Pastoral Womens Council

Safe and connected learning takes centre stage in a year where school starts at home


empowerment starts with education, but the approach must be holistic. Without safe spaces to learn and grow, students cannot thrive.
This year, two different PWC education programmes have been working to create education platforms for pastoral women and girls that give them the support and opportunities they need to thrive. In turn, both programmes are raising broader awareness; on the importance of education and striving for communities free from gender-based violence.

Safe and supportive foundations
Gender-based violence has been a hot topic around the world in 2020 due to sustained lockdowns and disconnection from community services. Here in Tanzania, the TAPALA programme continued to push ahead with its campaign educating girls, women and whole communities on issues relating to gender-based violence. TAPALA, which means “Stop!” in Maasai, works with schools, male and female students, families and communities on the premise that a positive education environment requires a safe space to learn.

TAPALA’s holistic approach starts with male and female students, and extend to teachers, district committees and the wider community. At the same time, structures are put in place to make school environments safe; from better fencing to addressing ways to avoid girls having to walk outside of school grounds to collect water.
Changing attitudes can take time, but TAPALA is on the right path. The number of active members of student TAPALA clubs almost doubled its target of 480; reaching 810 by the end of the financial year. Students in the clubs discuss gender-based violence issues and take part in role play learning modules. Similar activities took place at a community level.
Korduni Tinina, TAPALA programme lead, emphasised change has to happen at a community level. “There is no easy way to change community attitudes”, Korduni says.
“Now people are starting to change their attitudes because they are aware of the issue. Reporting of violence is going up – that is a key indicator that people are becoming aware. People have also seen others taken to court or prison so they know it is a serious issue.”

Adapting to 2020
School shutdowns due to COVID-19 prompted many education programmes to adapt and pivot. Like TAPALA, the Pastoral Girls Education (PGE) initiative in Loliondo changed its approach to monitor the welfare of students while supporting distance education.  

The PGE programme supports two schools in Loliondo district to improve their STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education offering. Before COVID-19, STEM clubs were established and teachers were equipped with engaging learning materials. At Emanyata Secondary School a dedicated science lab is under construction.
However, when schools to shut down to minimise the spread of COVID-19, the programme was forced to pivot. Teachers and students were provided with books and learning resources. Programme workers visited students in their homes to provide materials.

These visits also allowed programme workers and teachers to conduct welfare checks and report any safety concerns among students. Thankfully, no girls undertook forced marriage during this period.
Grace Scorey, PGE programme lead, believes one very important factor determined the PGE’s ongoing success: “It is very important that there is trust in the community. We have a mutual friendship between PWC and the community, which means we are able to visit their homes and have the conversation.”

“Now the community is sensitised on [the importance of] education. They are less likely to send girls to be married early.”
A TAPALA Google Play app, was developed for on and offline use this year, and distributed via 80 tablet devices to 8 schools. Students and teachers can use the app on a school device or their own phone to undertake modules on violence and report any incidents of concern.

The timing was perfect; without regular contact hours, student welfare was a significant concern. TAPALA programme leads worked with the Tanzanian government to identify officials available to help students in need over shutdown periods, and their contact details were provided on the app.

Both TAPALA and PGE have had to adapt to challenging circumstances this year, but both teams remain focused; their work is more important than ever.