Leonus’s School Farm Initiative: Transforming Education and Nutrition at Mchangani Primary School

Leonus is a dedicated community education mobilizer (CEM) at Mchangani Primary School in Malinyi district, located in the Morogoro region of Tanzania. Seeing the need to support his community school, Leonus decided to volunteer his time and effort to cultivate a school farm. His goal was to support school feeding, ensuring students had at least one nutritious meal each day.

Leonus’s initiative was significantly bolstered by the support and awareness provided by the IDYDC (Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled and Children Care) through its Jifunze Uelewe project. The project aims To increase community engagement for a safe and inclusive learning environment through action planning. Through training sessions and community outreach, the Jifunze Uelewe project provided Leonus and the community with knowledge to implement community action plans, and this motivated Leonus to start and sustain the school farm.

With hard work and determination, Leonus collaborated with Parent-Teacher-Partnership (PTP) and transformed an empty piece of land into a thriving farm, where they grew various crops such as maize, beans, and vegetables. The farm soon started producing enough food to feed all the students at the school. Because of their efforts, students were able to focus better in class, their health improved, and overall attendance increased.

Leonus’s initiative inspired others in the community to support the school feeding program, making it a sustainable project for the future. His story is a testament to how a community, when supported by an effective educational program like Jifunze Uelewe, can make a significant difference in the lives of many. Through this collaboration, the project also fostered a sense of community, enhanced educational outcomes, and promoted sustainable development.

Leonus (Community Education Mobilizer From Mchangani Primary School), Photo by Admin

Achievements

Improved Attendance: In Leonus’s initiative, providing meals from the school farm led to increased attendance. Students were more likely to come to school knowing they would receive a nutritious meal. This reduces absenteeism, which is often caused by students needing to help at home or search for food.

Better Health and Nutrition: The food grown on the school farm ensured that students had access to balanced, nutritious meals. The student’s health improved, evidenced by fewer illnesses and better physical development. Proper nutrition is essential for children’s growth and overall well-being.

Enhanced Learning: With their basic nutritional needs met, students could focus better on their studies. Hunger can severely affect concentration and cognitive functions, making it difficult for children to learn. Leonus’s initiative ensured that students were more attentive and engaged in class, leading to better academic performance.

Community Involvement: Leonus’s initiative did more than just feed the students; it engaged the community. Seeing the positive impact of the farm, community members were inspired to contribute, either by volunteering time or providing resources. This fostered a sense of unity and collective responsibility, strengthening community ties.

Gender Equality: In many Tanzanian communities, girls are often kept out of school to help with household chores or because of food scarcity at home. The assurance of a meal at school encourages families to send their daughters to school. Leonus’s farm project helped in promoting gender equality by reducing one of the barriers to girls’ education.

Life Skills and Agricultural Education: The school farm also served as a practical learning site, as students began to cultivate vegetables in school gardens. The school farm becomes a hands-on classroom where they gain insight into agriculture, sustainability, and the significance of dedication and community involvement. These invaluable life skills will shape their futures.

Jifunze Uelewe team observing the preparation of student meals from Community Education Mobilizers and Parent-Teacher-Partnership. Photo by Admin

Leonus’s initiative at Mchangani Primary School demonstrates the multifaceted importance of school feeding programs. It not only addresses immediate nutritional needs but also contributes to broader educational, economic, and social benefits.

SUCCESS STORY: Jifunze Uelewe inclusion and safety propels positive changes.

story of Miraji, a standard one student at Mlabani Primary School in Morogoro enjoying attending school after securing a wheelchair

A CHILD THRIVES AT MLABANI PRIMARY SCHOOL AFTER THE COMMUNITY OVERCOMES BARRIERS TO INCLUSION

Tanzania has progressed a lot in the education sector; it is now expected to see a 6-year-old in class one, a rare case a decade ago. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for every Tanzanian child. Miraji Siraji Matwewe is one of the few who need inclusion. Miraji, a 10-year-old boy, is a standard one student at Mlabani Primary School in Ifakara Town Council. He could have been in standard four at that age, but he is thankful that he at least got to be enrolled in a regular school and can now read and write.

Teachers are now comfortable accommodating children like Miraji thanks to RTI International which implements USAID Jifunze Uelewe project, and IDYDC orientations on safe and inclusive schools. It was expected to see parents fail to enroll their children in school just because teachers did not know how to support these disabled children. The stigma in the community is also diminishing as communities are empowered through Parents Teachers Partnerships (PTP) and Community Education Mobilizers (CEMs) who also benefit from training supported by RTI International

Aika, who is Miraji’s mother, wishes the best for his son, but her situation is limited. Last year, she approached Mlabani, the primary school head teacher, and explained her concern that she has a disabled child, but she needs to carry him to school every day. The headteacher encouraged her to take heart and said he would see how he could support him.  This information was passed to the school management committee and PTP, who joined forces and managed to raise funds for a wheelchair. This was a big step in Miraji’s education; her mother was more determined that her child would surely get the education he deserved.

Miraji being escorted by his mother after classes. Photo credit: Gabo, head teacher/Jifunze Uelewe.

Miraji’s brother, who was in standard six last year, brought his younger brother to the school as it was easier to push the wheelchair. His mother only had the task to take him home as the timetable differed between the two brothers.

The acceptance and infrastructures like disabled lanes helped Miraji to feel accepted and learn at Mlabani Primary School. Due to his disability, he struggles to write as the performance shows he scored 16/50 in arithmetic and 10/50 in Writing in the last exam in November 2023. The anomaly is seen in reading as he scored 40/50 but this is no surprise to those who know Miraji. He likes to read books, and the book-borrowing activity has been helpful, but he is also an active member at the reading center, where children meet after classes for reading activities

It is not all well for Miraji; he still struggles to go the toilet as the infrastructure needs to be more inclusive, but he is optimistic everything will be well. For now, at least, he can access class and feel part of the class regardless of his disability.

Miraji at the class. Photo credit: Gabo, head teacher/Jifunze Uelewe.

IDYDC Empowers Community education Mobilizers to Promote Safe and Inclusive School Environments

IDYDC, through the JIFUNZE UELEWE project, has provided education to Community education mobilizers (CEMS)on the creation of a community action plan, the importance of a safe and inclusive environment for students in schools, and the creation of outside the school learning spaces. see more. https://idydc.or.tz/usaid-jifunze-uelewe/

In order to ensure the message of safe and inclusive learning reaches the larger number of beneficiaries, IDYDC have started to use radio program as an approach to create awareness to the communities so that we can realize impacts to the larger community.

The following are key issues accomplished on using Radio platform:

  • Consulting IDYDC’s Nuru FM radio as an engagement stage – IDYDC technical team approached the ‘Nuru FM’ Radio programs manager and discussed how to work together on reaching the communities with the intended messages relating to safe and inclusion, reading platforms, Ubongo Content uptakes and action plans drafting and implementation.
  • Developing scripts to be used as a guideline for production of jingles, and live and recorded radio shows- The scripts have already produced and shared to the USAID Jifunze Uelewe program’s communication department from HQ for final technical advice and approvals.
  • Attending live radio show (segment Malezi on Monday 10:00 -11:00 am and Watoto tuzungumze on Saturday 10:00 – 11:00 am); IDYDC project staffs used the opportunity to attend live radio shows through Radio FM station (Nuru FM) to create awareness on establishing reading centers, implementing community action plans, and issues of safety and inclusivity to the general community. These shows help to support CEMs on their work they supposed to do in the community.