The Ota Initiative's main project is its primary school program. Twenty-five students gather for two weeks during the winter and for three weeks in the summer to engage in arts and science projects that help develop their creativity, critical thinking, and leadership skills.
We emphasize hands-on learning, and each session has a scientific theme that is explored through experiments, games, craft projects, stories, and theater. Past themes have included Living vs. Non-Living Things, The Importance of Water, and The Human Body, among others. Students have planted trees after learning about environmentalism, tracked the growth of beans, built windmills from banana leaves to test for the presence of air, and created plays that demonstrate the dangerous effects of water pollution. All of these themes and activities are planned in correlation with Tanzania's national curriculum.
Our primary school program also includes an emphasis on leadership development. Students engage in public speaking to help build their self-confidence, play cooperative games to improve their teamwork skills, and read stories about world leaders to learn from their examples. Each session, the leadership curriculum culminates with an election in which the class chooses a president, vice president, and secretary. Candidates must give speeches explaining their qualifications and the class votes to elect their leaders. This leadership team has special responsibilities to perform at the closing party and during the next session, and incumbents must speak to how they have performed their duties when up for re-election.
The final component of our primary school program is our English curriculum. While Swahili is the national language of Tanzania, secondary and post-secondary education takes place in English. For most students though, English is a third language, and they struggle to learn it in primary school from teachers who often times do not have a complete grasp of the language. Every morning of the program, our teachers explain new vocabulary words and hold conversations in English with our students to help improve their language skills. All of the stories used throughout the program are also read to the students in English and Swahili to reinforce their use of both languages.
For more information on our individual program sessions, visit our blog.