At the Orkeeswa School in Tanzania, a comprehensive and locally led outreach program for Maasai students is creating significant and lasting impact. Faced with few school resources and a history of poor academic performance, primary-age students from eight schools are being supported with new skills, mentoring and leadership opportunities. The goal, to increase retention in school, improve academic results and for girls to continue their education beyond the early years. And it is working.
Project: Orkeeswa Outreach Program
Location: 8 schools in the Monduli district of Tanzania
The Orkeeswa Outreach Program is a wraparound in-community service to complement the work of the Orkeeswa School. Its focus is helping provide the foundations for children to succeed. As part of the School, the Outreach Program works in partnership with all eight participating primary schools, the School alumni, community leaders and local government. The program operates in three main areas; to improve student retention and matriculation rates into secondary school, to provide learning and leadership skills and address cultural norms that directly impact girls’ secondary education access and opportunity.
The Outreach Program is in high demand from existing and hopeful new schools and to address new and shifting challenges. The demand in all areas is greater than the program’s capacity to deliver. While sustaining current partnerships and growing new ones as part of its evolution, so is prioritising and focussing the Outreach activities. During 2023 program changes are proving a valuable and important strategy to better utilise existing resources. Academic support is intensively focussed on the youngest students with their teachers tutored through the program’s Teaching at the Right Level methodology. For older students, the priority is a focus on life and leadership skills. To encourage all students to support one another and to involve the community, the sports program is open to all.
While many of the programs are run during the school week, the Outreach Program runs a Saturday session for female primary school students only. This directly meets one of the three goals of the program, to support and retain girls at school and address the cultural norms that limit this opportunity. Saturdays are for intensive support to directly improve student confidence, agency and knowledge through additional academic help to taekwondo and life skills.
“It is important that I give back to my community because it builds a sense of pride and belonging. I had a goal to see the students I teach become confident to share their problems and to challenge the status quo in their communities. I am very proud that they were confiding in me. Many of their parents wanted them to get married but they wanted to continue with education. I encouraged them to study hard and I reported their challenges to teachers who could meet with their families. They didn’t get married, instead they continued with school. It was very difficult for me to leave the students. My community service has impacted me so much.”
Einoti, Orkeeswa Student and Outreach Mentor
With the support of The Phillips Foundation as a funding partner, Orkeeswa Outreach has been able to develop and launch the Teaching at the Right Level program, its ‘train and trainer’ methodology which has been delivered to 406 student mentors and coaches so far, create resources for academic and life skills learning that has been shared with 7,560 students and build five basketball courts for Maasai children and their community to play and use as an outdoor classroom.