachers on the continent. UNESCO has estimated that 70% of countries in sub-Saharan Africa face serious teacher shortages across primary and secondary schools, with this figure rising to 90% when looking solely at secondary schools. As a result, 17 million teachers will need to be recruited by 2030 in order to achieve universal primary and secondary education [2].

Yet alongside this growth in demand, there will be huge leaps in connectivity. 453 million people in Africa already have access to the internet, 35% of the continental population. The majority of these are young people. 23 million internet users live in Tanzania [3].

Internet access is not yet entirely equitable. 70% of the rural African population have no access and broadband connection remains very low; ½ of the population live more than 25km from the nearest fibre connection [2]. Yet despite these challenges, connectivity presents a sizeable opportunity for online learning.


‘Blended’ learning and technological advancement

‘Blended’ learning pairs online and offline resources to create a multi-media educational environment. Internet connectivity is the gateway to a host of free, online learning resources such as Coursera, Google Books and Khan Academy, enabling access to high-quality content and increased choice. The internet is transforming all aspects of conventional learning, from instruction to mentoring, from submitting assignments to sitting an exam.

This on-demand access also allows students the flexibility to set their own schedule outside of the classroom.  In addition, ability-based, personalised learning tools can customise the pace of learning as appropriate. Technology could also ensure that examinations become more transparent and standardised [4].

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 14.42.41

Access to free online resources could enable students to learn at a personalised pace

In some areas of the Global North, advanced technology such as augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing and AI may soon be applied to the Education sector [1]. Whilst these trends are perhaps overly-futuristic expectations for Tanzanian students, they provide an exciting suggestion of the direction of the industry.  

However, the Global North will continue to invest in web-based services and platforms which are free, and require no more physical infrastructure than a connected device. Students in Tanzania will benefit from trends like gamification and ‘edutainment’, learning techniques which will become continually integrated into Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Yet whilst connectivity and device access in Tanzania is expected to increase at a significant rate, the use of the internet as a tool for enhancing learning has not yet been systematically integrated into the formal Education sector [5].  


M-learning and social media

The fastest-growing and second-largest mobile phone market in the world today is Africa – mobile phone use has increased from 5% in 2003 to 73% in 2014 [6]. Yet though there are 650 million phone owners on the continent, Africa also currently has the lowest mobile penetration rate, indicating that there is plenty of growth still to come [2] [6].

The ubiquity of mobile phones and increasing rates of connectivity have meant that mobile-supported education, or ‘m-learning’, is starting to support and transform traditional teaching methods.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 14.42.56

M-learning could radically transform traditional teaching methods

Mobile technologies can be used to distribute more up-to-date educational reading materials to students. They also facilitate interactivity; students can comment directly on content, or connect digitally with other readers to enable peer-to-peer learning [7]. Short lessons, multiple-choice tests and audio recordings can be communicated via text message, whilst smartphones enable instantaneous sharing of video-media files [6].

M-learning supports contextual, informal and ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning [7]. In combination with social media tools, this presents further possibilities. Social media usage is experiencing a dramatic rise on the continent; as of 2017, there were 177 million Facebook users in Africa [3]. In Tanzania, there are 6 million users [3].  

Already, social networking sites are being used by teachers to distribute resources and host discussions. Communities such as Studentscircle and Brainshare are providing students with communities for learning [7]. These virtual tools are invaluable for geographically dispersed students, as they allow them to access content and participate in discussions instantaneously.

Remote tutoring, improved teacher-parent communication and more efficient administration are amongst the additional possibilities of mobile-assisted education [7].


Redefining the classroom: a new infrastructure

The arrival of new digital technologies may come to ease constraints on infrastructure and staffing. The classroom, once the locus of curriculum delivery and student-teacher interaction, is being fundamentally redefined.

As online programs and virtual certification processes start to complement classroom-based learning, student participation will soon require just three core resources: a laptop, camera and Wi-Fi connection [1]. These could eventually reduce pressure on demand for textbooks, classrooms and teachers.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 14.43.03

CDI and Kite DSM’s 2018 initiative KompyutHER aims to teach practical computer skills to out-of-school girls

The blend of formal, informal and non-formal approaches and the requirement for youth to develop more entrepreneurial and contextual employment skills will ‘flip’ the traditional role of the classroom: theory will be learned outside and online through personal devices, whilst practical skills will be face-to-face, interactive and class-based [1].

The success of these approaches will depend on the continued adoption of new technologies and the commitment of teachers on adapting to these new approaches [1].


Reshaping school curricula and learning by ‘doing’

Equally, success will depend on the capacity of the Government of Tanzania (GoT) to adapt to these new changes. But the GoT must support transformation in content and curriculum, and promote technology as a means of learning. What is taught must be reshaped and re-defined.

Part I of this post called out skills mismatch amongst young Tanzanian graduates as a cause for concern. This reflects a trend in the changing demands of the job market; employers now seek graduates with strong problem-solving capabilities and social skills, who are entrepreneurially-minded and adaptable.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 14.43.14

Effects of noncognitive and cognitive skills on youth prospects [8] 

Relative to cognitive skills, social skills and extracurricular activities are becoming increasingly important indicators of earnings and employment prospects for graduates [8]. This trend is evident in Tanzania.

