Scaling Best Practices from a High-Performing, Locally-Led Primary School in Arusha, Tanzania

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Scaling Best Practices from a High-Performing, Locally-Led Primary School in Arusha, Tanzania

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Over the past 5 years, Shepherds Junior School, located in Arusha, Tanzania, has grown from a single classroom of just 6 pre-schoolers to become a high-quality pre- and primary school that now serves over 300 children at 8 grade levels (ages 2-12) in the villages of Moivaro and Kimandolu.  Last year, with investment by US nonprofit Epic Change, the school qualified to participate in national exams for the first time by expanding to include its first Class IV classroom, and students performed #1 out of 117 schools in the Arusha district.  The ideas presented below are the key factors that have led to the school's success:


  • Primary English Language Immersion:  In Tanzania, government primary schools are taught in Swahili, while secondary schools are taught in English, which makes the transition to post-primary school extremely difficult.  In addition, language learning seems to be most effective when students are very young.  At Shepherds Junior, we begin teaching all subjects in English at age 2, though Swahili classes remain a core part of our curriculum.  All of our students are effectively bilingual, which we believe also improves their thinking and learning skills in other subjects.
  • Cultural Enrichment:  While our school is an English-medium environment, Swahili courses and clubs and coursework that celebrate our heritage are a core aspect of our curriculum.
  • Social Responsibility:  From the time students enter our school, as young as age 2, we make every effort to expose children to the social issues that confront our community.  Children regularly perform in the community to spread awareness through songs that focus on HIV/AIDS prevention, poems on poverty and child labor, and plays and debates that address the role of women and girls in our society. By cultivating this awareness in young people, we believe we are creating socially conscious young leaders with the skills and knowledge to lead Tanzania and Africa through significant social change.
  • Technology, Connection & Innovation:  In partnership with US nonprofit Epic Change, Shepherds Junior has begun to share our story with the world using social media tools:  our students have shared YouTube videos with peers in the US, and parents and I have blogged to share our story with a broader audience.  Most recently, we mobilized our community to vote online at local internet cafes to win a grant to implement a technology lab at Shepherds Junior school.  We believe that access to technology and participation in global conversations using social media will dramatically improve the quality of education we are able to offer at Shepherds Junior School.
  • Entrepreneurship:  In partnership with US nonprofit Epic Change, Shepherds Junior has begun to cultivate opportunities for our students to directly contribute to raising funds that support our school.  Through school performances, solicitation of auction donations from the community and contribution of artwork, photography and design for products that have been sold to raise funds, students have begun to understand their ability to generate income through their own efforts.


  • Early Childhood Education:  We begin teaching children at age 2, and provide up to three years of schooling before children enter Class I of traditional Tanzanian primary instruction.  These years are instrumental in teaching students basic math, language and play skills that prepare them to effectively participate in our primary classrooms.
  • Diversity & Inclusion:  Many local private schools cater only to affluent students; other, especially charitable & government schools, segregate and serve only the "poorest of the poor." At Shepherds Junior, all children work and play together, learn from one another's diverse backgrounds and circumstances, and have equal access to a great education.  By charging tuition to those who can afford it, we are able to subsidize the costs of orphans and others who cannot.  In addition, we maintain a 50/50 ratio of girls and boys and our student body includes representation from many diverse local cultures and religions, including Masaai, Muslim and Christian students.   Our school is not religiously affiliated.


  • Sustainability:  A school may only provide services if it has the funds available to pay teachers, provide needed materials, and maintain facilities.  At Shepherds Junior, we offer a high-quality education at an affordable cost and, by doing so, are able to subsidize and offer scholarships and other support to orphans and other children who are unable to pay.
  • Local Leadership:  There are some schools in the Arusha area and beyond led by bright, well-intentioned "wazungu" (i.e., foreigners) who provide a valuable education to the youth of Tanzania.  Local leaders, however, have a natural advantage in that they teach children by example that they too may grow and develop into leaders of their communities.  In addition, shared language and cultural experience are very useful tools in developing an effective, engaging educational environment and curriculum.
  • Paid, Trained Teachers:  At Shepherds Junior, we are able to pay very little, but hire only paid teachers who are clearly dedicated to their profession.  By cultivating a sense of community, respect and love for the children, we ensure that teachers focus on teaching to the very best of their ability.
  • Community Support & Parental Involvement:  The parents and teachers of Shepherds Junior are a community that provides mutual support to further our shared goals of educating the children of Tanzania.  We have a parent/teachers committee that meets regularly to discuss issues facing the school.  It is not uncommon for the parents and teachers to volunteer their efforts to ensure the success of Shepherds school and all of our students.  For example, not too long ago, a teacher noticed that one of the orphans in her classroom was not being regularly bathed, nor were her clothes being washed.  To make sure the child wasn't ostracized by her peers, the teacher independently held a teachers' meeting, and among them they bought soap and made plans to share the duties of caring for the child's hygiene.  As a second example, a parent recently volunteered his time as a welder to build the windows of our new classroom.
  • Global Partnerships:  Through financial and non-financial partnerships with organizations like Epic Change, Cross Cultural Solutions, and others that provide volunteers, Shepherds Junior students and staff have been exposed to diverse people and ideas from across the globe.  In addition, by actively engaging in these partnerships, Shepherds Junior has been able to cultivate both volunteer and financial support, as well as knowledge sharing, that has accelerated our expansion.

