Workshop time

Wow, it has been a busy week. One week ago on June 8 I gave a workshop for the education faculty and some outside partners on basics of early childhood curriculum and pedagogy. I also provided additional materials on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and emergent curriculum.


On the second day (June 9), we did a little bit of the items I had prepared for the workshop, but in fact spent most of the time going over the draft curriculum for the new early childhood program and discussing some of the work I had done on it. One of the community stakeholders in the room was the director of the Madrassa Traning Centre where they have a certificate program to train early childhood teachers. In Tanzania, students can do a 1-2 year certificate program (first level of college if they didn’t do their advanced level work from the British system). After they finish that, they can do a diploma (the program we are developing) if they meet the academic criteria. A diploma is kind of like an Associate’s degree. The hope in the future is to expand and create a bachelor’s and master’s program, but this is the first diploma program on Zanzibar in early childhood education. It is a much anticipated degree program in the community and government.


I had a lot of fun doing the training and having the conversation with all the faculty and stakeholders about what they know and value and what is already happening in the community. For example, there was some disagreement about whether physical education was part of early childhood education and in what ways was it similar or different from play and games. In teaching courses, do we or how do we separate this? Furthermore, looking at the differentiation between play, sport, and games?


We also talked lot about active learning methodologies and implementing practical strategies in all pre-primary schools, including in schools where their mandated curriculum does not encourage play pedagogies. In Zanzibar, there is a mixed delivery system where children at the age of 4 and 5 can attend government schools, private childcare centers (often taught in English), and community-based centers. In addition, madrassas or Islamic religious educational institutions have long been part of the early childhood landscape here, but are both private and community based, depending on the area. It seems to be that madrassas are the most numerous of the early childhood centers, but I should point out that they are not the only place where religion is taught. Because Islam is such a fundamental part of the Zanzibar culture and currently 99% of the population are Muslim, religion is taught in government schools as well. On the mainland of Tanzania, religion is taught in the government schools and some private schools and children choose to participate in Christian or Muslim classes based on their family’s religion.

I can see many wonderful things happening here in the development of the early childhood program and the application of active learning methodologies, using play for learning, and cooperative learning in the college classrooms. Here is a preview of posts to come about classrooms.


Another discussion in the stakeholder meeting with faculty that extended to other conversations later in the week involved the language of instruction in pre-primary classrooms. It seems that in government and madrassa schools, the language of instruction is Kiswahili but children learn English as a subject multiple times a week and in the madrassa they also learn Arabic as a subject. One of the purposes of private schools in Tanzania in general is to offer families a school in English. Theoretically, classes are all in English from the first class whether pre-primary or primary school. But, since English is rarely spoken at home and often not fluently by parents, it is hard for children to start in English exclusively. Only families with the highest levels of education and/or families where parents and children have lived overseas speaking English is fluent or proficient English present. Based on my anecdotal observations, people who have a bachelor’s degree or higher and/or work in levels of influence in the government education office, have stated that English should not be a medium of instruction at this early age and children should focus on learning and content knowledge in Swahili. English can be a subject, but even too much English or Arabic can get confusing for the child. My personal belief is that children should learn in Swahili based on my reading of the research. They can learn other languages later. If they are able to learn them from fluent speakers and practice both to be truly bilingual, that could be different, but that is a very small percentage of families. But, I was told but multiple people that the reason they teach English and Arabic as subjects is because the parents demand it and think their children can learn to speak fluent English when they leave pre-primary.

My colleagues and I plan to do some work and maybe write an article looking at this issue and the research and look for ways to educate parents and the community on best language practices.

This is a really long entry on my thoughts. Upcoming entries may not be in order of events but I will share my visits to early childhood centers, attending a graduation, a concert, and another super fun beach trip with my colleagues from the school of education. I will leave you with gratuitous photos of the sunset and water because I love it.


A map and orientation to Zanzibar

Here is a map to give you an idea of where things are that I have done and distances.

From Zanzibar town to the Tunguu campus every morning and afternoon is a 30 minute drive each way. When we went to the beach at Pwani Mchangani, we drove for about an hour. I saw signs that indicated it was about 30-35 kilometers from Stone Town or 18-20 miles. Given the roads and the towns we passed through, that seems right.
The market area is about 10 minute walk and the restaurants with the sunset view are about 15 minutes. There are a few closer, but I usually go down closer to the Shangani area. If I walk from my place, it is about a 5 minute walk to the Ferry terminal where you can take the ferry to Dar es Salaam. It is approximately where it says wharf on the map. All of the faculty and staff that I have met live in the Stone Town area, many in the Vuga area that directly south and inland from the sunset views near the roundabout (rotary) that is south of my sunset view circle. I learned that that area used to separated by a large creek/river from the other part of Zanzibar. The Vuga area was originally where the Western settlers and diplomats lives and the locals only came over by boat each day to work for the elite. Now, many people live in the Vuga area are they have filled in the creek so it is all solid land, similar to the situation of Boston.
Here is a website with a driving video and history for those who are interested. The top is a set of key dates, but scroll down for more in-depth information.

Random thoughts and updates

I have been very busy having fun and working with my colleagues at SUZA. I am going to try to catch up with a series of blog posts on a few different topics.

On Friday of last week, I worked hard during the day to make some additional changes to the curriculum document that outlines the new Early Childhood Education diploma program so that the following week the faculty and some outside stakeholders could review it. I also planned a training for the following week for Monday and Tuesday. During the workshop, we were also going to review the curriculum.

This trip has been so helpful to learn about SUZA and their work, but also about early childhood education that currently exists in Zanzibar. My brain is always working thinking about comparisons and contrasts of the university and early childhood settings to those on the mainland. I have really learned on this trip about the differences between Zanzibar and the mainland. It is fascinating to me to notice the differences and to think about how the different colonial history, the different government and that Zanzibar has some of its own laws and policies and makes its own books for use here that are different from those on the mainland. I would also argue that the incredible Middle Eastern influence particularly from Oman and UAE have changed the landscape and the culture.

