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.