The pursuit of inclusive education in Tanzania and Africa has become an inspiring journey filled with opportunities for growth and positive change. Schools, organizations, and the government are actively working together towards ensuring that education becomes a beacon of accessibility for all, regardless of the different abilities. However, a persistent challenge remains—the limited availability of assistive technology and accessible learning materials for students with disabilities in numerous schools.
In response to this challenge, eKitabu, in collaboration with USAID Jifunze Uelewe and the Government of Tanzania, organized a transformative workshop last year. The workshop's mission was clear: to empower teachers from every corner of Tanzania with the skills necessary to cultivate inclusive teaching and learning environments.
Among the passionate teachers greatly impacted by this training was Lazaro Baraka, a dedicated teacher at Makalala Primary School in Mafinga, Mufindi district, Iringa region. Lazaro, who is visually impaired, has become a beacon of inspiration as he applies the skills acquired from the Jifunze Uelewe training to foster a more inclusive learning environment for both his mainstream and learners with disabilities. A pivotal takeaway from the workshop was the incorporation of accessible educational resources into the Orbit Reader, flash drives, television, and the adept use of Bluetooth and the internet to ensure the accessibility of content.
“I have gained experience, especially in the use of Orbit reader 20 devices and connecting it to a computer via Bluetooth and also the use of online libraries in teaching and learning methods. All of this has been completely new to me, and it has caused me to completely change the teaching methods in the classroom, leading to better learners results. Furthermore, students can now independently learn by interpreting images from the TV and asking each other questions, overcoming the hesitation they might have when asking me as their teacher. Additionally, the utilization of audio-visual content enhances memorability!" said Teacher Lazaro.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Lazaro's teaching approach, borrowed from the training, lies in his adept use of assistive devices to champion accessible and inclusive education for his diverse group of learners. His commitment to leveraging technology, such as the Orbit Reader 20, flash drives, television, and Bluetooth, ensures that every student, regardless of ability, has equal access to educational resources. Moreover, Lazaro's innovative efforts extend beyond mere accessibility. By creatively transforming teaching modules into practical and enjoyable experiences, he has successfully made learning more engaging and memorable for both learners with and without disabilities. His dedication to creating an inclusive and enjoyable educational environment speaks volumes about his commitment to fostering an enriching learning experience for every student under his guidance.
Lazaro’s dedication and experience mirrors both the ups and downs encountered by teachers across Africa as they strive for inclusive education. The need for ongoing accessible technology training, the high cost of assistive devices, the technical issues with the assistive devices, and the absence of internet connectivity present major obstacles to this quest. These obstacles require focused attention and creative solutions to overcome.
Nevertheless, Lazaro remains dedicated to adapting and innovating his teaching methods using these assistive devices and knowledge gained from the training, to provide a better educational experience for his students in and out of the classroom. His commitment aligns with the broader goal of Jifunze Uelewe and eKitabu—to raise awareness about inclusivity in teaching and learning.
His journey stands as an inspiration, showcasing the transformative potential of inclusive education when coupled with accessible digital content and low-cost assistive devices. His story is a testament to the power of perseverance, collaboration, and a shared vision for a more inclusive and equitable education system.