Child Support Tanzania

Child Support Tanzania (CST) provides inclusive early year’s education to the most vulnerable children in the township of Mbeya, in Southwest Tanzania.


 Many children and families in Mbeya are living in poverty, often exacerbated by disability, HIV/AIDS and high mortality rates. Here, services for disabled children are severely lacking and poorly resourced. Although primary education is free in Tanzania, disabled students often do not develop the basic early learning skills needed to succeed in this environment. CST provides inclusive ECE for children living in extreme poverty and those with disabilities or complex health needs to ensure they receive critical foundation skills needed to succeed in mainstream primary school. CST brings early childhood education (ECE ) and inclusion to an area where such a service has not previously been available and where the students it reaches would otherwise have no formal early educational opportunities. It is the only centre of its kind within a 1000 mile radius.

CST also supports and empowers parents through its parent support group and uses a Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) approach to reach out to the community, mobilising them to support CST’s activities and help challenge the barriers in society faced by their disabled students. CST currently serves approximately 120 children, including those with physical, hearing and vision impairments and learning difficulties.

  CST has been a partner of AbleChildAfrica since 2007 and a locally registered NGO since 2008. With our support, CST has grown significantly over the last few years and now serves children with hearing and visual impairments, learning difficulties and physical challenges. AbleChildAfrica guided CST through the registration process, in establishing their governance board and in the development of their first five year strategic plan (2013-2017), entitled ‘Children First’.  Last year AbleChildAfrica facilitated a financial management training course for the Executive Director and Finance Director and facilitated a leadership and governance workshop for Senior Management and key Board members. Our organisational development support to CST has allowed them to look inward and focus on the development of structures that mean CST can continually improve the services they offer to children and families. In recent years, enrolment has increased, teachers, staff and Trustees have received invaluable training and the Parent Support Group has grown.  In the coming year AbleChildAfrica will support CST in the development and implementation of fundraising strategy, mapped to their overall strategy.

 A 2010 report states “being disabled (in Tanzania) doubles the probability that a child will never attend school”.  In 2013, only 33% of all children in Tanzania were accessing pre-primary education, yet research demonstrates the benefit of early intervention on long term educational outcomes, particularly for disabled children. On paper it is clear that Tanzania has adopted proactive legislation and policies to support disabled people/children. To date however, implementation has been slow and poorly resourced, with rural areas particularly isolated. In the absence of quality state education for disabled children, CST offers a vital service to children/families now, whilst also aiming to bring about wider scale change through government advocacy and training of neighbouring primary schools for an even greater impact longer term.

AbleChildAfrica has previously worked with CST on the following projects:

Feeding Programme

AbleChildAfrica has supported CST to establish a School Feeding Programme which provides a nutritious meal at both breakfast and lunch to all the children who attend the school. This not only improves the children’s’ ability to concentrate in the classroom but also helps increase school attendance and enrolment, as well as decreasing drop-out rates. The School Feeding Programme at CST is an essential tool in the development and growth of disabled children in Mbeya.

Income Generation Activities

In 2012, AbleChildAfrica introduced CST to Appropriate Paper-Based Technology (APT), an approach which recycles cardboard into durable classroom furniture, specialised seating for disabled children and early learning toys. CST have produced furniture and learning materials for use within their own centre and this has subsequently generated significant interest from the local community, resulting in us further investing in the development of an APT workshop and scaling this up as an income generating activity.

In addition to the direct benefits this provides to CST, this income generating project directly supports the alleviation of poverty by providing a sustainable means of raising income levels for parents of disabled children, which subsequently improves the quality of life of disabled children and their families, whilst also developing the local community.  In addition to this, AbleChildAfrica and CST proudly opened the CST Fun Village in 2014, the first inclusive playground in Mbeya, which offers a safe accessible place for disabled children to play alongside their siblings and peers.

AbleChildAfrica is currently working with CST in the following areas:

Early Childhood Education Programme

AbleChildAfrica continues to support the running of this educational programme at CST by sourcing funds to cover costs of school activities, including paying teachers’ salaries, providing learning materials and offering continual professional development for staff.

Accessible School Design

CST is in a period of growth and enrolment continues to rise. As such, CST is in need of a new school building that is larger and better suited to the specific needs of the pupils. Without this new school CST will be unable to provide an education for the growing number of disabled children who wish to enrol in the school.

AbleChildAfrica has been working with CST to design a purpose-built fully inclusive early-childhood education centre. With support from the local community and government, CST has now secured land with permissions to build a new school. In April 2016, AbleChildAfrica in partnership with Article 25 undertook a feasibility study to work with children, parents and community members to design the school, which has resulted in the development of a Master Plan design.

“Take All My Friends To School”

AbleChildAfrica has been working with CST since 2015 to run a community campaign: “Take All My Friends To School”. This advocacy project across Mbeya has involved charity walks, a petition, open days and educational materials that are disseminated to the community. The project aims to make education a reality for disabled children in Mbeya.

In 2017, AbleChildAfrica and CST were able to launch a scale up of the project “Take All My Friends To School”: increasing the access, quantity and quality of inclusive education”. This 4-year programme which is supported by Comic Relief, works with 8 primary schools and early childhood centres in Mbeya. This project is taking a child-led approach by training teachers and parents in the Child-to-Child methodology developed by AbleChildAfrica and USDC in Uganda. This project will identify out-of-school disabled children in the surrounding communities and support them to enrol into mainstream government schools, making inclusive education a reality in Mbeya.

Teacher Training/ Skill Development

AbleChildAfrica offers regular professional training to existing and new staff at CST. For the teaching staff this includes special needs teacher training, inclusive teaching techniques, creative curriculum development and learning through play training.  We also offer mentoring to the Senior Management, Programmes Staff and Board of Trustees in key areas such as financial management, fundraising, monitoring and evaluation, good governance and HR practices.

Together AbleChildAfrica and CST have identified the following next steps and are currently seeking funding to deliver the following activities:

ECE Programme & Income Generation Activities

AbleChildAfrica continue to support CST on their road to sustainability and high quality Early Childhood Education.  CST are committed to becoming independent from international funding but need vital intermediary stability whilst we simultaneously work together to scale up  income generation activities and devise a local fundraising strategy. AbleChildAfrica are currently seeking additional funding to invest in the income generation businesses, including the development of a textile workshop.

Building a purpose-built accessible school building 

Following a Feasibility Study undertaken and Master Plan completed in 2016 by Article 25, AbleChildAfrica and CST are currently seeking funding to begin Phase 1 of the School Build. This will include preparing the land, installing a bore hole, constructing classrooms and office space. The exciting inclusive design includes a sensory garden, playground, physiotherapy room, teachers housing and a permanent site for the income generation workshop.

If you would like to learn more about, get involved with or provide funding for any of the above projects please contact Lauren Watters, Programme Development Manager, on



AbleChildAfrica has benefited my work in so many areas.  Also, through networking with AbleChildAfrica partners such as Little Rock we have also been able to learn even more.
Noelah Msuya
Director, CST


How you can help

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