Alongside the ‘3Rs’, data interpretation, logic and reasoning are expected to become increasingly important skills [4]. Yet with access to MOOCs and online courses, and encouragement from teachers, students will increasingly be able to tailor their own learning and fill knowledge ‘gaps’.

Tanzania Institute of Education (TEA) has altered the secondary school curriculum to include new subjects such as computer literacy, unified science and social skills [9]. Tanzania’s Education Sector Development Plan for 2016/17 to 2020/21 also puts specific emphasis on technical and vocational learning. Emphasis on ‘experiential’ learning in the government’s strategy for education is a step in the right direction.

KompyutHER is an initiative launched in 2018 by the CDI and Kite DSM Education team. It aims to improve computer literacy amongst out-of-school girls, to improve their employability. This complements programmes such as She Codes for ChangeBuni DivazBRAC, and TechChix in Tanzania,  which aim to build coding skills amongst female youth [10].


‘Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will wake the world’ – Napoleon Bonaparte


China-Africa cooperation on Education is increasing. Less than 2,000 African students studied in China in 2003, increasing to 50,000 in 2015 [11]. For anglophone African students studying abroad, China has overtaken the UK and the US as the top destination of study.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 14.43.21

African student numbers in China have jumped in the last few years [11]

This reflects a new geopolitical dynamic taking place between Africa and China. According to Quartz Africa, “providing education to Africans is an extension of China’s soft power […] the experience that these students get in China can translate into a willingness to work with China and view China’s internal or external policies favourably in the future” [11].

For African students it represents affordable study, the chance to develop business connections and to learn the culture and language of a rising power.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 14.43.31

Top Sources of African Students in China [12]

Tanzania is now the third-largest source of African students studying in China [12]. Collaboration is also evident at the primary level – two modern primary schools were recently built on university campuses in Dar es Salaam at a cost of $3.2 million in 2016 [13]. In future years, it is likely that diplomatic ties with China will continue to shape Education in Tanzania.




CDI and Kite’s work in 2018 has tried to remain mindful of these growing trends, whilst directly tackling some of the problems faced by the sector, as explored in Part I.

Our initiatives in 2018 address a diverse range of issues, from emotional wellbeing amongst 16-18 year olds, to primary school students’ need to learn English; from low tech-literacy rates to the absent soft-skills and entrepreneurial training that older students require to thrive in the job market. You can find out more here.

Yet Part II perhaps indicates where CDI and Kite should look next. From m-learning and social media-assisted education to teacher training and integrating online resources into existing curricula, there are many potential areas for fruitful collaboration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on the challenges and opportunities of the Education sector in Tanzania. If you missed Part I, be sure to check it out!



[1] Eszter Polyák et al. 2017. The Future of Education. Geopolitika.

[2] Steve Vosloo. 2014. The future of education in Africa is mobile. BBC.

[3] Internet World Stats. 2017. Internet users statistics for Africa..

[4] Christiaan Henny. 2016. 9 Things That Will Shape The Future Of Education: What Learning Will Look Like In 20 Years? eLearning Industry.

[5] Yomi Kazeem. 2017. Mobile subscriptions are still growing faster in Sub Saharan Africa than anywhere else. Quartz Africa.

[6] Rohen d’Aiglepierre et al. 2017. Digital technology can help reinvent basic education in Africa. Quartz Africa.

[7] Steve Vosloo. 2014. The future of education in Africa is mobile. BBC.

[8] Ishwar Puri. 2018. Is the future of education learning by doing? World Economic Forum.

[9] Esther Kibakaya. 2017. When your skills are not relevant in the job market. The Citizen  

[10] Abdi Latif Dahir. 2018. How Tanzania is betting on coding to help close the gender gap in its tech sector. Quartz Africa.

[11] Victoria Breeze et al. 2017. China has overtaken the US and UK as the top destination for anglophone African students. Quartz Africa.

[12] China Power Team. 2017. Is China both a source and hub for international students? China Power.

[13] Xinhua. 2016. China builds schools in Tanzania as Sino-Africa ties deepen. Xinhua Net.


International Literacy Day: A Time to Reflect on Tanzania’s Education System

By Priyanka Varma

Today, September 8th, marks International Literacy Day, a day when we not only celebrate Tanzania’s accomplishments in achieving an 87 percent youth literacy rate[1], but when we also recognize and seek to address the barriers that Tanzania’s education system continues to face. Notable, amongst these challenges, is the fact that only three out of five Tanzanian adolescents, or 52 percent of the eligible school population, are enrolled in lower secondary school, with even fewer actually completing their secondary education.[2] While many factors can be attributed to limited secondary school participation amongst Tanzanian youth, language of instruction plays a large role in discouraging students from continuing their academic studies beyond primary school.


