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Creating Safe and Inclusive School Environments in Tanzania: A Journey of Reflection and Change

by emmanuel shoo



"It's very hard to change a problem that is not being defined as a problem."


These words resonate deeply when we consider the impact of societal norms and values on our lives. While often unspoken, these unwritten rules wield immense influence over us, both consciously and unconsciously. Education, a cornerstone of social functioning, is not immune to these norms. They can be a force for good, but they can also have detrimental effects when their negative consequences go unacknowledged. As the saying goes, "ignorance is not innocence." We must take the initiative to recognize and address the issues affecting our society, even if they are not immediately apparent.


Recognizing the Need for Change


Citizens 4 Change and the Porticus Foundation have joined forces on a transformative project aimed at creating safe learning environments in 16 Tanzanian schools. As a facilitator for this initiative, I've had the opportunity to reflect on my own school experiences and come to a powerful realization - change is imperative.


Uncovering the Problem


Through our facilitation process, we uncovered a profound issue: students feel unsafe in schools due to unwritten rules that demand obedience and strict teacher control. These norms, while sometimes seen as positive, have significant negative consequences for students, teachers, and society at large. It's time to awaken to the reality that creating a safe environment in schools is a shared responsibility.


Personal Motivation for Change


My involvement with Citizens 4 Change has provided me with a platform to apply my own experiences in reshaping school environments in Tanzania. Sadly, I understand all too well what many of the students we're working with are going through because my own school was far from a safe haven. It was while working with these students that I realized my own "normal" school experience had been harmful and unsafe. This realization drives me to help students, teachers, and all educational stakeholders create the safe schooling environments that every child deserves.


A Strategy for Change


For change to happen, a well-planned journey is essential. Our project offers a unique strategy: empowering students to become agents of change. By redirecting power to the students, we encourage them to make a positive difference where it matters most. The project employs Theory U, a five-stage process that encourages deep reflection and the development of tailored solutions to pressing issues. The first stage, Co-initiating, is pivotal in establishing a common agenda for the subsequent stages. During this phase, we work with schools to:


  1. Foster fruitful relationships within the school community.

  2. Examine and understand the unwritten rules governing the school.

  3. Establish a common agenda to lay the foundation for the subsequent stages.


Overcoming Challenges and Finding Passion


During the Co-initiating stage, I faced my first experience of engaging with diverse individuals and facilitating sessions. It was a daunting task, as I battled anxiety and self-doubt about my skills and knowledge. However, with the unwavering support of my teammates, including Dr. Kate, Raphael, and Sia, I found the courage to develop my skills and become more acquainted with the project's content. This journey is not only invaluable for my personal growth but also for the project's success.


Despite the initial challenges, I discovered a profound passion for changing the school environment, which can profoundly impact a child's life both in and out of the classroom. I firmly believe that the foundation we've laid in these schools will set the stage for the transformative journey ahead.


Conclusion


In conclusion, it's essential to recognize that addressing the unwritten rules that plague our society requires the collective effort of all. At Citizens 4 Change, we are committed to doing the right thing. Creating safe and inclusive school environments is not solely the responsibility of students, teachers, or educational stakeholders. It's a shared responsibility that demands collaboration and commitment from everyone. Let's unite in our mission to create safe spaces for all in our schools and pave the way for a brighter future.









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