Category Archives: The Millenium Development Goals (MDG)

Making Art and Development

(Entry for the Guardian International Development Journalism Competition)

Creativity Could be the Greatest Influence for Change in the Developing World

‘My opinion is important, if something bad was to happen I can use it to make things better’ (Ibrahimu 9yrs Making Art, Making Me, Moshi Rural, Tanzania, 2012)

Ibrahimu is one of 60 children currently participating in a creative learning project, Making Art, Making Me, supported by Childreach International in Tanzania. In the project children are practically and creatively learning about identity, whilst building life skills and confidence.  What Ibrihimu doesn’t realise yet, is that his generation’s opinions and ability to make things better are crucial if Tanzania is to achieve the MDG targets by 2015, and become active participants in the global developments of the twenty-first century, outlined in its 2025 development vision.

Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful tool for change in the developing world and thus, universal primary education is high up on the international agenda for development. The East African community is proud to be on target for achieving this and at the turn of the 21st century, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania all pulled the plug on fees and declared ‘free’ primary education for all of those who can afford the annual contributions. In Tanzania, parents can expect to pay the equivalent of nearly £60 a year, which is a substantial amount for those living below the poverty line. This money could feed a rural family of five for up to six months.

After primary education became free in 2001 schools were inundated with children and Tanzanian net enrolment rates soared from 80.7% in 2002 to an impressive 97.7% by 2008 (TZ MDG Progress Report). This looks remarkable on paper, but the reality is that this is purely a statistic, an impressive figure that shows that there is the desire to learn in Tanzania. The net enrolment rate tells us nothing about the quality of education: how are we to know whether these children are being equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the development challenges of the future?  A worrying report published by Uwezo finds very evident discrepancies between the number of children enrolled in school and those who leave without basic competencies in numeracy and literacy. Tanzania had some of the worst results in east Africa, where a disturbing 32% of children in the last year of primary school at Standard 7 (14-15yrs), failed to perform simple numeracy tasks expected at Standard 2 (7-8yrs).  This trend was also seen in Kiswahili and English results, which begs the question, why aren’t these children learning?

Tanzania’s Development Vision (2025) recognises the need for reform. It calls for the education system to be restructured and transformed qualitatively. It also promotes creativity and problem solving as necessary classroom skills for development. Things are changing, but pole pole (slowly slowly) as the Tanzanians say, with the last curriculum alteration in 2011. However, these changes are made at Ministerial level and often neglect fundamental practicalities such as, how can teachers effectively teach the new communication curriculum without electricity and computers?  As a result new subjects are taught theoretically.

These curriculum changes are not enough to address the immediate damage done to the current key stakeholders of education, Tanzania’s children and future generations. Childreach International is currently tackling this problem hands on in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania and on the 4th of May they will be exhibiting a diverse array of art work produced during the innovative project ‘Making Art, Making Me’ in Moshi, Tanzania. Here children have been participating in weekly creative workshops in which they have built and shared ideas about their personal, local and global identity. Using a non-formal approach they will demonstrate to the District Education Officers and local teachers how problem solving and creativity can be resourcefully integrated into the curriculum. The project has aimed to develop key life skills, whilst building self-confidence.  It has also aimed to assist students with gaining a critical understanding of their identity through arts, drama and collaborative work.  The work shown will demonstrate how this approach can have an immediate and lasting impact on children, many of whom had previously struggled to present in front of a class and failed to see how they could communicate problems through the arts. These children have since been able to articulately explain their work which ranges from identifying important elements of a community, such as working together, environmental protection and support networks. Another group of girls from a school in rural Moshi have produced prints which identify their child rights and responsibilities. Here the artwork made calls upon children to refuse work for low wages (100Tsh/ 4pence to pick 1 kilo of coffee over many hours) on a multinational ‘fair-trade’ coffee company, and encourages the community to educate parents and children alike about their rights.

If education really is the greatest tool for change in the developing world and is to encourage a positive influence on social, political and cultural practice, then education must include social, political and cultural thinking.  In just three months Making Art, Making Me has demonstrated how a little innovation and creativity can go a long way. Using art, drama and communication (a fundamental principle) they have stimulated critical, enquiry based learning in children which have spanned all of the above topics. When presenting a collage  to the class, which identified important factors in a community, the group of four girls pointed out a photograph of children cramped in a class room, many sat on the floor.  They went on to explain that the government needs to invest more money in schools as communities can only grow and support each other with proper education. It is clear that these class discussions and group work has developed crucial skills and knowledge enabling them to articulate their needs and identify their solutions.

