It Takes a Community to Educate a Child

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It Takes a Community to Educate a Child

In response to rising crime rates among young people, a Tanzanian teacher named Juhudi Mbwambo founded Elimu Community Light. The initial members of this organization were troubled by the combination of heightened crime and an education system that was a low priority in the more vulnerable communities of the Arusha Municipality. Guiding the work of this organization is the belief that education has the potential to expand opportunities for vulnerable children, allowing them to seek formal employment and lead more productive lives. Furthermore, they believe that children’s experiences in the earliest stages of life have a profound and lasting effect on their entire education. For this reason, Elimu Community Light emphasizes Early Childhood Development (ECD), and the establishment of ECD centers.

numbers and circles for a math lesson written on a worn sheet of paperWhile there are other ECD programs in Tanzania, Elimu Community Light has earned distinction with their unique, innovative, and thoughtful model. Their approach to increasing the availability of high-quality ECD services begins with high-quality training for teachers. This training combines theoretical and experiential learning, including a residency in one of Elimu Community Light’s model ECD centers. In order to keep the project as sustainable as possible, new teachers are trained on how to make or gather learning materials from locally available resources. Upon completion of the training course, teachers are supported to open and improve their own ECD centers within their respective communities.

When a trained teacher is ready to establish a new ECD center, it is not simply an individual endeavor, but rather a collective effort of the Child with a backpack on at the chalkboard pointing at a lesson written on the Teachers first introduce the idea of establishing an ECD center to members of the community, who then come together in order to discuss and plan the project. It is up to the community, for instance, to decide how much of a financial contribution will be required of each child who attends the center, in order to sustain the operations of the center. These contributions also support other, more vulnerable children to attend the center without cost. The process of collective planning instills and reifies the notion of community-ownership, and also promotes a culture of valuing education and early childhood development. In addition to this communal planning process, parents of children who attend the ECD centers are asked to attend training sessions every two months, in order to build their own skills and knowledge to further support the development of their child. This collaboration between teachers and parents allows for children to be guided and educated both at school and in their home environment.

The integration of high-quality Early Child Development Centers, with increased parental involvement and ECD care at home, has proved to be one of Elimu Community Light’s greatest strengths as an education-focused organization. This effective model is further fortified as a result of the community-ownership and participation, which is cultivated from the inception of any ECD center under the wing of Elimu Community Light.

“…the foundation for adulthood is built in early childhood, and the developing nation depends on the education, development, and skills of its citizens” –Elimu Community Light 


This story was written by Amanda Hill, a grantmaking assistant at Firelight.