Our approach to education
Our 3 Phase Model
This is where we start our relationship with a school; it’s all about getting the basics right, building trust and getting to know the community we are working with. We deliver our foundation projects including Our School Community, My Voice, School Improvement, Teacher Development and, in the later stages, Keeping Girls in School.
By this stage, we are running all of the essential projects that a school requires. This is the core focus of our work, and where we start to see our school communities thrive. Our students are empowered, their examination results improve and the number of students transitioning to secondary school increases.
Once our schools projects are fully embedded and the community feels ready to take full ownership of them, we transition to a governance approach. While we continue to support the school, the community is empowered and able to deliver quality education. This enables us to scale our projects to other schools in vulnerable communities.
Beyond primary education, we partner with secondary schools to deliver projects that ensure there are clear pathways for our students to complete secondary school. This can include providing scholarships to our brightest and most vulnerable students, supporting teacher development and offering guidance to the school community.
Building the Foundations
Our School Community
Building relationships and establishing trust
We know that nothing is possible without the engagement and investment of the community itself. The Our School Community project is all about building relationships with the school and the village.
Our local team takes the time to understand the cultures of the local and diverse tribes and establish trust with these tribes. We use this as a basis to develop quality School Management Committees or a Board of Management for the school, as well as an active and engaged parent body.
Hear from Delfina, Head of Education, about the importance of community engagement here.
Helping students understand their rights
We all want to see our children feeling confident and empowered. But many children in East Africa, and in particular girls, have been led to believe that they are the property of their fathers or husbands. My Voice is one of the first projects we roll out in schools, focused on developing skills and confidence in our children so that they feel empowered to take ownership of their education.
Through this project, we teach students about their rights, child protection and the importance of education.
Read how My Voice is making a difference to students here.
Creating engaging learning environments
We know that a student’s learning environment has a huge impact on their ability to learn. Our School Improvement project focuses on improving the infrastructure of the school. This could be anything from building or renovating classrooms, kitchens or toilets, to installing water tanks or acquiring new school desks and chairs so that children aren’t forced to sit on the floor or rolling out a school feeding program to ensure children have the energy to learn.
It’s essential that we have community buy-in for these projects, and so we have key criteria regarding material contribution and commitment to education that communities must meet before we commit to working with them.
Read how one school’s commitment to school improvement has increased student enrolments.
So They Can's School Improvement Project receives support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
Building capacity in teachers
In 2015, 91% of the teachers we surveyed felt that they didn’t have the necessary teaching skills and equipment to effectively teach their students. Since then, we’ve developed quarterly workshops, tutoring and peer to peer coaching to develop key skills, as well as provide interns from our Mamire Teachers’ College. The fully qualified teachers intern while awaiting employment and reduce the teacher deficit, bringing fresh ideas to the school. To make this scalable, we identify the most competent teachers and create champions. We then facilitate the champions to meet and disseminate the learning they have received through our teacher development project to other teachers in need.
As of 2019, 81% of the teachers we surveyed felt they had been equipped with relevant skills and competencies to enable them to conduct effective teaching and learning in the classroom including various teaching pedagogies, classroom management practices and development of teaching aids.
So They Can's Teacher Development Project receives support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
Finding joy in learning
Did you know that developing a passion for learning at an early age can make a huge impact on our likelihood to complete school? Our Let’s Learn project is focused on developing early childhood interests and skills in reading, writing and maths.
The project sees students in pre-primary classes building their confidence so that we can see meaningful learning outcomes as they progress through primary school. In 2021, we partnered with Global X-Prize winner KitKit, a child-centered, tablet-based, personalised early learning system to further enhance our students' learning. As a result of the project, the transition rate for pupils from pre-primary to Standard 1 increased by 11% in our schools since 2018.
Read more about the importance of early learning here.
