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 children with disabilities are severely lacking and poorly resourced. Although primary education is free in Tanzania, students with disabilities 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 groups and uses a Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) approach to reach out to the community, including government officials, mobilising them to support CST’s activities and help challenge the barriers in society faced by their children with disabilities. 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 past 10 years and now serves children with hearing and visual impairments, learning difficulties and physical challenges. AbleChildAfrica guided CST through their registration process, in establishing their governance board and in the development of their first five year strategic plan (2013-2017), entitled ‘Children First’. AbleChildAfrica has also facilitated financial management and leadership and governance trainings for CST’s 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 CST’s community outreach projects. Over the next five years, AbleChildAfrica will support CST continued organisational growth, mapped to their overall strategy.
A 2010 report states that having a disability 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 children with disabilities. On paper, it is clear that Tanzania has adopted proactive legislation and policies to support people/children with disabilities. To date however, implementation has been slow and poorly resourced, with rural areas particularly isolated. In the absence of quality state education for children with disabilities, 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 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 children with disabilities 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 children with disabilities 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 children with disabilities, which subsequently improves the quality of life of children with disabilities 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 children with disabilities to play alongside their siblings and peers.
CST Inclusive School Early Childhood Education Programme
AbleChildAfrica has supported the running of CST’s core educational programme by sourcing funds to cover the costs of school activities, including paying teachers’ salaries, providing learning materials and offering continual professional development for staff.
AbleChildAfrica is currently working with CST in the following areas
“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 involves charity walks, a petition, open days and educational materials that are disseminated to the community. The project aims to make education a reality for children with disabilities 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, supported by Comic Relief, works with 8 government 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. Using this approach, the project identifies out-of-school children with disabilities in the surrounding communities and supports them to enrol into mainstream government schools, making inclusive education a reality in Mbeya.
Building a Purpose-Built, Fully Inclusive, Early Childhood Education Centre
CST is in a period of growth and enrolment continues to rise. As such, CST is in need of a new centre that is larger and better suited to the specific needs of its students. Without this new centre, CST will be unable to provide an education for the growing number of children with disabilities who wish to enrol.
AbleChildAfrica has been working with CST to design and construct a purpose-built fully inclusive early childhood education centre. In 2016, with support from the local community and government, CST secured land with permissions to build a new centre, with Article 25 completing a Feasibility Study and Master Plan in consultation with children, parents and community members on the new centre’s design. The exciting inclusive design includes a sensory garden, playground, physiotherapy room, teacher’s accommodation and a permanent site for the income generation workshop following its full completion. In 2017, AbleChildAfrica and CST were able to secure funding to begin Phase 1 & Phase 2 of the School Build, supported by Guernsey Overseas Aid and Aberdeen Charitable Foundation.
Teacher Training/Skills 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
ECE Programme & Income Generation Activities
AbleChildAfrica continue to support CST on their road to sustainability and high quality Early Childhood Education. Crucial to this is CST’s capabilities to demonstrate impact through quality data and evidence, as well as strong financial stability and income streams. CST are committed to becoming independent from international funding but need vital intermediary support whilst we simultaneously work together to scale up income generation activities and devise a local, realistic yet sustainable fundraising strategy.
If you would like to learn more about, get involved with or provide funding for any of the above projects, please contact Lauren Watters, Head of Programmes, on firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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