If after just three months these children are able to stand up and question multinational organisations and call upon their government for change on education policy, imagine what could be achieved if Tanzania really does reform its education system qualitatively?  With all this in mind, creative education really could be the greatest influence for change in the developing world and help to equip Tanzania to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and solve future development challenges.

Photograph taken from the evaluation activity – How does Making Art, Making Me make you feel?


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Filed under Tanzanian Developent Vision 2025, The Millenium Development Goals (MDG)

Article 4: Sharing the Protection of Rights

This group of girls produced a beautiful print for the exhibition about how communities can protect children’s rights. It shows a women who left her house one morning  to attend a meeting in the village about the UNCRC. She was late attending and on her way she met two young children already on their way home. They were able to answer of the women’s questions and therefore shared their communities responsibility  to implement their rights and help raise awareness of their importance. A really simple yet stunning print which shows clearly how communities and children can work together, this will look great in their class room!

Witness                             Victoria                                  Honorata                                Gertrudi

Article 4 (Protection of rights): Governments have a responsibility to take all available measures to make sure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. When countries ratify the Convention, they agree to review their laws relating to children. This involves assessing their social services, legal, health and educational systems, as well as levels of funding for these services. Governments are then obliged to take all necessary steps to ensure that the minimum standards set by the Convention in these areas are being met. They must help families protect children’s rights and create an environment where they can grow and reach their potential.

Heres what Witness, Honorata, Victoria and Gertrudi thought about how responsibility could be taken…

  1. To prepare meetings for participatory information sharing about rights. To share and learn together so that rights can be followed
  2. Governments to pass each house to make sure rights are followed and protection is there
  3. Governments to write letters to communities about rights to raise awareness
  4. Parents to go to child rights meetings
  5. Police to make sure that rights are followed by parents and children

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Filed under Arts Works, Communities, The Millenium Development Goals (MDG)

Fairtrade and Child Labour (Article 32)

In the last few weeks of Making Art, Making Me, Singachini continued working on their child rights illustrations. Each group focused on a particular Protection Right and discussed in groups what they mean, here is what the first group thought…

Article 32 (Child Labour): The Government should protect children from work that is dangerous of might harm their health or their education

  • We as children should refuse to do works above our age
  • We shouldn’t be asked to carry big bunches of bananas to sell when we should be going to school
  • Let us refuse to work on coffee plantations for low wages
  • We shouldn’t be taken away from school for work in town as house girls or boys. Parents should refuse this and stop allowing people to take us away
  • Parents shouldn’t allow us to go and graze goats .

The groups, all from local villages in Kibosho, then took their ideas and turned them into storyboards. These all gave touching and personal accounts of how they, their community and the government can take responsibility for protecting them by illustrating cases where rights are neglected.

In this drawing the young girl has gone out to work on the coffee plantation. She is working a long day in the hot sun for a low wage. A boy from Standard 7 comes along to the plantation and adivces her on her rights, he tells her that children should not go to work on the (named and fairtrade) coffee estate and should be going to school instead to get a good education. The child then stops picking coffee and goes back to school.

Here is the first final print!  These were shown at the exhibition, displayed at school and will be travelling to London to help raise awareness about  childrens rights and responsibilities.

It is also interesting to note that the named coffee plantation is well know and registered as Fair Trade

The Fairtrade standards for producer organizations prohibit child labour – work that is hazardous, exploitive or that undermines a child’s education or its emotional and physical health.  We follow the ILO Conventions, including Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and our audits check compliance against this.  Qualified auditors inspect Fairtrade producer organizations on a regular basis to monitor for child labour

We look forward to consulting Fairtrade about this artwork and company when we return to the UK.

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Filed under Arts Works, The Millenium Development Goals (MDG)

What’s Right and Who’s Responsible?