To elaborate, Kiswahili is widely used in East Africa and serves as the main form of communication in Tanzania. As such, Kiswahili is the language of instruction in primary government schools, with English serving as a supplemental language course for primary level students. Yet by secondary school, Tanzania’s language of instruction abruptly switches to English. Students, in turn, enter secondary school with low-levels of English knowledge and are then expected to learn fundamental subjects, such as mathematics, science, and social science, in their non-native language.[3] Without receiving the proper guidance necessary to help ease this linguistic transition, students are oftentimes forced to drop out of school, either before entering secondary school or once enrolled in secondary school, due to difficulties in learning.


This summer, as a volunteer with the Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI), I began observing this challenge while working with students at two secondary schools in the Ubungo District of Dar Es Salaam. I found that students, despite being immersed in an all-English secondary curriculum, struggled to converse with me and my teammates in basic English. Furthermore, despite “English Only” signs posted around both schools, teachers too oftentimes hesitated to speak in English with our team and naturally deferred to Kiswahili instead. These observations, in turn, caused me and my teammates to call into question the actual extent of English teaching and learning taking place in these secondary school classrooms.


Upon further research, we quickly realized that the reason that students in particular struggled with English spawned from their primary school days, when English was taught as a single course using limited vocabulary, and that too only from standard three onwards. Without the depth and breadth of English preparation in primary school, students entered secondary school with limited knowledge of the English language. In order to help address this issue, my teammates and I recognized our inability to actually change Tanzanian policy and practice, but we still sought to at least make a small-scale dent in local children’s schooling experiences. As such, this summer, our team piloted an English Club for a group of 40 standard five and six students at a local primary school in Dar’s Ubungo District. Using music, games, and activities, we taught students thematically-focused English vocabulary in a fun and interactive manner, with the intention of making English more appealing to the primary school children while also providing students with the vocabulary needed for succeeding in secondary school.


After positive feedback from both students and teachers on our initial English Club pilot, our team has decided to scale up this initiative: Next summer, we plan to design and implement a full English Club program at this primary school, with each session focusing on different academic themes (i.e., geography, chemistry, geometry) to provide students with the vocabulary relevant for their secondary school coursework. In doing so, we recognize that this issue is not an easy fix. However, we hope that our initiative can make a positive impact on local students, with future potential for scaling up across additional schools and sparking a broader movement in setting Tanzanian students up for longer term academic success.


So today, on International Literacy Day, we are reminded of the importance of education, particularly in Tanzania, a country which holds one of the world’s largest young populations.[4] We recognize that while great strides have been made to reach Tanzanian children and youth, much work remains, and our team of CDI volunteers hopes that we can make a positive difference in the lives of local students, whether it be in the form of English Clubs or other initiatives, this summer and in the summers to come.



[1] World Data Atlas (n.d.). United Republic of Tanzania: Youth Literacy Rate. Retrieved from:

[2] Human Rights Watch (2017). I had a dream to finish school. Barriers to secondary education in

Tanzania. ISBN: February 2017. Retrieved from:

[3] Telli, G. (2014). The language of instruction issue in Tanzania: Pertinent determining factors and perceptions of education stakeholders. Journal of Languages and Culture, Vol 5. No. 1, pp. 9-16. Retrieved from: httpt://

[4] Human Rights Watch (2017). I had a dream to finish school. Barriers to secondary education in

Tanzania. ISBN: February 2017. Retrieved from:

Education in Tanzania: The Challenges

By Sophie Wilson

Welcome to the first of a two-part post, in which I will be looking at the current state of Education in Tanzania. As volunteers, re-visiting this topic helps us to ensure our initiatives are relevant, well-targeted and addressing a genuine need.


In Part I, I will be asking:-

What are the challenges currently faced within Tanzania’s Education sector?


Whilst my question for Part II will be:-

Which trends present future opportunities for Tanzania’s Education sector?  


In 2007, Tanzania edged ever closer to the goal of achieving universal access to primary education. Moreover, in order to reflect its growing population, the government increased its spending commitment on Education by 55% between 2011 and 2016, as per 2015 recommendations by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [1].


Primary education enrolment rates peaked in 2009, but had dropped by ~20% by 2012. This was reflected in primary education completion rates. In a similar pattern, enrolment and completion rates for lower secondary education peaked in 2012 – at around 40% for both – before decreasing for a few consecutive years. However, projections for the future are positive [2].


Yet, despite these trajectories, there remain significant challenges within the Education sector in Tanzania, from ensuring equity and quality education to equipping students for entry into a rapidly-changing job market.


Gender parity, teenage pregnancy, early marriage and sexual harassment


Tanzania has achieved gender parity in enrolment for primary education. However, whilst girls are more likely to complete primary education, boys are more likely to transition to lower secondary education [2].


The context of this trend is that expectations for early marriage and pregnancy prevent girls from making the transition. In 2014, a quarter of 15-19-year-old Tanzanian girls were pregnant or had given birth, and a third of all girls were married by the age of 18 [3] [1]. In 2016, almost 3,700 girls dropped out of primary and secondary education due to adolescent pregnancy; it is, however, suspected that this is a “vast underestimate” [1] [3].