The demand for the education we provide is constantly increasing, and by expanding our efforts to serve more students at more grade levels, we'll be able to scale the impact of these important lessons learned.

About You
Project Street Address

PO Box 1888

Project City


Project Province/State


Project Postal/Zip Code


Project Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on:


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

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What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?


Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.

Locally founded in 2003 by “Mama Lucy” Kamptoni, Shepherds Junior is a high-quality pre- and primary-school that aims to engender social responsibility and leadership in its socio-economically diverse student body of over 300 children in Arusha, Tanzania. Last year, Shepherds’ students performed #1 of 117 Arusha schools on national exams.

What makes your idea unique?

Our unique model combines many best practices from our five years of hands-on, locally-led experience building a primary school whose students recently ranked #1 out of 117 schools in the Arusha district on national exams.

<p>Our curriculum immerses children in a second, global language from the outset of formal education, enriches students' understanding of their cultural heritage, teaches social responsibility, entrepreneurship and leadership, and, through a recent grant, we'll soon be able to provide access to technological tools that will add global context to their learning.

<p>Our student body includes children as young as two as we are highly focused on early childhood education, and we foster a diverse learning environment in which students may learn from and grow with one another regardless of gender, culture, religion or socio-economic background.

<p>Finally, we are able to sustain and scale our work through the support of a committed community of local leaders, trained teachers, engaged parents and active partners. Through their dedication, and the sustainable financial support generated through regular tuition payments from hundreds of students, Shepherds Junior is in a unique position to continue to grow and scale our innovative, high-quality pre- and primary-school.

<p>Of course, substantive investment would enable us to scale more quickly and provide our unique, high-quality educational experience to even more children in the short-term.

What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)

Children & Youth , At risk youth , Boys' development , Early childhood development , Education , Education reform , Girls' development , Youth development , Youth leadership , Vulnerable populations , Youth leadership.

What impact have you had?

In five years, Shepherds Junior has grown from just 6 preschool students to over 300 students at 8 grade levels. Our students are recognized by the community as some of the best in the area and just last year, when we expanded to include Class IV and participated in national exams for the first time, our students performed #1 out of 117 participating schools in the Arusha District. Because we charge an affordable tuition to most students, we are able to subsidize costs and offer scholarships to several orphans and other children who could not otherwise afford a high-quality education.

<p>As a secondary impact, over 30 jobs have been created for teachers, assistants, maintenance and cafeteria staff.

Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.

<li><b>Socio-Economic Segregation:</b> Many local private schools cater only to affluent students; other, especially charitable & government schools, segregate and serve only the "poorest of the poor." At Shepherds Junior, all children work and play together, learn from one another's diverse backgrounds and circumstances, and have equal access to a great education.
<li><b>Inadequate Early Childhood Education:</b> Educational facilities for pre-primary aged children are extremely limited, and we have found that students who attend pre-primary school seem to perform substantively better than their peers who did not attend preschool.
<li><b>Difficult Transition to Secondary School:</b> As mentioned, government primary schools are normally taught in Swahili, while secondary school is taught exclusively in English, making the transition to secondary school very difficult. While we continue formal Swahili lessons throughout primary school, our school is otherwise taught entirely in English.<br>
<li><b>Loss of Cultural Identity:</b> Some, though certainly not all, local schools, are internationally-led and seem to focus on importing curricula and educational standards from other cultures. In some instances, this may result in the loss or de-emphasis of important aspects of our local, shared cultural mores and heritage.
<li><b>Over-Emphasis on Rote Memorization:</b> Over-emphasis on rote memorization for basic math and language skills may result in the under-development of important critical thinking skills for local students. While this is certainly an area in which our school may further improve, by including discussion of social issues and responsibility in our curriculum, we are beginning to encourage our students to move beyond memorization to develop leadership skills that will enable them to address the issues that impact their lives and our community.
<li><b>Connectivity Gap:</b> Web access in East Africa is notoriously limited, meaning that students in Tanzania have a disadvantage in mastering the tools and technologies that could serve them in learning and future careers. By incorporating technology into our curriculum, we hope to bridge this global gap, and to connect our students with their peers across the globe.
<li><b>Culture of Dependency:</b> By nurturing the seeds of entrepreneurship in even primary school students, and by demonstrating, through the role models of our school's founder, local teachers and our active, engaged parents committee, that local people have the power to lead our community, we implicitly combat a pervasive, insidious sense, propagated from years of colonialism, that Africans must depend on foreigners for resources and leadership.
<li><b>Limited Focus on Girls' Education:</b> Historically, education of young women has not been a priority for many local people. By designating at least 50% of our capacity for girls, we help to educate young women, who have been proven to use their education to build stronger, healthier families and communities.