I would be really curious to see what Zanzibaris think of the places and people in Lushoto and Moshi where I have lived and if that impression is different based on their heritage. Just some thoughts.

On random things I learned yesterday: Always where slip on shoes when going to new places. We visited several early childhood settings in and around Stone Town and I had to take my shoes off multiple times. It was not the day to wear the sandals with the buckles and that were tight and seemed impossible to pull on and off multiple times. 20150609_183540 One of my favorite things to do here is watch the sunset. I will leave you with some photos of the sunset and dinner from a few nights ago. That is meat lasagna and salad and an iced coffee.20150609_175823 20150609_175833

Tourism students and washing success

I have done so many things in the last few days and the fun and consultation continues. I will write an entry about my fun weekend in a few days, but today I want to talk about the wonderful students in met at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA). On Thursday, I had the privilege of listening to several students in the first year of their three year tourism program give presentations about various project ideas they had to either increase tourism or support local people through tourism or both. I learned a lot about the island of Ungujaa (what they call the specific I island I am on) and Pemba (the other main island that makes up Zanzibar. There are some other small islands that have mostly animals and a few have tourist spots.

The students were practicing their English and working on the differences in writing a quality powerpoint versus an academic paper. In addition, they were working on speaking extemporaneously more and not reading the powerpoint. Understandingly, giving a presentation in your second language, you feel nervous, especially with a native speaker in the room.


I was incredibly impressed by the students and the knowledge they were able to present in English and the ability to talk about topics without reading. In addition, I was also extremely impressed by the classroom pedagogy and the ability of the students to give peer review and recognize their errors in spelling, organization of the powerpoint, and pronunciation. I would have been much less confident if I had to present on my field in Swahili to them. We talked qualitatively about ideas to strengthen their ideas and I was able to give some advice as a tourist who had done some of these things or experienced similar tourist attractions.


Finally, I feel triumphant because I successfully used the semi-automatic washer. The steps included 1) filling the washer water and a little soap, 2) running the wash cycle 3) rinsing the clothes (see below)


4) putting them in to spin, and


5) making sure the water drains properly while spinning (and after the wash cycle).


Then, I hung them on the roof clothesline to dry in the sun and got to see this beautiful view.


Beautiful views

As promised, here are the pictures of the State University of Zanzibar Tunguu campus. It is so sunny and beautiful. These are the big academic and administrative buildings.



This is the library.


Here is the view from the library.


They also have a resource room of various materials to support the teaching of children with special needs in their inclusive education program. They have had a lot of computers and braille machines purchased from a grant for the room.

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The students made this fabric poster with different practical skills that people participate in their community. It is hard to see in the picture, they have sewn buttons on the fabric to be the braille letters for the words in the pictures. It was a class project and so clever and a great use of cheap, locally available materials.


Yesterday, I met the Vice Chancellor, the DP of Academic Affairs and the DP of Administrative Affairs. They were very nice and welcoming. I was particularly impressed with all their support for the programs and the active work they are doing to improve the university and all the work with different partners around the world. In addition, they are taking advantage of technology and using many resources online. The campus has good wireless and wired internet in the offices.

I have also noticed subtle cultural differences between Zanzibar and other places in Tanzania I have been. While I realize that I have mostly been with Tanzanians and in situations where I am a professor, when I have been out in the market or walking by a very popular football match, I did not feel harassed. I have not been in downtown Stone Town yet, where many tourists are, but there is just a different feel here so far. Hopefully this weekend I will get out and do some exploring in Stone Town or on the beaches of the island.

On the way to the university one day, we had to stop and pull over because the second vice president was leaving his house to go to the airport or into town. The motorcade and stopping of traffic was the same procedure as in the US and rather orderly.


Rooms with a view

Just a brief entry today.

This is my office space at the university.

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This is the dean’s office at the university. Look at that fantastic view.

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Tonight I wandered down the street near my house and found milk and toilet paper. Then I found a café that caters to Americans and Europeans with a fantastic sounding breakfast on the roof. I plan to try this on the weekend. They have juices included and the juice here is fantastic. Yesterday I had hibiscus juice that looked like a berry juice and my colleague had tamarind juice that was a burnt orange color.



A new island adventure

Today marks the beginning of a new adventure. After about 26 hours of travel, four airports, and a suitcase that didn’t arrive with me, I was delivered to my studio apartment for next 2 ½ weeks. I have learned about two communities in Tanzania so far. Now, I am going to learn about Zanzibar. For those of you who don’t know, Zanzibar is an island off the southern coast of Tanzania. It is truly a tropical island and the weather reminds me a lot of Hawaii. Zanzibar is the yellow island. Map courtesy of

This morning while I was waiting for the driver, I was first soaking in the sun, but then thinking about the sweat rolling down my back. We haven’t had that kind of heat in Boston in a long time. It was refreshing after the winter we have had. I am here for 2 ½ weeks at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) learning about local early childhood settings and supporting them in the development of a new diploma program in early childhood teacher education program.


Today I spent getting oriented to the university (which has a beautiful campus with wonderful landscaping) and I will provide pictures later. I got my modem charged up with GBs, a new phone number, and a few groceries for dinner and breakfast.


I will leave you all with these wonderful pictures of apartment. I have all the modern conveniences I would want. There is even a washing machine. I am still not sure how to use it but I will share that experience too.  IMG_2401IMG_2404IMG_2405

The view from my balcony. I am right next to a fish market with very fresh fish this morning. Tomorrow I go to the university to work on the curriculum document.