School attendance for girls in primary school, such as this student at Mlimani Primary School, is high; but drops at the lower secondary school level


This trend is reinforced by compulsory pregnancy tests in schools. Although not required by law, school rules state that students may be expelled for “offences against morality” [3].


These issues also disproportionately affect girls from less advantaged backgrounds, who are twice as likely to be married at an early age than girls from middle- to higher-income homes [1]. Girls from poor families are also less likely to re-enter education through vocational training or private tuition, which most cannot afford [3].


Girls are also vulnerable as they travel to and from school. They are at risk of physical and sexual abuse, which deters school attendance [4]. If the distance between home and school is too far for daily travel, girls are often forced to rent rooms in temporary accommodation, known as the “ghettos”, which further increases their vulnerability to abuse [4].


Equity and access for all


In this way, ingrained cultural and societal prejudices create significant issues of equity and access for Tanzanian girls, particularly at and above the secondary school level.


These issues affect other marginalised groups, too. An estimated two million children aged 7-13 are out-of-school in Tanzania, many of them from poor families. Primary school-aged children from the poorest families are three times less likely to attend school than those from wealthier families [1].


There is also an issue with retaining students after primary education. The majority of youths aged 14-17 years in Tanzania are not enrolled in secondary school at all, whilst only 3.2% enrol for the final two years [1].


Students with a mental or physical impairment also fare badly. Whilst it is estimated that 7.9% of Tanzanians are living with a disability, less than 1% of children in school have one [1]. In Tanzania, there is currently no system for the identification or assessment of children with disabilities, or means of responding to their needs. For those students who do enrol, attendance is irregular. These students also face a higher risk of abuse.


Youth unemployment and skills mismatch


Youth unemployment in Tanzania is estimated at between 10-15% and observers have commentated that universities could do more to adequately prepare students for the demands of the 21st century workplace [5]. There are two common explanations for why students are struggling to succeed in the job market. The first is that “financial, human capital and infrastructure constraints have a negative impact on the range and quality of skills students graduate with” [6]. The second is that there is a disparity between what is taught in schools and universities and the skills now demanded by the job market.



CDI and Kite DSM, in partnership with local NGO Bridge for Change, run a careers support scheme for school leavers called Career Hub


Proactive, skills-based learning techniques should be promoted over outdated practices such as rote-memorisation, at all levels of the Education system. This is because employers are now seeking graduates who are entrepreneurially-minded, have analytical and problem-solving capabilities, and can successfully integrate into rapidly-changing working environments.


In response to the need to teach more soft skills in school curricula, the Tanzania Institute of Education (TEA) has altered the secondary school curriculum to include new subjects such as computer literacy, unified science and social skills [7]. This is a step in the right direction, but there is still a significant gap to close.


Education quality and resource constraints


Whilst soft skills may be difficult to measure, students’ numeracy and literacy skills are somewhat easier to track. Yet, in Tanzania, children who attend school do not achieve satisfactory foundational learning outcomes [1]. These are critical for establishing a positive trajectory of future performance. According to a study of primary school leaving examinations in 2014, only 8% of Grade 2 students could read sufficiently well and only 8% could add and subtract. A mere 0.1% demonstrated high levels of “life skills” such as those referred to above – skills like self-confidence and perseverance, which play a significant role in whether or not a candidate can navigate the job market successfully [1].



Primary school leaving examinations show low performance in the ‘3Rs’


Increasingly in Tanzania, students are graduating from secondary school without mastering the ‘3Rs’ – reading, writing and arithmetic. In 1986, the literacy rate was 90%, whilst in 2017 it had fallen to 68%. For youth aged 15-24, the rate is 76% for males and 73% for females [8]. This indicates that the focus on enrolment as a government priority may have been pursued to the detriment of high quality teaching.


Resource constraint is also a challenge. At the pre-primary level, the pupil-to-qualified-teacher ratio is 131:1. The ratio is skewed by a 24:1 ratio in private schools, however – in the public schools, it is an astonishing 169:1 [1].


But this is a problem that permeates the Education sector right up to the tertiary level; over-recruitment into universities – or the issue of too many students and too little money – is a common state of affairs across the continent [9].


Enrolment rates in lower secondary education have improved dramatically since 2005, although they lag behind those for primary education [2]. This could be due to the fact that instruction shifts from Swahili to English as students transition into secondary school. This presents a challenge for students with low exposure to English in their early years or insufficient teaching during primary school. One of the Cambridge Development Initiative’s (CDI) pilot projects this year on the Education Team is to introduce an English Club for primary school students, so that they can improve their level of English in preparation for the Primary School Leaving Examination, which determines their entrance into secondary school.



CDI and Kite DSM’s 2018 English Club pilot at Mlimani Primary School, Dar es Salaam


Embracing technological change and new teaching styles


The quality and effectiveness of Education in Tanzania must also adapt to rapid technological advancement. With ‘DIY’, free-to-use teaching mechanisms becoming increasingly available online and via mobile, conventional teaching must adapt to remain relevant and, better still, integrate fully with these new tools so that students can access the benefits of e-learning. There will be more about e-learning in Part II of this blog post.


