Welcome little ones! First kids have enrolled at the Silverleaf Academy nursery and pre-primary in Fumba – and you can help them.
When I visit the school, eight kids between two and six years old are happily munching chips and mayai on the front porch of the white six-room town house turned learning facility. “Routines are important”, points out head teacher Aloyce J. Shirima while he shows me around the neat little classrooms where different activities take place all morning.
Recognising first English words such as chicken and hen, grasping letters of the alphabet by so-called “jolly phonics” where an “m” really sounds like an “em” and, after so much hard work, happily jumping from one pillow to the next in another room. “It’s not just playing”, explains Pascaline Sarakikya, 30, the deputy head teacher, “the children’s motor skills are enhanced by such exercises.”
Quality education for all
The Silverleaf Academy is part of the newly launched Education Center Fumba (ECF), a first building block, so to speak, of an ambitious array of educational facilities planned for Fumba Town. Eventually it will involve several primary and secondary schools and a bussing system to the International School of Zanzibar (ISZ). The ISZ also plans to offer boarding in Fumba. “Now it is up to all of us to keep the first school running and thriving”, says CPS executive Katrin Dietzold who was instrumental in setting up the education center. A scholarship programme has been organised (for details see box below) to offer high quality education to all children, no matter their financial situation.
The first recipients of the scholarships are children from the surrounding Dimani and Nyamanzi communities, children of Fumba Town staff and other children from around Zanzibar. “The scheme mirrors our idea of an educational concept as inclusive and diverse as our town is”, Dietzold said. “Children whose parents can afford the very reasonable school fees will study together with children where the parental income situation is not sufficient.”
English from the start
The school teaches in English from the beginning on, using the Tanzanian curricula. Silverleaf already runs several successful schools in the country. “After just one month children have picked up a few words of English, after six months they are almost fluent”, teacher Sarakikya says fondly. Musicians from the Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA) teach singing and instruments, there is sports as well as environmental teaching.
“We also very much engage the families of our children”, explains Emma Cunningham-Bradshaw, a school employee, “we support them in their homes and make sure the kids find a nurturing environment. Parents seem to be very happy to be brought into the picture.” Suddenly, there is some loud laughing and screaming to be heard in the school’s lobby. One of the teachers is chasing the kids with a fake dinosaur – letting of steam, I realise, also is part of the school routine!
100% pass rate
For the moment the teacher-student ratio is too good to be true – four teachers to eight children. This is likely to change with the enrolment of more young students, but Silverleaf has created an innovative concept against overcrowding of classes: at least two teachers per class and rotating lessons in small groups. So-called “rote learning” – the memorisation of information based on repetition, still common in lots of schools – is strictly taboo. “Kids don’t actually learn like that”, the head teacher explains, “we want to encourage them to explore issues rather than memorising them.”
The educational concept seems to bear best results. Silverleaf students have a 100 per cent pass rate at national exams, while the general pass rate in Zanzibar is currently only 40 per cent. “Our understanding of schooling is actually quite simple”, says Shirima: “To support little people becoming future citizens who ask the right questions and are able to move forward by themselves.”
How to sponsor a student