Research has shown that the transition from primary to secondary school is one of the points at which girls in Tanzania are most likely to drop out of school. A major factor is the change in the language of instruction from Swahili to English.
To address this, Camfed has developed an e-reader literacy programme supported by HDIF and in partnership with World-reader, training English teachers and young women in Camfed's CAMA alumnae network (Learner Guides), in the use of the technology.
English teachers and Learner Guides then lead students in Forms 1 and 2 through a literacy programme, introducing them to English in a fun and interesting way.
So far 25 schools have benefited from the initiative in Iringa District, with more than 4,500 students reached over two years. For the most marginalised girls, this support is bolstered by a responsive bursary package, which provides girls with the essential materials they need to access and progress through school. In addition, students receive vital psychosocial support through trained Teacher Mentors.
At every Camfed partner school in Tanzania there are at least two Learner Guides, young women in the CAMA network who have overcome huge challenges to go to school, study and succeed, and who return to local schools as volunteer mentors and role models, guiding students through a life skills curriculum programme called My Better World.
"Girls and young women are at the heart of the Camfed programme," says Lydia Wilbard, National Director, Camfed Tanzania.
"We focus on the extraordinary potential that is unlocked through the girls' education.Our mission is to multiply educational opportunities for girls and empower young women. We aim to reach the most marginalized girls, as this is where education has transformative potential. We are driven by the principle that the experience of the poorest, most marginalised girl is an important barometer for the education system, and for society at large. Girls' education therefore is the entry point for widespread systemic change."
By all accounts, the use of e-reader technology in the classroom is especially empowering for girls. The English literacy programme puts girls and boys on an equal footing in terms of access to technology and helps build their confidence through whole school literacy events, such as debates.
Feedback from programme evaluations suggests that previously girls were often too timid to stand up in class and lacked a strong command of English. Now, many girls feel that they are able to confidently participate in the learning process, including in extracurricular activities such as morning speeches.
One such example is Jamaida, a 15-year-old Form 2 student from Iringa District who is currently enrolled on the programme. When asked about it, Jamaida said, "The programme has helped me learn English and enjoy learning."
With a noticeable improvement in her English comprehension skills, Jamaida is expected to perform well in her Form 2 exams. Recently, Jamaida participated at the inter-school debates where she won an award in the zonal competition.
Inspired by her English teacher, she is intent on pursuing a career in teaching and is working hard towards her goal. And it is not just the students who are positively affected by the programme, it has benefits for the teachers too, as one teacher from Iringa explained, "For sure e-readers have changed my perspective towards my profession. I have come to believe that success is not a reward but a consequence. In one year of implementation of the programme so many benefits can be cherished pertaining to my profession and my life in general. It has also simplified my work teaching because as students read many books they raise their language competency, hence their easy understanding of the subject."
Using e-readers is thus positively impacting upon girls' language abilities, re ducing the learning gap and helping to create an environment in which both girls and boys can participate equally in the learning process.
Research shows how much easier and more enjoyable developing literacy skills has become for students across the programme. Exposing them to technology at a young age is opening up doors of possibility, helping them develop goals and ambitions for the future.
For the Learner Guides facilitating students' use of the technology, the programme has also been an empowering experience. It has enabled them to earn the respect of their families and communities and presenting new opportunities for them to realise their potential.
Camfed is an international non-profit organization tackling poverty and inequality by supporting girls to go to school and succeed, and empowering young women to step up as leaders of change.
Camfed invests in girls and women in the poorest rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where girls face acute disadvantage, and where their education has transformative potential.
Camfed not only supports girls and young women through school, but also on to new lives as entrepreneurs and community leaders. To complete the "virtuous cycle," and create sustainable change, graduating students become Camfed Association alumnae, many of whom return to school to train and mentor new generations of students.
Since 1993, Camfed's innovative community-led education programmes have directly supported more than 1.8 million children to go to school in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, and Tanzania at more than 5,300 partner schools.
In 2014, Camfed was recognized by the OECD for best practice in taking development innovation to scale. In late 2014, Camfed made an historic commitment to support one million adolescent girls in rural Africa through secondary school by 2020 - a truly transformational pledge. Millions more children will benefit as a result.