In the words of Stavros Yiannouka, the CEO of the World Innovation Summit for Education, the “traditional industrial model of education” in Tanzania resembles a “standardized batch process… in terms of cohorts, years, process [and] standardised curriculum” [10]. Traditional conservatism must give way to new models of learning and attitudes amongst teachers which embrace change.


Student welfare, emotional wellbeing and corporal punishment


This year, CDI Education have piloted a new initiative with the Health team and Aga Khan University, to conduct research and address emotional wellbeing amongst secondary school students in Dar es Salaam. Mental health is under-serviced in Tanzania and remains a largely neglected and taboo topic. It poses a socio-economic challenge for Development, and is an important component of any individual’s well-being [11]. There is lack of sufficient recourse for psychological distress for sufferers in Tanzania, who turn to traditional healers and faith healers 80% of the time [12]. Adolescents and youth are at higher risk of mental health-related issues and failure to address them can result in poor academic achievement [13].



Adolescents are at higher risk of suffering from mental health-related issues


Visits to secondary schools in Dar es Salaam by the Education Team have also revealed the ubiquity of corporal punishment in schools, which is not prohibited in Tanzania. Students are caned or beaten for many different reasons, such as failure to answer questions correctly or for being late to school. Incorrectly spoken English is also punished, which discourages children from developing proficiency in the language. Corporal punishment in Tanzania also regularly exceeds stipulated guidelines – a 2014 study by the African Child Policy Forum concluded that the “frequency of abuse by teachers… is alarmingly high” and, indeed, personal experience of witnessing long lines of students waiting outside the staff room to receive punishment testifies to this [14].


Corporal punishment is detrimental to students’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and also significantly impacts their behaviour, ability to learn and self-confidence. These are critical factors in determining whether a student will stay in school and thrive, or drop out altogether.


This year, the CDI Education Team have designed initiatives intended to address a diverse range of issues, from emotional wellbeing amongst 16-18 year olds, to primary school students’ need to learn English; from low computer literacy rates amongst out-of-school girls to the absent soft-skills and entrepreneurial training that older students require to thrive in the job market.


We hope that our work with CDI will make a small impact towards improving the issues currently faced by the Education system in Tanzania. You can find out more about our 2018 initiatives by visiting the CDI Education website.


I hope you will join me for Part II of this post, where I consider what trends are shaping the Education sector and how these might present opportunities for students in the future.



Primary school students during break-time at Mlimani Primary School




[1] UNICEF Tanzania. 2018. Education: The Situation.

[2] Education Policy and Data Centre. 2018. EPDC Education Trends and Projections 2000-2025.

[3] Editorial. 2018. The War on Conception: In Tanzania, getting impregnated also means getting expelled from school. The Economist.

[4] David Baines. 2013. Education for a Better Future in Tanzania. African Initiatives.

[5] Amy Fallon. 2017. East Africa’s teeming youth are in a race to acquire skills for a job market that’s left many behind. Quartz Africa.

[6] Seth Trudeau. 2017. Africa’s universities are not preparing graduates for the 21st century workplace. Quartz Africa.

[7] Esther Kibakaya. 2017. When your skills are not relevant in the job market. The Citizen.

[8] Mwesiga Baregu. 2017. Worrying trends of education in Tanzania as illiteracy expands. The Citizen.

[9] Editorial. 2017. More can be less: African universities recruit too many students. The Economist.

[10] Christin Roby. 2018. 5 ways to Innovate Education in Africa. Devex.

[11] Anu Molarius et. al. 2009. Mental health symptoms in relation to socio-economic conditions and lifestyle factors – a population-based study in Sweden. BMC Public Health. 9:302.

[12] The United Republic of Tanzania, & Ministry of Health, Community, Development, Gender, Elderly and Children. 2017. The National Health Policy 2017.

[13] WHO. 2017. Adolescents and mental health.

[14]  African Child Policy Forum. 2014. The African Report on Violence Against Children.



It’s Time to Think Big!

By Jackline Christopher (KITE Dar es Salaam) and Sophie Wilson (CDI), Heads of Publicity and Stakeholder Engagement for the Education Project.


Students at the ‘Think Big Challenge’ Launch Event on 25th August at Ardhi University

On Saturday 25th September the ‘Think Big Challenge’ was formally launched, giving rise to the start of an exciting competition, which challenges students to create, plan, develop and implement initiatives to tackle problems within their schools and communities. Approximately 60-70 students from five secondary schools (Kisutu, Azania, Gerezani, Jangwani and Dar es Salaam Secondary School) will attend weekly Saturday workshops at Ardhi University to help them develop their ideas.

At the launch of the Challenge, we were delighted to hear from guest speakers Ocheck Msuva, Director of Bridge for Change, Cleopa David Msuya, Vice Chancellor of Ardhi University, and David Leonce Ndika and Glory Adrian Nyengella, Director and Deputy Director respectively of KITE Dar es Salaam. These speakers spoke on topics intended to inspire the youth participants.


