FACES OF CHANGE
Girls Excel in Science & MathZahura Khamis, Zanzibar
Zuhura Khamis, a 16-year old student of Micheweni Secondary School in Pemba, has defied the odds by being the first girl to win a district-level Science and Math competition. She was also the only girl representing the island at the national level competition.
It is an honor that came after beating out 11 other student participants from secondary schools across Pemba under the Wingwi Teacher Centre cluster, which coordinated the competition at District level in northern Pemba.The Science and Math Festival was organized by CREATE (Completion, Retention and Access for Tanzanians to Education), a project of the Aga Khan Foundation and supported by the American people through the U.S. Agency of International Development. The CREATE project focuses on improving the quality of learning in Zanzibar and southern Tanzania in partnership with the National Teacher Resource Centres and Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
Competitions are held once a year to encourage and promote intellectual attributes of learners through friendly competition in science and math. They provide a forum for intellectual exercises on topics and events affecting the students. Out of the thirty questions asked in the three categories (easy, average and difficult), Zuhura got 25 answers correct - more than any of her opponents and won the tournament.
Afterwards, not a day would go by where she would not attract attention from her fellow peers at school. "I was very happy to become a winner. My teachers congratulated me since it was the first time someone from our school won such an event. I am asking the CREATE project to continue with this initiative because it promotes the culture of studying. I will participate again this year if there are competitions,” she continued.
Barriers faced at school
Zuhura's preparation for the event was not always glamorous. In fact, it was riddled with challenges. Access to textbooks is limited and the few that are available are shared by students. Consequently, information may not be readily available when needed. Access to science teaching resources such as lab equipment is limited. With few teaching materials available, science is taught on a theoretical level with limited practical application.
Bi Salma Hassan Ibrahim, the only female science teacher at the school, believes that this is one of the reasons why students perform poorly in science classes. "We lack teaching resources and this makes our lesson delivery quite hard. As a result, students develop a negative attitude towards science subjects and perhaps this explains why the performance in these subjects is poor" she says.
Teachers may be lacking in resources, but they are not lacking in encouragement. Zuhura says her teachers encouraged her to follow her interests and pursue studies in the sciences as well as during her preparation for the national level competition. They would stay late after school to help her review her exercises. Their dedication and enthusiasm has given Zuhura the confidence to succeed despite the setbacks - a feeling that can apply to all aspects of life. "If I could do it here, I can as well do it at the national level… and I am preparing well. I am confident I can make it. I encourage all girls to work hard and join the competition” says Zuhura.