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Tanzanian Children’s Dreams for Safe Schools

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

by dr kate mcalpine

Children dream of a school environment that is safe, friendly, and inclusive; that supports them as they grow and learn how to fulfil their ambitions. Sadly for many of the students who participated in a recent study conducted by Citizen 4 Change, schools are not the safe environments they dream of, with 28% of girls and 32% of boys reporting they had witnessed harm at school.

This study determined that violence in schools in Tanzania is maintained by social norms — a belief that society accepts violent behaviour in schools. To effect a change in this belief, Citizens 4 Change is applying Theory U. Theory U involves all stakeholders in the process of changing behaviours. This initial study forms the first steps in the process by engaging 188 students to share their experience of violence in schools and to develop their propositions for safe schools.

Working in small groups the students created a dream that captured their preferred future where schools are safe and inclusive. They then brainstormed their ideas for achieving that vision.

Dreams for the future

Students aspire to academic excellence, and they believe that there are four preconditions to achieve this excellence. These are that

Schools are characterised by peace. Peaceful school environments must be clean, have water and sanitation facilities, and gardens where children can play. Schools are to provide books and meals and are close to children’s homes.

Teachers do not rely on punishment and listen to and encourage children. Children believe that teachers who teach well do not rely on punishment and that teachers generally underestimate young people’s resilience. The students want interactions with teachers to be characterised by fairness and encouragement, they want teachers who listen to and cooperate with them, and who communicate with parents.

Parents encourage their children. Children want to be encouraged and incentivised by their parents to be obedient via motivation and rewarding success.

Students are obedient. The students believe their role is to be obedient by putting God first, by collaborating with teachers and by putting effort into their studies.

Children see responsibility as the route to safe schools

Personal responsibility. When asked what needs to happen for children to be able to protect themselves the students prioritised a need for students to take their own personal responsibility to be disciplined, to cooperate and to care for others. They thought that knowing their rights was only a secondary priority.

Professional responsibility. When the discussion changed focus to the teacher, the students again emphasised the need for teachers to take professional and personal responsibility. The students want teachers who listen to, encourage, and cooperate with them, and who communicate with parents.

Parental responsibility. The students argued that parents have a responsibility to provide basic needs, to encourage their children to attend school and help with assignments and to communicate with both children and teachers. They believe that parents need to know about and protect children’s rights.

This emphasis on personal responsibility reflects the concept of the Ujasiri mindset.

Ujasiri is the Swahili word for confidence or bravery. Possession of Ujasiri differentiates people who protect women and children from those who say, “It’s none of my business” when they see suffering. The Ujasiri mindset is founded in a set of values about taking a stand as a responsible citizen. Ujasiri is characterized by those who take action to protect children as a moral obligation to do the right thing, a belief that children are blameless and a belief that children will pay it forward (McAlpine, 2015). In this study, children identify Ujasiri as something they need to possess — a personal moral drive to do the right thing — if they are to be part of the solution in ending violence.

Each of these dreams and aspirations provide the foundations for developing actionable steps that may lead to change. The next stage of the study will focus on understanding adults’ perspectives. Teachers, parents, and child protection professionals will be surveyed about what prevents them from taking up responsibility for keeping children safe from harm.

Follow the progression of our work on @C4CEastAfrica.

If you are in Tanzania and ready to champion change or if you are already uplifting the lives of vulnerable children in your community then join Citizens 4 Change by dialing #149*46*11# or you can register on our website.

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