Scenes from the Launch

Last year’s winners, ‘The Genius Group’, who are now ‘Think Big Challenge’ Alumni were also present as speakers. They shared their experiences and the issues they faced when they were participating in the challenge. They encouraged the students not to give up and to build on their personal strengths.

Also in attendance were papers Mwanachi and The Citizen, who wrote about the ‘Career Network Support’ scheme in print editions on 28th August 2018.

Immediately after the launch came the first workshop, which was filled with numerous playful ‘ice-breakers’ to kick-off the competition, which will run until the ‘Dream Sharing Event’ on 15th September 2018.


A Day in the Life of an Education Publicity and Stakeholder Engagement Volunteer

By Sophie Wilson, Education Project Volunteer


This summer I am volunteering with CDI on the Education Team as Publicity and Stakeholder Engagement Officer, alongside my counterpart from Kite DSM, Jackline Christopher. I decided to join CDI as, having recently completed my MPhil in Development Studies at Cambridge, I wanted an opportunity to apply what I had learned in a more practical context. Our role involves communicating with our stakeholders about the project through the website, a project newsletter, social media channels and blogs. It is also our job to promote what we are doing with local media companies here in Tanzania.

On Tuesday 14th 2018 Jackline and I set out to talk to media companies in Dar es Salaam. Our aim was to promote the upcoming launch of the Education Project’s Think Big Challenge at Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam on Saturday 25th August, and to discuss how potential media partners could become involved. Having previously emailed and called a dozen companies to no avail, we decided to take matters into our own hands and try to deliver some physical copies of our media information sheet and invitation letter. I hope this blog also provides a bit of insight into what life is like as a CDI volunteer!

8.00am – Woke up and found something formal to wear and which would counterbalance the informality of my flip-flops.

8.30am – Breakfast! This morning I had a chapatti with lemon and sugar and also a mango from Mwenge market, washed down with an avocado juice and a malaria tablet. Mango season is almost over so we considered ourselves pretty lucky to have found these at the weekend!

9.00am – We walked over to the lecture block, where the Education Team works together in one of the classrooms. Whilst waiting for copies of our letter to print, I put the finishing touches to a blog post for the Central Committee and sent out our latest newsletter to our project stakeholders.

10.00am – We were ready to go. We bought some envelopes from the university stationary store, and then head out to our first company via the local bus (dala-dala).

10.45pm – The first stop was the ITV and EATV offices. We pitched our project to the security guard and left the letter with him.


Our first stop was ITV and EATV

10.50am – We then crossed the road and tried The Guardian Tanzania and Nipashe newspapers. The first security guard took a liking to us, seemingly delighted by a Swahili phrase Jackline had taught me that morning – nimefurahi kukufahamu, a tongue-twister which means pleased to meet you. Floundering at further Swahili attempts, I was relieved when it appeared we were through to level two.



The Guardian Tanzania and Nipashe were next

After a second security guard conversation and a chat with the secretary, we were whisked through to the news room of The Guardian, where we met Mdm. Mngumi, a senior editor. She seemed enthusiastic about running a feature in the newspaper about our event. It was a quick conversation and we left the building feeling like we had met a celebrity in a VIP lounge.


At The Guardian Tanzania we met senior editor Mdm. Mngumi

11.30am – Buoyed by this success, we set off for BBC Swahili. The BBC offices were pretty swanky and high-tech. We were put in touch with news editor Aboubakar Famau and met him in the radio recording studio. Reclining in an ergonomic chair, Mr. Famau brainstormed a potential approach to covering the event. He mentioned hosting a radio “disco” – this is radio lingo for “discussion” – with a selection of students participating in the Think Big Challenge to discuss their initiatives. We were a bit more nervous for this meeting but pretty happy with the outcome!


We then found ourselves in the studio with BBC Swahili News Editor Aboubakar Famau

12.00pm – Next up was Clouds TV. We didn’t have any luck meeting an editor but we had a pretty in-depth chat about the Think Big Challenge with the receptionist, who was very interested in our event, and met a photographer who snapped a couple of pictures of us in the office.


Next up was a trip to TVE then on to Clouds TV

12.30pm – After Clouds TV, we visited TVE. We only seemed to get as far as security this time and left the office minutes after arriving. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, we had a change of heart and decided to try and ask one more time. We met another security guard who asked one of us to follow him – I waited in the waiting room whilst Jackline set off to deliver our pitch in Swahili. After 40 minutes, she emerged victorious. The Editor she met was very interested in our programme and was keen to collaborate.

We went back to TVE a few days later and they expressed interest in running news updates on our Think Big Challenge and Dream Sharing Event. They even wanted to feature our initiatives as part of a programme they were making about education in Tanzania. Result!

1.30pm – After TVE we had a rather long dala-dala ride to the next company. We finally made it to Azam TV, but only reached the receptionist stage.


Dropping letters off at Azam TV

2.20pm – After a 15 minute walk, we reached the next set of companies, grouped under Mwananchi Communications. As well as Mwananchi newspaper, the company also owns a paper called The Citizen. I really liked the citizen, having read an interesting article by them the day before on the importance of teaching entrepreneurial skills in schools – so was excited to be at their offices.


