As Tanzanian private schools ready themselves for the new academic year, Kenya and surrounding countries remain closed fearing the increased costs of protecting their students from the deadly virus that has ravaged the world.
The ability to have students in a secure, safe and hygienic boarding environment offers a much higher level of protection than those living in more open circumstances.
Joyce Ndalichako, the Minister for Education, Science and Technology, supported the resumtpion of education with strict adherence to health protocols in order to ensure safety for learners and teachers.
“Parents are anxious that their children continue to receive the highest level of education, but in a safe and hygienic location,” said Mr Tony Macfadyen - headmaster St Constantine’s. “We have put a dedicated team in place specifically for our boarders, under the leadership of Mr Emmanuel Ian Mulima.”
“It is my job to ensure a fair, productive and happy social, working and boarding environment,” Mr Mulima said, “and above all, ensure the safety and welfare of the students.”
Boarding school has always been a secure option of children with working and/or travelling parents and many find that they not only make lifelong friends in the boarding house, but secure higher academic and sports results with the distractions of the outside removed.
Assistant Head of Upper Primary, Frances Peacock, personally tutors students after school in their study time.
“While my main role is to ensure their wellbeing while supporting both their pastoral and academic needs, I also promote high standards of behaviour and ensuring they make progress in their year group,” she said.
With Boarding Master Mr Mulima having trained in Special Needs, he is additionally able to liaise with teachers like Miss Peacock, to plan for students according to their developmental levels, model instructions and provide consistent one-on-one or small group interventions through prep time.
Miss Peacock pointed out the advantages for students from small families having the opportunity to socialise safely with children their own age, and enjoy excellent facilities they might not have access to at home, such as athletic tracks, supervised use of the school’s swimming pool - including lifeguards - and the opportunity to join and practice with sports teams.
Students who come to the school speaking neither English nor Swahili are provided with a ‘buddy’ who can help them with their language outside of the classroom after formal lessons, this assists them in picking up the conversational nuances needed for a highly performing global leader in the future.
Former Head of Boarding, Mr Noel Fitzpatrick, said that the boarding house ensured both the students safety and good behaviour, with secure locks keeping the boys and girls separate and safe.
Following on from him, Mr Mulima will continue to provide entertainment, competitions and supervised weekend activities such as bike racing and nature walks – healthy pursuits that still adhere to the necessary precautions in this Coronavirus situation.
Students appreciate the opportunity to develop a regular routine to assist them for future advanced studies, although senior student Lisah Nsanzugwanko admits that “it took some getting used to.” Originally starting her boarding school experience in Nairobi and several other schools, Lisah’s parents – from Dar es Salaam – decided to change their daughter to St Constantine’s for her final four years, to study in the British Cambridge curriculum.
“After visiting St Constantine’s, I felt like it was somewhere I could become part of a family,” Lisah said, “and I did. There’s just a sense of family here. This experience has taught me that family is important and that family is not only the people that you are related to.”
Lisah, who is going on to University to study journalism and media, took full advantage of all that the school had to offer playing both netball and football, becoming involved in the Leadership team on the Student Council and was a Prefect. She was an active debating team member and participated in the World Scholar competition.
A whole new “team challenge” has arisen now for her school with the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are all ready to learn during this time,” Mr Malina says. “This has shown how all of us from different races, religious beliefs and families can come together to fight a common cause. The boarding house is a good place to start.”
President Magufuli ordered the reopening of schools during the final session of parliament on June 29 and officials in Tanzania this month say they have enforced internationally-recommended measures, whether dealing with public gatherings or arriving tourists, and that they continue to work with the WHO and other countries to curb the spread of the virus.
At the same time, a government spokesman, Hassan Abbas, said that the world should not “shy away” from emulating what he called the country’s best practices.
Neighbouring Kenya is not able to reopen in September as planned due to the inability to implement Education CS George Magoha’s proposal to accommodate reduced numbers of students; Uganda could be facing up to 5,000 private school closures; while parents in Namibia who opt to keep home-schooling their children during the ongoing state of emergency, will be jeopardized twice since they will have e-Learning expenses while still having to pay school fees in full, according to Maitri Capital’s weekly news on education and ed-tech in East Africa.