Posts Tagged ‘community development’

Today Zanzibar is a part of the country of Tanzania, but the island still retains remnants of its centuries of separation from the mainland. After hundreds of years apart, it’s been just 51 years since the island joined with Tanganyika, and this history still shows in the semi-autonomous governance of the island.

So when Tanzania decided to abolish school fees in 2002, offering its students a free primary school education, Zanzibar didn’t immediately follow suit. As of July 2015, however, Zanzibar’s children can look forward to a free primary and secondary school education.

Zanzibar has long emphasized the importance of education. Its first president after unification with Tanzania, Abeid Amani Karume, announced free education within months of his election.

Ali Mohamed Shein, Zanzibar presidentAli Mohamed Shein, Zanzibar’s current president, proposed the new plan

But over the decades, budget shortfalls made the program more and more difficult to maintain. By the late 1990s, parents were obligated to pay school fees for students of all ages, a move which has led to increasing absenteeism ever since.

In the last few years incomes on Zanzibar have risen substantially, as much as 38% per capita since 2010. This increasing prosperity has led to a more robust tax base, according to current president Ali Mohamed Shein. He plans to use these government windfalls to finance the new education program.

After the mainland made the switch to publically-financed education, the number of primary school students in the country more than doubled in just a decade. The Zanzibari government hopes to see similarly positive results from this new program.

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Every tourist has heard the rule: only drink bottled water in foreign countries. That maxim is especially true for travelers in Tanzania, a still-developing nation where lack of infrastructure often means bottled water is the only safe drinking water.

But the reliance on bottled water comes with one significant drawback: huge amounts of plastic waste in a nation that is only now taking the first steps towards recycling.

One group, however, is turning trash into treasure for their community. Meeting Point Tanga (TICC), a community development organization with a particular focus on education, decided to build an internet café for students entirely out of discarded bottles.

bottle house tangaThe building in progress. Photo: TICC Meetingpoint Tanga

According to TICC director Rugh Nesje, the decision to build using bottles served two purposes: showcasing a better alternative to burning plastic waste, tossing it in dumps, or simply throwing it along the roadside (all of which are common practices in Tanzania); and creating a community space where students can gather safely outside of school hours.

The group used a total of 3,450 bottles of different sizes to create the structure. It’s a small dent in the worldwide issue of plastic waste—the US alone goes through a staggering 29 billion water bottles a year—but it’s a start in a country where thousands of bottles are used every day.

Best of all, the building has some structural advantages; the relative flexibility of the bottles means they can take heavier loads and withstand shocks more easily than rigid building materials like brick.

This low-cost project will have a huge impact on youth in the community, who will be able to freely access the internet outside of school hours, now. Hopefully it can also serve as a model throughout Tanzania, and the rest of the developing world.

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Recent reports indicate that Tanzania has managed to reduce maternal mortality rates by two-thirds since 2000, an achievement that puts the country well ahead of schedule in attaining this important UN Millenium Development Goal (MDG).

The MDGs were originally outlined in 2000, with all 189 UN then-member states committing themselves to achieving eight goals by 2015:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

Each of the goals was tied to specific benchmarks; to achieve goal 5, developing nations couldn’t merely reduce maternal mortality, they had to reduce it by 75% or more from 1990 levels by the year 2015. Tanzania has already achieved this remarkable turnaround, thanks to concerted efforts in recent years to educate women about health issues, provide greater access to women’s health services, and reach rural communities, often most affected by all the problems the MDGs are meant to combat.

Commitments from NGOs, development partners, and the Tanzanian government have all helped contribute to this success.

Speaking at an international summit on maternal and infant health in Toronto, Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete indicated that, despite meeting targets ahead of schedule, Tanzania is still working to further improve maternal outcomes. Bringing new maternity wards and operation facilities to all district health centers is one of Kikwete’s top priorities, especially for the over 12,000 small rural villages in Tanzania, many of which currently lack access to adequate healthcare, maternal or otherwise.

Despite significant challenges, chief among them a lack of trained medical workers, gynecologists, and midwives, Kikwete has set a lofty goal for the country: zero deaths in childbirth. If things continue improving for mothers in Tanzania, the country may just be on the path towards achieving that sooner than later.

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STEPS Solar is a renewable-energy company based in Dar es Salaam.

Several public institutions and medical dispensaries around Tanzania will soon benefit from free solar energy systems, thanks to a new partnership between the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) and STEPS Solar, a renewable energy company founded in 2013 and based in Dar es Salaam.

Both groups focus on bringing renewable energies to Tanzania in an effort to preserve its beautiful landscapes and wildlife populations (TAREA’s efforts include expanding the use of biomass fuel and wind energy in addition to solar).

In addition to installing solar fixtures on schools, orphanages, police stations, government offices, and medical dispensaries throughout the country, the program aims to educate locals about the benefits of solar energy, which is actually the most cost-effective energy option in much of Tanzania, but nevertheless has failed to gain significant traction.

Beyond the environmental benefits of opting for solar energy on these buildings, there’s a very real quality-of-life improvement; many of the buildings that will be receiving the systems are currently without electricity of any sort, due to their remote locations and general infrastructure problems throughout the still-developing country.

A representative for STEPS Solar indicated that the first installations would take place in the Temeke district of Dar es Salaam.

Installations began April 5 on public institutions in the Kigamboni Ward.

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Three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have come together to improve outcomes for runaways and street children in Tanzania. According to recent reports from the groups, 85 children have already been rescued thanks to their efforts.

The project, based in Dar es Salaam, joins Kiota Women, Health and Development (KIWOHEDE); Makini; and Dogodogo Centre [sic]. Launched in 2012, the joint initiative focuses on improving the welfare of street children in Dar, and when possible reuniting children with their families in their home villages.

According to estimates from groups working with street children in Tanzania, somewhere around 10,000 children throughout the country are currently living on the street, where they’re at risk for abuse, exploitation, violence, and neglect. At least 3,000 of those children currently live in Dar es Salaam.

Beyond attempting to reintegrate children with families when possible, the initiative has worked to improve community awareness of the needs of street children and the risks they face. They’ve also opened up drop-in centers, where children can receive three meals a day and first aid kits (which are distributed based on availability).

Children referred to the centers by a social worker are also eligible to join individual and group counseling sessions.

Reintegration into school has been a priority, and KIWOHEDE has started training programs at some of the centers where street children will have a chance to learn vocational skills that can help them reenter society with the tools to succeed.

KIWOHEDE runs counseling and rehabilitation programs for women and at-risk youth, including trafficked women and child prostitutes; works on HIV/AIDS education and outreach; and offers vocational training to women and children looking to improve their lives. Makini (“talent” in Swahili) works with street children in Dar es Salaam through arts outreach programs, helping at-risk youth to discover and develop talents in the arts in an effort to build self-esteem and life skills. The Dogodogo Centre works to promote legislation and influence policy-making to better protect street children, and also provides education, health services, and shelter to children in Dar es Salaam.

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