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Early Childhood Education for Underprivileged Children

Mohamedarif Suleman, the visionary founder of Uhuru Walk, is organized under Meadows Academy, headed by his business- and life- partner Gulbanu Suleman who brings her unique expertise in Early Childhood Learning to the mix. In a feature in the journal of ‘Childhood Innovations’, our founder expands on our philosophy of ‘Uhuru’ – the Swahili word for freedom or independence as he writes,

“An examination of the employment market in Tanzania highlights profound differences in the competencies and skills of individuals who have graduated from the local schools from those who have graduated from international schools. Although Tanzania had achieved nearly universal access to primary education by 2007, enrollment of primary school-age children has been decreasing.

According to UNICEF, an estimated 2 million children between the ages of 7 and 13 years are out-of-school. Almost 70 per cent of children aged 14-17 years are not enrolled in secondary education while a mere 3.2 per cent are enrolled for the final two years of schooling.

Unsurprisingly, children from families living in poverty are three times less likely to attend school than children from the higher socio-economic strata. It is even less likely that children with disabilities are attending school. Girls are also vulnerable to dropping out of school or never going to school, in part due to early marriage and pregnancy

Quality is also an issue affecting Tanzanian education. The UNICEF report notes:

The pupil-to-qualified-teacher ratio at pre-primary level is 131:1. This ratio is 169:1 in public pre-primary school compared to 24:1 in private schools. Most children, especially those in rural areas, enter primary school poorly prepared due to the lack of access to early stimulation, poor nutrition, and the low quality of pre-primary education…Results from the 2014 primary school leaving examinations in mainland Tanzania revealed that only 8 per cent of Grade 2 pupils could read properly, only 8 per cent could add or subtract, and less than 0.1 per cent showed high levels of life skills (academic grit, self-confidence, problem-solving).

Enrollment in pre primary and kindergarten schools is low, and many consider such prorams to be merely a substitute for babysitting services. The demand for early childhood care is increasing, however, as both parents report to a work place. Thus, many day care corners have sprung up, posing as early childhood learning centers yet adding little or no value to children’s preparation for primary school.”

Editors continue to say,

“Meadows Academy founders Mohamedarif Suleman and his wife Gulbanu Suleman have long dedicated their time and resources to providing community service in need-based areas of Tanzania. With expertise in the field of early childhood, Gulbanu not ony operates a small school in a suburban area, she also designs curriculum learning toward an international system of learning. She has invested heavily in receiving support from the world’s leading publishers of educational books and her focus has been on maintaining low to optimum teacher-student ratios so that delivery of real play and learning is possible.

Mohamedarif has years of experience in training company employees, in marketing, and in writing for the local community publciations. These experiences fostered his ability to connect dots that others have missed. As Mohamedarif and Gulbanu discussed their respective work and observations, it became clear to them that the complicated job market in Tanzania was actually a result of insufficient nurturing during the early years – cognitive, physical, and linguistic development all need early nurturing for optimal development. Even if parents are well educated themselves, the daily pressures of work and social life may interfere with their ability to support their children’s development in these areas.

This was the inspiration and motivation for a community service cum capacity building project initiated by Meadows Academy at a low scale with the vision of reaching out to underprivileged children who are unable to access a quality learning at early years, selecting and nurturing them in an optimal approach so that the necessary development areas can be supported.”