Aida has blazed a trail for marginalized women and girls across Tanzania, by becoming the first CAMFED Association (CAMA) member in the country to qualify as a Teacher. She has since become a CAMFED-trained Teacher Mentor, so that she can offer additional guidance and counselling to vulnerable students within the government school system -- students like the girl she once was, at risk of losing their grip on education due to poverty.
At just eight years old, Aida’s life was marked by tragedy when her mother died. Left alone to support his six children, her father struggled to make ends meet. As the eldest girl, it fell to Aida to help run the home.
“I was the one that remained at home caring for the family, finding food for my siblings. I didn’t perform well at school even though I knew that I was able.”
After primary school, Aida faced a three month-long wait for her examination results. During this time she began to feel pressure to start earning an income as a house girl. However, it was her father’s great hope that he could send even one of his children to high school. He encouraged Aida not to abandon her dreams of completing her education. When news of her good results reached them, father and daughter celebrated together.
Aida had to travel a long distance to her new school, and stayed there during term time. Her father had worked hard, finding farm labor to support her, but there wasn’t enough to cover all her school essentials including exercise books and sanitary pads. Aida would sometimes miss lessons due to her challenges. Things became so difficult that she didn’t think she could return for the second term.
To Aida’s surprise, her Headteacher summoned her back to school. With only the money for her transport, Aida went, and was told that she had been selected to receive a CAMFED bursary. Her support included all the materials she had been missing, and even a mattress for her to sleep on.
Aida recalls: “I started to live a comfortable life. I didn’t believe what had happened!”
With this support in place, she could enjoy school and focus on her studies. Aida’s performance increased and she became one of the top students in her class, to the delight of her teachers. Aida’s father was very proud and never stopped encouraging his daughter.
“The words of my dad encouraged me to work hard in my school, giving me the strength to have aspirations of what I could be after my studies.”
After school Aida joined the CAMFED Association, the network of women educated with CAMFED support. With support from her teachers, family and friends in the CAMFED Association she felt determined to continue learning and developing. With CAMFED’s help, she secured a government loan enabling her to continue to tertiary education at the University of Dar es Salaam. There was no doubt about Aida’s subject choice, it had to be Education.
After she graduated, Aida joined the CAMFED office for six months as an intern before she was appointed by the government as a teacher in Ulanga District. She recognized the many challenges that her students faced and was excited when, a year later, CAMFED became active in the district. As a beacon of what a CAMFED client could achieve, Aida became instrumental in cementing the partnership between schools, local education authorities, community members and CAMFED.
Aida (left) with Angie Murimirwa - CAMFED Association founding member, and CAMFED Executive Director in Africa.
From then on Aida combined her busy role as an English and Civics teacher with supporting the roll-out of CAMFED programs. First, the Learner Guide Program, which sees CAMFED Association members deliver life skills and wellbeing sessions in schools. And then, Aida was a pioneer once again, when she became the first CAMFED Association member in Tanzania to train as a Teacher Mentor. In this role, she remained a government teacher, but could draw upon additional expertise in child protection and psychosocial support.
“The performance of students was poor, and what made their performance poor was hunger, because the students came to school without eating.”
Aida wasted no time in rallying together other teachers, parents and members of the CAMFED Association to address the issues affecting her students. Many of them would tell her that they had not eaten that day and maybe also the day before, and so they were unable to concentrate in class. As a result their schoolwork suffered. Aida called on the community to take action and ensure the children could eat a nutritious lunch at school. Soon, the parents - organized into a Parent Support Group - were fundraising to buy maize, and coming to the school to cook it.
She recalls: “We witnessed the results becoming better and better.” In 2016 that school was amongst the lowest-performing in the district, but thanks to Aida’s school-feeding initiative the next year they were ranked 13th in the whole country. Across the district, other schools were quick to replicate her scheme.
“I am a role model. I am proud to work in education.”
Aida in the classroom, teaching her students.
Aida (left) helps a Parent Support Group prepare lunch for students.
Alongside this, Aida devised new methods in the classroom to help make learning more fun and engaging for her students. She runs whole school quiz competitions to help learners of all ages work together and revise different subjects. Aida has also put her students forward for debate and essay competitions, helping them to improve their spoken and written English, as well as gaining confidence.
“I want my district to have a lot of educated people, that is my inspiration. I know that because of the CAMA [CAMFED Association] network it is going to succeed.”
At the end of 2018, Aida was transferred back to her home district, Iringa, where she continues to work as a passionate educator and activist. As an elected leader in the CAMFED Association, Aida is galvanizing young women in her district to raise funds and support more children in education. Together, they have bought and cultivated a plot of land where they grow avocados, which are processed and sold at a profit. Like all CAMFED Association members across Africa, they have made it their mission to multiply the number of children we can support to learn, thrive and lead change.
“A dream you dream alone is a dream, but a dream you dream together is realistic.”