We only have a few weeks left of Making Art, Making Me workshops before our May exhibition in Moshi. Over the forthcoming workshops we will be building on previous ideas whilst exploring a new topic, Child Rights. So far we have looked at our project theme Identity through a personal perspective, looking at life experiences and influential factors. Secondly, we explored our community characteristics, and to round it all off we will be learning about children’s global identity through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC 1989)

These rights, 54 to be precise are categorised into themes

  1. The guiding principles; so setting out the terms and definitions

2. Protection Rights; keeping children safe from harm, violence and abuse

3. Participation Rights; ensuring that children have a voice and that it is heard

4. Survival and Development Rights; they have the right to live and develop to their fullest potential.

This convention became legally binding in 1990 and with only two countries left in the world to ratify it signifies a global commitment to the new vision of the child.

After introducing the United Nations (essentially as an international organisation which helps countries talk to each other) we learnt about who, what and why the UNCRC and its relevance to us. Most importantly we learnt about responsibilities, and how the huge global task of making the principles of the UNCRC a reality isn’t just up to the governments. All members of society, including children, must play apart in implementing, protecting and respecting these rights.

Last week each school took on a specific theme and discussed in their groups how either they, their community or the government can take this on board. They then went on to draw illustrated stories exemplifying these rights and responsibilities in action!

An example of the work produced from Kibo school (Survival and Development) is the above picture of Article 8 – The Right to an Identity. Here a child is born, goes to school and is registered at a local government office. The groups also produced written work about a particular right. When discussing Article 32 (Child Labour): The Government should protect children from work that is dangerous or might harm their health or education, the following statements were produced at Singachini

  • We as children should refuse to do work which is beyond our physical strength
  • We shouldn’t be taken out of school to carry and sell bananas
  • Let us as children refuse to work on coffee plantations for low wages
  • Let us refuse to be taken away (abducted) from schools to work as house girl or boys in the town
  • Parents should refuse this and stop letting people take us away for work
  • Parents should not allow us to go and graze goats

Considering most of the children had never heard of the UN or a human right before, this was a really great response to a very difficult and complicated topic. It was fantastic to see that they were confidently presenting their ideas about rights whilst demonstrating a strong understanding of their responsibilities. We look forward to sharing further artworks and ideas with you soon.

Finally, It was an especially great moment for us to introduce our pupils to our international audience through our analytics page last week. On behalf of the children’s great big beaming smiles, we thank you all for your continuous interest and support. From Iceland to Ethiopia, Canada to Korea we hope you will enjoy the remaining few weeks of Making Art, Making Me, Tanzania.

Asante Sana na Karibu Tena

(Thank you very much, you are always welcome)


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Filed under Communities, The Millenium Development Goals (MDG)

Drawing Pictures and Feelings.

Last week MME facilitated workshops which helped students develop their own artistic styles by experimenting with lots of different materials in timed drawings. We are using these to encourage freer and more expressive work as there is a tendency to be very restrained and meticulous with their marks. This could be related to the amount of discipline received at school, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment To Children summarises that in Tanzania,

Government guidelines in 2000 reduced the number of strokes from six to four and stated that only the heads of schools are allowed to administer the punishment, with penalties for teachers who flout these regulations.

However, it seems that there is no accountablity for these flouting teachers, and caning is still common in schools. I met someone yesterday who remembers being caned eighteen times a day because he struggled with mathematics, unsurprisingly he failed the subject.

During the workshop the children experimented with charcoal, inks, oil pastels, pens, crayons and chalks. Each material has its own quality and the children were asked to investigate these and test out as many marks as possible. We then went on to discuss how we can put feelings into our pictures, for example what would a happy person look like? Or a sad person? And how about someone who is angry or scared? We can use many different marks, colours, shapes and sizes to explore these ideas, in the image above a boy at Singachini draws someone who is very sad all in black and another with a big frown on his face.

During the group presentation at the end some very intelligent remarks came out, many of the happy drawings were to do with passing standard seven examinations,  you cannot go on to secondary school without these and often families can’t afford to repeat the year. Although primary education is technically ‘free’ many families struggle to find the 70,000 TSH for uniforms, materials and porridge etc. The children identified the colours, facial expressions and body language in their drawings as indicators to particular feelings. There was often a crossover between emotions and one child commented that the girl in the picture was angry because she was sad, others were sad and angry because they had been scolded by the teachers

We will be putting these skills to use in this week’s workshops where each child will be producing their very own self portrait in individual styles and identifying their unique characters, strengths and aspirations.

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Filed under School Visits, The Millenium Development Goals (MDG), Uncategorized