In January, 60 young Tanzanian children began attending school for the first time, thanks to a project led by Michigan State University (MSU).
MSU and its partners in the Tanzanian Partnership Program (TPP) built a new school on 100 acres donated by two village elders in a sub-village of Milola known as Ngwenya. Construction funds were provided by the TAG Philanthropic Foundation, based in New York.
Until now, the only option for 5 and 6 year olds to attend class was to walk 4 miles to school, constantly on the lookout for wildlife that could attack, said Diane Ruonavaara, program manager for TPP.
"We're helping communities to envision a better future," she said. "As a partner with the communities, we support the development of their capacity and ability to move forward in their own vision."
Milola is an area that serves 6 000 households and nearly 237nbsp;000 people, where children face numerous obstacles that limit their access to education, including a lack of facilities, teachers and education materials. But with the support of the village and better access to education, Ngwenya's children will have a chance at a brighter future, Ruonavaara said.
The development process
In the coming year, TPP will install a rain water harvesting system at the school, which will provide clean water for drinking, cooking and washing.
MSU is partnering with Tanzania-based University of Dar es Salaam and the Aga Khan Foundation for the project, working side by side with the people of Milola and the northern village of Naitolia. In Naitolia, villagers will soon have access to clean water at the school and health center.
"We want to learn and contribute to the world new knowledge about the development process and help define the characteristics of resilient communities so that any organisation, government or corporation interested in improving communities can do a better job with the investment of resources," Ruonavaara said.
Last year, in Milola, MSU also:Convened an early childhood education team to develop best practices in early childhood education.
Held a two-day workshop on school leadership and management for more than 30 educational leaders.
Formed school clubs for health, agriculture and environment.
Planted three school farms to support school feeding programs.
Trained two agricultural workers to use farm equipment.
"Today's universities must work beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to help communities unleash potential, respond to new opportunities and find creative solutions to real world problems," said Jeff Riedinger, dean of MSU's International Studies and Programs. "The Tanzania Partnership Program helps us boldly push the frontiers of knowledge and the role universities play in development."
TPP, launched by ISP in 2008, is reportedly the first initiative of The Partnerships for Sustainable Community Development, a long-term collaborative alliance of local and international organisations dedicated to improving local livelihoods.
In addition to education, the focus areas of the program are water, community empowerment and human and animal health. Last year, TPP awarded 10 research grants in the areas of education, agriculture, animal health and natural resources management.
MSU's work in Tanzania is featured in the MSU president's report. For more information on this and other projects visit SPARTANS WILL. 360.