Keeping Girls in School
Re-imagining the future for girls
At So They Can, we know that educating girls is one of the most powerful ways to change the future for a whole community and, as attested by Sir David Attenborough, save the planet. Girls who attend school are less likely to be subjected to Female Genital Cutting (FGC) and early marriage, and more likely to ensure that their future children attend school — helping to break the poverty cycle for future generations.
Our Keeping Girls in School project partners with So They Can's local medical centres to provide reproductive health information to mothers and girls, educates communities about the importance of educating girls and the risks of FGC, provides psychological support and empowerment workshops. We develop Champion Mothers, Fathers and Bibis (Grandmothers) to help spread the word. Importantly, with 74% girls missing 4-5 days of school per month, the project now also provides washable sanitary products for students. Since distributing these products, we’ve seen 100% attendance in the girls who received them!
Read more about how our Keeping Girls in Schools project is impacting the lives of generations of students in Tanzania.
Embedding our projects throughout the Core of the school
Ensuring food security and economic empowerment
We all know the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In Tanzania, our Schools have been implementing our Shamba Letu projects in partnership with our Champion Farmers to ensure that our communities can be fed for a lifetime. Through this educational community-focused project, we teach farmers, teachers and students at our program schools new techniques to increase food security and provide improved income streams.
We then work directly with the schools to help them develop their vegetable gardens, so they can use the food to support their school feeding program and sell the produce to the local community to fund other projects.
Find out more about how our Shamba Letu team is working with local schools and farmers here.
Building confidence and connections
Do you remember the adventure of going away on school camp? Our Camp Africa project brings together schools, allowing students from different villages and communities to connect and build their self-esteem.
The project involves a range of activities at the “sleepover”, from creative arts projects and empowerment activities, to learning about child protection and the importance of education.
Read about our inaugural Camp Africa here.
Msomi Scholarships and Secondary School Partnerships
Creating pathways for progress
While our core focus is primary education, we know that many of our students fall in love with learning and want to progress to Secondary School. However, according to the Tanzanian government, up to 70% students aged 14-17 are not in school.
We developed our Msomi ("Scholar" in Kiswahili) program to enable our best and brightest students to continue their studies and reach their full potential. We currently partner with 8 secondary schools to support them in teacher development and student wellbeing, and the scholarships provide the students with extensive support services including mentorship, books, uniforms, transport and food for four years.
Sustaining quality education for future generations through our Education Enhancement projects
Mamire Teachers' College Enhancement
Maximising the impact of our future teachers
We all remember our favourite teacher. So They Can knows the value of those special people who shape, form and inspire us to achieve. Mamire Teachers’ College was designed in response to a major teacher deficit, to create quality teachers for our students in East Africa. The Public Private Partnership model is the first teachers’ training college of its kind for the Tanzanian Government, who in partnership with So They Can has made a commitment to making it a model educational institution.
The college graduates up to 100 quality teachers each year who progress to employment in local government primary schools. Collectively these teachers go on to provide quality education for thousands of children every year.
As our first sustained facility in our Education program, our focus has moved from construction to enhancing the Government’s curriculum by providing access to wifi and water, opportunities for practical teaching experience, academic support from our international university and facilitating internships through our partner schools and Silverleaf Academy. Since the College opened in 2016, our students have consistently achieved some of the best results in the country, which in turn helps us attract quality candidates to the College.
Read the latest success stories from Mamire Teachers’ College.
Aberdare Ranges Primary School Enhancement
Empowering the community to manage their school
As our founding project in East Africa, Aberdare Ranges is now transitioning to be our first "Sustained" school. We have a number of projects that we continue to work with the school on to ensure that we are continuing to enhance the quality of education delivered to this amazing community. These include support in the provision of school feeding, teacher development, extra curricular activities and outstanding facilities including a fantastic library. We also ensure effective monitoring, evaluation and learning support for academic outcomes. We are now working closely with the community to ensure the transition to becoming a fully sustained school is successful.
Read more about Aberdare Ranges' transition to a Sustained School here.