<li><b>Poor Teacher Pay/Quality:</b> Teachers in our area, especially at government schools, are notoriously underpaid resulting in poor teacher quality. While we are still improving our own salaries, our teachers are paid enough to survive, and are deeply committed to their students' learning.

<li><b>Unsustainable NGO & Education Programs that rely exclusively on Sponsors/Donors:</b> Many schoolrooms and classrooms that operate without tuition fall into one of two traps: either they close due to lack of local commitment and resources or, by creating a model subsidized, sponsored and/or led entirely by foreigners, they cultivate a prolonged relationship of dependency in which students depend entirely on foreigners for basic needs. It is unclear what effect this may have on students' sense of independence and self-sufficiency over the long term.

<li><b>Limited Parental Involvement:</b> We have found that parental involvement leads to improved student achievement.

<li><b>Isolation & Exclusion from Global Conversations:</b> By collaborating with global partners, Shepherds Junior students are able to learn from and share with their peers across the globe, and we are able to share our learning with our peer social innovators and potential funders like you both in an effort to obtain funding and resources, of course, but perhaps more importantly to inform the way in which you invest in education and social change in Tanzania and throughout Africa.

Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.

After five years and with the majority of our over 300 students now paying tuition, we have created an infrastructure that is now growing organically. By reinvesting tuition dollars and through a partnership forged with US nonprofit Epic Change, we are able to expand annually to create a new classroom for our upper level students to advance to the next grade level.

<p>Our next steps include implementation of a social media technology lab in partnership with Epic Change, using a $10,000 grant that was recently awarded by Ideablob. We also plan to build additional classrooms, a cafeteria, a library and a boarding facility/orphanage. As our longer-term vision, we may build a secondary school at this location and/or build additional locations to serve primary students in other areas.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Success in Year 1:

Launch Technology Lab & Build Classroom VI. (2009)

Success in Year 2:

Complete cafeteria, library, classroom VII & an orphanage/boarding facility. (2010)

Success in Year 3:

Scale to include secondary education and/or add additional locations to the Shepherds Junior system. (2011 & beyond)

Do you have a business plan or strategic plan? (yes/no)


What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 1:

Launch Technology Lab & Build Classroom VI. (2009)

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 2:

Complete cafeteria, library, classroom VII & an orphanage/boarding facility. (2010)

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 3:

Scale to include secondary education and/or add additional locations to the Shepherds Junior system. (2011 & beyond)

Describe the expected results of these actions.

Shepherds Junior will expand to provide a higher-quality education to a greater number of students and, by increasing overall attendance, will be able to subsidize the educations of an even greater number of orphans and low-income students.

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The innovations we've implemented at Shepherds Junior were inspired by:
<ul><li>My great love for children and my community.
<li>A lack of adequate schools in my area offering a high-quality standard of education.
<li>My commitment to my community and my loving country Tanzania.
<li>The many orphans in my community who have been left behind with no one to pay for their education.
<li>Five years of learning and improving our efforts at Shepherds Junior School.</ul>

In addition, when I attended secondary school, I was lucky to study with the children of different Ministers who led our country at that time. My family was not well off, but my school mixed children from both rich and poor families. It was really a very good experience, and I decided to adopt the model at my school, Shepherds Junior.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

"Mama Lucy" Kamptoni was an entrepreneur who sold chickens and eggs until she saved her income to rent land next door to her home in Arusha, Tanzania, where she launched Shepherds Junior School in 2003. Since then, she has grown Shepherds Junior from a single classroom with just 6 preschool students to a school that serves over 300 children at 8 grade levels, all while furthering her own education at a a local university. In 2008, in the first year her school was certified to participate in national exams, Mama Lucy's students scored #1 out of 117 schools in the Arusha District.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through Stacey Monk at Epic Change ([email protected]).

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Inability to scale quickly enough to keep pace with demand for services.

Financing source


If yes, provide organization name.

Shepherds Foundation & Shepherds Junior School |
Epic Change

How long has this organization been operating? (i.e. less than a year; 1-5 years; more than 5 years)

More than 5 years (Shepherds Foundation & Shepherds Junior School)|
About 2 years (Epic Change)

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs? (yes/no)


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses? (yes/no)


The Story
Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government? (yes/no)


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Our partnerships have granted volunteers, in-kind donations and financial resources that have enabled us to scale more quickly than we may have organically.

<p>Our most significant partnership, with US nonprofit Epic Change, has not only resulted in substantial capital investment in our expansion, but has also helped us to create an online presence to share our story, to cultivate an engaged global audience for our efforts, to improve our local fundraising activities, and to discover opportunities, like this one, to connect with potential resources and to share our ideas about education and social change in Tanzania and Africa.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the total number of employees and total number of volunteers at your organization?

Employees: 31
<p>Volunteers: 4

What is your organization's business classification?

Non-profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Have you received funding from any of the following groups? (Please check as many as apply.)

None of the above.