The Ciena Solutions Challenge is a global design challenge by Digital Promise and Ciena that invites middle and high school students to design solutions that address Sustainable Development Goals within their communities. This blog post is part of a series featuring educators whose students’ projects exemplify core elements of the Challenge: creative use of technology, social purpose, student agency and leadership, and sustainability and scaling. Below are lessons on “Sustainability and Scaling” from educator Mahamba Sebastian who facilitated the IQ Interschool Challenge TV program & ESL/EFL for public secondary schools in Lake Zone Tanzania project with student teams working with TELTA Mwanza.
I have been teaching English and history for almost 13 years at Mnarani Secondary, a public school located on the outskirts of Mwanza City in Tanzania. My students are day scholars, and the school is mixed gender, with most students between 13 and 17 years old.
In recent years, competence-based learning has become a priority to public schools in Tanzania, and the Ministry of Education is working hard to transition from the older curriculum model of content-based learning to a more student-centered, competency-based curriculum. My students worked on the IQ Interschool Challenge TV program to examine the competency-based curriculum and English as a second language in public schools in the Lake Zone of Tanzania.
The IQ Interschool journey started during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Tanzania English Language Teachers Association used Facebook Live to support students who were learning from home. The idea expanded when Star TV media in Mwanza offered free airtime for educational programs.
The IQ Interschool Challenge TV program that we created for Star TV media is presented as a series of three-part episodes. In the first part, students work on competency-based questions and answers. Next, we host a talent show where students can recite poems or songs, perform acrobatics, or showcase design work and technological innovations such as robotics. During the final third of the show, students present on science and social science topics, which provides them an opportunity to practice presentation skills and speak English, which is the instructional language in secondary schools in Tanzania.
The IQ Interschool Challenge TV program fosters “learning by doing” and learning outside the four walls of the classroom by engaging students in core skills projects. Students practice creative design, coach and mentor peers on leadership skills, and make use of different digital tools, including podcasts, Padlets, Kahoots, Quizlets, and Google Classroom.
This type of project matters to the community here because most parents complain that graduates in Tanzania are not competitive in the global workforce. Our Tanzania English Language Teachers Association (TELTA) team addresses this concern by helping students use hands-on activities and build skills in learning.
The IQ Interschool Challenge TV program prioritizes working with the community during the setup and planning of the project. The community sees the project’s impact on building students’ knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes, and they support it by providing spaces for recording, materials for students’ creative designs, and even food for students during recording time. Students also provide support by finding and repurposing available tools and resources such as recycled plastics, wires, and sheets. We have also benefited by being able to use the American Corner Space in Mwanza to record our episodes.
The IQ Interschool Challenge TV program’s impact has grown as a result of episodes airing on Star TV, which reaches other students who are in the most underserved places in Tanzania. Additionally, the videos we upload on YouTube have reached even more students and communities, even attracting the attention of students from Bozeman High School in the USA.
In June 2023, 11 students and 5 coaches from Bozeman High School arrived in Mwanza, Tanzania to learn more about our program and host workshops with students from schools across the region.
The team from Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana is partnering with us to support the expansion of a Pan-African speech and debate league, which will have a profound impact not only in Lake Zone Tanzania, but also across the entire country and the continent. Alongside this, the Tanzania English Language Teachers Association (TELTA) is building out additional social media spaces to serve as a platform for more students and community members to learn.
My advice to other teachers who want to facilitate projects in their communities would be to inspire and motivate students by selecting topics that are thought-provoking, relevant to their lives, and that foster leadership, creativity, and critical thinking. I also recommend that both educators and students conduct thorough research on their chosen topics to develop a deep understanding of the challenge and related subject matter. In this process, teachers can help students explore a diversity of perspectives, analyze credible sources, and build skills that unlock students’ potential in life.