How Can Reading Make a Difference in Tanzanian Education?
One of the most prominent challenges facing Tanzanian students is a lack of access. Especially in rural areas, communities lack access to textbooks, reading books, reference materials and technology needed to improve educational outcomes. UNICEF data shows that wealthy families are three times more likely to attend school than poor families. Students in rural regions also face difficulty getting to, and staying in, school. Even within the school-going population, fewer than 10% of primary students can read. Students with disabilities, physical or otherwise, are not accommodated and the schools themselves are underfunded. All of these barriers block students from having equal access to a quality education.
The Tanzanian government has made incredible strides toward providing all children with access to a quality education in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, many of those gains are lost as primary school enrollment has been steadily dropping since 2007. As the government works to create sustainable educational systems, there are other ways to support and improve the academic lives of Tanzanian children.
Reading as a Solution
Reading. As simple and mundane as it may seem, reading can address many issues students face, and it all begins at a very early age. Young children strengthen their imaginations and critical thinking skills through stories, developing curiosity along the way. Primary students who read for just 20 minutes a day are exposed to 1.8 million words per year and score in the 90th percentile on standardized exams (Nagy and Herman, 1987). Reading builds a robust vocabulary and understanding of language that creates powerful writers. If students have access to a variety of texts outside of school, the educational struggle can be mitigated.
Students that drop out of, or never attend, primary school might have a better chance at success with a regular reading routine and access to a free library. Hopeful secondary students might succeed at a higher rate if they, and their teachers, had a plethora of quality educational materials for use at school and at home. Literacy rates might drastically increase, improving enrollments and completion of school programs. Providing books can be a temporary solution to educational access. Reading alone will not replace a quality, universal education in Tanzania, but it will fill gaps and ensure opportunities for today’s students.
How Soma International Contributes
To assist in filling these gaps, Soma International is focused on building rural learning centers in Tanzania. There are currently two of these centers, located in Boko and Handeni, that offer local access to educational materials. As resources become available, Soma International furnishes these centers with textbooks, personal reading books and other educational materials for the community to use. At the Boko learning center, Anthony Medsen serves as the General Operations Manager, tutoring math and teaching English to those interested. Personal development workshops are also in the works.
Minimizing travel time and maximizing the resources available for students can help combat the educational issues currently facing Tanzania. In 2021, Soma International is focused on further furnishing the Boko and Handeni learning centers and breaking ground for two new centers. Whether it’s rural Tanzania or your own home community, join Soma International by supporting universal literacy through donations, advocacy, and personal action.
-Knowledge is boundless
Written by: Cara Stombock