Visiting a nursery in Africa gave me an insight into key principles of education that were very evident in a school situation that was very much more resource-sparse than our own. The Karibuni Nursery and the Utende Nursery are both supported by the Karibuni charity whose base in Mafia is the beautiful Mafia Island Lodge. As we now approach Christmas and are scraping the frost off the cars in the morning, the sun is still shining warmly in Mafia and school continues to run as normal. Buibwa greets the children and they both respect and adore her as their teacher.
Without the colourful and plentiful resources to adorn her classroom, it is plain to see that she is the most important learning resource and her relationship with her students is what makes it work.
The children were having fun with their teacher and learning at the same time. This was evident right from the early morning greeting as they assembled in the playground area before splitting into two groups to go into the classrooms. She sang with the children to help them engage with her and learn essential vocabulary and concepts about the body at the same time.
She would repeat this song, and others that she used frequently, as the day went on. She used every minute of class time profitably, even when distributing more work – her aim was to ensure that the children enjoyed coming to school as they learned the basic skills they would need for primary school. In Tanzania she also follows a specified curriculum that sets out what her children should know to prepare them for primary school at age 6. Buibwa’s success at inspiring her students and teaching them successfully with the limited resources she has available are a testament to her skill, hard work and commitment as a teacher.
The children hold their pencils with conventional tripartite pencil grips and learn to form their letters in a prescribed way to enable them to easily learn to join their writing later on. They take great pride in their work and enjoy their achievements. These are the universal principles of learning. Please watch this video clip right to the end – it will bring a massive smile to your face. This little toddler is meant to be in the younger nursery class across the playground; however, on two consecutive days that I visited he was motivated to escape to the other class to be with the teacher and join in the activities. His engagement and pleasure is evident. Buibwa achieves her aim for her children to enjoy school.