We finished the day with a trip to Mwanachi and The Citizen Newspapers

3.45pm – We were finally done with the day’s visits! We took the dala-dala back to base camp but on the way, stopped off for some food. It was chapatti with chicken (kuku) and noodles in a delicious sauce (makange). So delicious!


We finished the day with a delicious (late!) lunch

6.00pm – Having finished the daily project briefing and wound down for the day, it was time for choir practice. We’re working on a Swahili song called “Baba Yetu” for the Kite DSM Annual Fundraising Dinner in September. Having eaten a huge meal so late, I skipped dinner and headed back to the room – quite a departure from the normal evening routine of a street food dinner followed by a game of Bananagrams in the canteen!

9.00pm – At the moment I’m stumbling through Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, a book I’ve always wanted to read but which takes more than ordinary levels of concentration. This, in combination with a busy day, sent me off to sleep under my mosquito net in 10 short minutes.


Meet the KompyutHer Programme Officer!

By Aditi Arora, Education Project Volunteer

One of my fundamental motivations for volunteering in the Education team with CDI this summer was to be actively involved in improving women’s access to education in Tanzania. Until recently, Tanzania was listed as having one of the lowest rates of enrolments in secondary education in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In particular, indicators examining various facets of development suggest that women and girls in Tanzania remain amongst the most marginalised individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa. To this extent it is clear that women’s education is in desperate need of improvement in Tanzania, and I could not wait to dedicate my summer to implement a programme that would seek to improve women’s access to education in Dar es Salaam.

I am the UK KompyutHer programme officer this year and my role this summer is to expand the initiative from initial one-day pilot last summer, to a full-blown programme incorporating workshops lasting six weeks.

Our objectives for KompyutHer this summer are as follows:

  1. To encourage girls to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects at higher education level
  2. Increase the confidence of the girls, equipping them with skills for their futures
  3. To ensure that over the course of the scheme each candidate (100%) will compose a CV in a document format.

I have been liaising with my counterpart Geofrey throughout the year in order to design the curriculum for this year’s KompyutHer programme. Ultimately we decided that each of the six sessions would consist of a different theme and target a different aspect of the computer (e.g. computer components, Microsoft Office etc.). We held a needs assessment morning within our first working week in order to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of the participants and integrate their insightful feedback into the content and design of the curriculum.

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 17.21.41.png

The first workshop!

After many months of skype calls, emails and word docs, on Wednesday 8th August, the first KompyutHer workshop finally took place! It was a hectic yet an exhilarating day co-ordinating various logistical matters and ensuring that the workshop was running on time whilst covering all content was covered. Above all, it was a truly rewarding experience to watch months of hard work of curriculum design and logistics planning spring to life!

Although my efforts to learn Swahili has meant that I am able to sustain conversations on an individual basis or in small groups, I definitely am not proficient in Swahili to be able to teach and answering questions in the language. Although I’m pretty talkative, I dread public speaking and get very nervous presenting to a large audience. Fortunately, Geofrey is a talented public speaker and confidently led the first session in Swahili (and intermittently translating for me!). Meanwhile, I assisted participants with using the computers and led icebreaker activities. What a dream team! During the session I conducted observations for each participant and this truly allowed me to reflect on the kinds of the theoretical material that I learned in my Masters, which was a lovely way to finish my year in Cambridge.

For me the most rewarding part of the day was ultimately having the opportunity to meet the young women who were opting to carve time out of their days to participate in our workshops. These young women – some of whom were mothers – were actively choosing to engage in informal education despite their various familial duties and cultural expectations. These 25 young women filled me with hope that the plight of women’s education in Tanzania can truly improve. This experience also served as a reminder to me that ambition is ultimately the seed that prospers into the flower of success – and most importantly, that ambition is genderless.

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 17.22.55.png

I hope I can continue to learn as much from these women as they learn from me in the workshops!

Looking forward to the next session!

Career Network Support: Still Worthwhile?

By Sophie Wilson, CDI Education Volunteer, 2018

This year, one of the Education team’s major initiatives will be to continue the Career Network Support (CNS) scheme. CNS consists of different workshop series and an entrepreneurial competition, intended to help secondary-school students in Dar es Salaam develop the soft skills highly valued by Tanzanian employers. The CNS cycle has evolved under the custodianship of the Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI) and Kite DSM over the past three years. CNS is front of everyone’s minds this week, as we ramp up preparations for the launch of 2018’s Think Big Challenge on 25th August.

It’s a fitting occasion to talk about CNS and I wanted to write this post for three reasons; i. to evaluate the relevance of the need being addressed, within the wider context of education and employment in Tanzania, ii. to clarify what CNS is and see how it addresses this need, and iii. to evaluate its impact.


The shift from content to competence

Skills mismatch in Sub-Saharan Africa is partially contributing to the region’s unemployment rate, which stood at 7.2% in 2017 [1]. Youth unemployment in Tanzania is estimated between 10-15% [2]. Many youth who enter the job market at times do not have the necessary practical skills to flourish. In response to the need for students to develop more analytical and market-oriented skills, the Tanzania Institute of Education (TEA) has made significant changes to the secondary school curriculum, including the introduction of new subjects such as computer literacy, unified science and social skills; actions which reflect a general shift in focus from content to competence [3].

