The Saint Paul Area Synod’s relationship with the Iringa Diocese in Tanzania is multi-faceted, embracing health care, water and hygiene, post-secondary education, support for local congregations, and agriculture. More than half of the congregations in this synod have been transformed by walking with brothers and sisters in Africa.
A lesser known, but equally vibrant, aspect of our church’s collective work in Tanzania is Mwangaza Education for Partnership. Supported in part by the synod mission support for Global Mission, Mwangaza is a joint effort of the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) that addresses the challenges of formal and informal education in Tanzania at the secondary level. Begun in 1996 after discussions with educators in both countries, Mwangaza is a grassroots initiative, providing learning opportunities for people in both nations. The 20 synods of the ELCT are paired with 20 ELCA synods, of which this synod is one.
Education in Tanzania
The cumulative effect of decades of economic constraints in Tanzania has resulted in an impoverished primary and secondary school system in this nation of 30 million people. There is a shortage of schools, and those that exist lack adequate facilities and materials. Many classrooms have no books. Poor teacher training and lack of continuing education have resulted in poor student performance. The leap from Swahili-medium education in primary school to English-medium in secondary school is formidable to students who are now studying in their third language.
Tanzania ranks lowest, worldwide, in its ability to educate its youth. Only 12 percent complete secondary education, with a scant one percent able to attend a university. The 2.5 million member ELCT has tried to address the situation by building schools in those dioceses which were able to gather enough funds to do so. The church now manages 51 such institutions which are open to the entire community. Two of the schools are in the Iringa Diocese—at Pommeren and Mtera.
Programs supporting education
Mwangaza has become known throughout Tanzania and directs five programs in support of education:
- Professional development for teachers provides opportunities to update skills through seminars at the Mwangaza resource center in Arusha and through teacher exchanges. More than 1000 teachers have been trained, making an impact on 30,000 students.
- HIV/AIDS education works to change behaviors by establishing peer support and guardian programs; emphasizing responsibilities of all members of a community; and addressing issues of stigma and gender. Some 200 students in 25 schools have been trained as leaders; 100 teachers have been trained.
- Binti-Mama, a program for mothers and daughters, provides training for life skills, health and nutrition, and communication. Training 110 women leaders from all 20 dioceses has had an impact on 35,000 women.
- Mwana-Baba, a program for fathers and sons, teaches about the responsible use of power and authority. Training has been provided to 84 pastors and evangelists in 14 dioceses, with an impact on 20,000 men.
- Computer training has become critical, and Mwangaza has installed 125 computers in 41 schools and trained teachers in 15 schools.
How to volunteer
Volunteer opportunities, both in the United States and Tanzania, abound for people of all ages. Volunteers are needed to serve as online partners for teachers and to travel to Tanzania for short periods to serve as community health advisors and to teach computer skills. To learn more, call Shoonie Hartwig at 651.255.0674 or Gerrie Lidstrom, board member, at 651.464.2641.