KANSAS CITY, Kansas — After spending time researching how globalization and economic liberalization impact the family structure in East Africa, Meghann Gunderman Sehorn identified a need in the community. She sought to create sustainable solutions and help support an environment in which access to quality education for orphan and vulnerable children could thrive. This vision has grown into The Foundation For Tomorrow (TFFT), an organization committed to investing in children through “the power of education.”
Access to Education in Tanzania
While Tanzania’s primary school enrollment rate reached 98% in 2008, the figure since sunk to only 81% by 2018. Consequently, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), about two million Tanzanians between 7 and 13 years old are not enrolled in primary education. Moreover, the children from Tanzania’s large impoverished class “are three times less likely to” enroll in primary education than the wealthiest portion of Tanzanian society.
Furthermore, students attending public rather than private schools are more likely to have a less personalized education because in public pre-primary schools the pupil-to-qualified-teacher ratio is 169:1. Thus, Tanzania’s impoverished and vulnerable populations still face barriers to attaining a quality education.
Tanzania has experienced sustained economic growth since 2000 and recently transitioned from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country. However, poverty is still widespread in the country. According to the World Bank, in 2017, 49.4% of Tanzanians lived below the international poverty rate ($1.90 per day).
Additionally, Tanzania has a Human Development Index (HDI) rating of 0.529, which ranks the East African nation 163 out of 189 countries. The HDI is a United Nations index used to assess the level of human development in a country based on the three fundamental dimensions of human development, “a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable” and “a decent standard of living.” As roughly 25 million out of 59 million Tanzanians are younger than the age of 14, widespread access to education is crucial to Tanzania’s future economic development.
The Foundation For Tomorrow
TFFT’s overall mission initially aimed to provide orphaned and vulnerable Tanzanian children with access to education. However, the nonprofit organization now focuses on catering to the scholars’ needs outside of the classroom as well. Miller Bianucci of TFFT told The Borgen Project, “Our Whole Child Approach supports and nurtures all areas of children’s development and learning, ensuring that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.” Additionally, Bianucci stated that the Foundation selects students based on criteria such as “vulnerability status and poverty threshold, age and grade level and their potential to be positively impacted by the program.”
TFFT aims to provide individualized learning for each student based on their unique needs. TFFT provides workshops covering topics such as entrepreneurship, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and financial literacy. Also, TFFT’s Health and Psychosocial Program Program offers students access to counseling services and medical care. As the Foundation supports scholars throughout primary and secondary school, TFFT provides its students with career coaching, mentoring and leadership training services to ensure students are employable and able to contribute meaningfully to society.
In a recent study, the World Bank indicates that the quality of an educator in Tanzania has a direct positive relationship with the class’s average test scores and student achievement. Thus, skilled educators play a vital role in lowering barriers to quality education for vulnerable Tanzanian children.
Bianucci discussed TFFT’s Teacher Training Program and notes that the program supplies educators with the resources, professional development training and leadership support necessary to enhance the teachers’ abilities to engage and motivate students. The Foundation also created a publication written by teachers for teachers called Tufundishane, which amplifies the voices of Tanzanian teachers and highlights examples of widely applicable “best teaching practices.”
Community investment and engagement form a key pillar of The Foundation For Tomorrow’s strategy to provide vulnerable Tanzanian children with an education and prospects for a bright future. Bianucci describes TFFT’s community outreach by stating, “We believe in the importance of trusting those closest to the problem to create the solution.” Consequently, the Foundation relies on local partners to be key players in boosting local educational outcomes.
The Foundation For Tomorrow’s construction of a Community Learning Centre will further deepen the Foundation’s reach into Tanzanian communities. TFFT will offer the nearby community of 500,000 people the opportunity to boost their job skills by housing a Technology and Computer Training Centre dedicated to hosting technology skills training courses.
The Centre will also promote literacy, access to higher education and community development with the following programs and resources: a free-to-use library, a Higher Education Advisory and Scholarship Centre and an NGO and Social Entrepreneurship Incubator. Altogether, The Community Learning Centre has the potential to further reduce barriers to education and increase social mobility for the nearby community.
Building Tanzania’s Future
While Tanzania has seen a decline in primary education rates since 2008, The Foundation For Tomorrow is actively working to change this trajectory. Since the inception of TFFT, the organization has provided quality education to almost 150 children, partnered with 21 schools and trained 2,237 teachers who have boosted educational outcomes for more than 160,000 students across Tanzania.
The United Nations estimates the global poverty rate could be cut in half “if all adults completed secondary school.” Educational initiatives like that of The Foundation For Tomorrow have the potential to enable the youth of today to make substantial future economic and societal contributions.
– Zachary Fesen