However, the uptake of graduates into government and private sector jobs in Tanzania remains low. Many observers attribute this to the lack of participatory teaching and soft skills in school curricula, which would enable students to engage more critically with what they are taught. Analytical and problem-solving skills are not actively taught in schools; nor is career counselling common [3].


Figure 1: Bo Peabody writes that entrepreneurs like Richard Branson tend to be ‘B’ students; instead of acing one skill in particular, they are good at a variety of things [4].

There is a clear and persistent need for proactive, skills-based learning over age-old techniques such as rote-memorisation in Tanzanian secondary schools. This reflects not only national and regional shifts in job market demand, but wider global transformation. The cheap and low-skilled labour once the source of competitive advantage in East Asian economies has been superseded by automation. Now, non-cognitive and socio-emotional skills are in demand. Yet many students continue to believe that what they are taught in the classroom adequately reflects the requirements of the job market [3].

Creating the context for success

The CNS initiative tries to address this challenge by simulating an environment in which students can develop such skills, particularly entrepreneurial thinking. These skills are best taught in context, and it is hoped that the opportunity to practice them will improve students’ confidence to succeed.

But before we can proceed any further, what actually is CNS?

Newbies to the Education team often need the 101 on this topic. Although you can peruse the components of the initiative in more detail here, I’ve tried to condense it down into a graphic, so as to distil the key features of CNS.


Figure 2: The Career Network Support (CNS) initiative, deconstructed

Our 2018 volunteers will be involved with all stages of the CNS cycle, organising the launch of the Think Big Challenge and Dream Sharing Event as our major summer events. In order to enable students to capture the full benefits, consistency is key; Youth Empowerment Clubs (YECs) will therefore also be implemented in the schools and continue throughout the year, so that students have a chance to use their new skills, as well as to develop and grow them.

As CDI is staffed with student volunteers from Cambridge University, the CDI model is constrained by the factors of committee turnover on an annual basis and a low on-the-ground presence of volunteers in Tanzania for the majority of the year. For this reason, the model of CDI and our partner organisation Kite DSM is to generate, pilot, test and launch initiatives during 8-week summer seasons, then to find suitable local handover partners so that the initiatives can be sustained.

Get ready for another acronym. In the case of CNS, our partner is Bridge for Change (BFC), a local NGO based in Dar es Salaam. BFC ensures that student participants in CNS receive ongoing mentorship and oversight as they implement their initiatives. BFC also ensures that the CNS cycle is renewed annually and that the impact of YECs is monitored over the course of the year [5]. Soon, CDI and Kite DSM will transition full responsibility for CNS to BFC.

A programme with two outcomes

CNS generates two distinct outcomes. First, there are the unique initiatives developed within the Think Big Challenge. In previous years, these have ranged from transforming waste litter into fuel, to setting up a study area; from teaching English to younger students, to making their own cleaning equipment; from educating the community about the importance of girls’ education to setting up a secret society to enforce school security. Whilst these initiatives are not tracked by CDI and Kite DSM’s monitoring and evaluation teams, the YECs support students in sustaining their initiatives beyond the summer.

Second, there is the impact on participants themselves. Uplift in five key skills is tracked by the Education team – leadership, presentation, teamwork, confidence and problem-solving. Last year, interviews held mid-way through the challenge with focus group participants showed that these are front of mind for students at the start and end of CNS [6].


Figure 3: Mid-CNS cycle interviews with students in 2017, represented as a word cloud

In 2016, self-evaluation assessments conducted by CDI indicated that students’ ability to work collaboratively, feel confident in their own ideas and critically evaluate an idea increased as a result of CNS. They also reported feeling better able to maintain enthusiasm over an extended project period; something they rarely had exposure to within the regular school curriculum [5].

Doing things differently

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman has written about the need for students to remain “innovation-ready” [4]. With this and the Education team’s overall vision in mind, CNS’ core goal is to ensure that students leave school better prepared for employment. The scheme creates an environment for students to think more experimentally without fear of failure or punishment; a very real concern in an environment where caning is normal and ubiquitous. As we gear up to our launch on Saturday, we remain mindful of the importance, and very real need, for helping students learn how to become more entrepreneurially-minded. After all, as Albert Einstein said, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”.



[1] International Labour Organisation (ILO). 2017. World Employment Social Outlook Trends Report.—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_541211.pdf

[2] Amy Fallon. 2017. East Africa’s teeming youth are in a race to acquire skills for a job market that’s left many behind. Quartz Africa.

[3] Esther Kibakaya. 2017. When your skills are not relevant in the job market. The Citizen.

[4] Florida Rodov and Sabrina Truong. 2015. Why schools should teach entrepreneurship. Entrepreneur.

[5] CDI Education Project. 2016. Monitoring and Evaluation Report.

[6] CDI Education Project, 2017. Monitoring and Evaluation Report.