For the love of science
One of the many problems faced byMbeya, a region in the sub-Saharan country of Tanzania, is the lack of adequate educational and learning materials for secondary schools. Science education is the hardest hit because of the lack of money leftover from governmental subsidies to provide for necessities such as laboratory equipment and qualified science teachers inTanzanian classrooms. As a result, students lack skills in basic science and mathematical concepts. This problem was identified in 2007 by the World Academy of Science, Engineering, and Technology as being apparent in the country's compulsory national examinations, which tests science and math skills.
Public Service Fellow Debarshi Chaudhuri (’10, Course 10 and 14) traveled to Mbeya during IAP 2008 to address the need for more and better science education in the secondary school system at two different schools. Ivumwe Secondary School is a private school with enough staff to have a reasonable student to teacher ratio; there is even a sizable science lab with functional Chemistry and Physics equipment. Debarshi helped to provide the teachers at Ivumwe with new methods for conducting more experiments, using the equipment they already possessed. On the other hand, Ilomba Secondary School is a public school with very few resources, making it unable to provide a sufficient science education for its students.
Debarshi’s greatest achievement during his time in Tanzania was the partnership he created between the two schools, which allows 60 students from Ilomba Secondary School to receive Chemistry and Physics laboratory education from teachers at Ivumwe Secondary School. The Ilomba students with the opportunity to study science twice a week with Ivumwe classmates have made significant progress since Debarshi's return to the US. Instrumental in supporting Debarshi’s project was Herman Longo, Founder and Executive Director of the Unity in Diversity Foundation, which aims to bring together and train local trade workers to develop and run their own projects using microloans. According to Longo, “Ten of the students from Ilomba have passed the national examination in science and are continuing their science education in advanced level Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The government is amazed that a school without any laboratory equipment can perform so well on the examinations.” Longo also told Debarshi that the Fellow's work in creating the partnership between the two schools has helped more students at Ilomba love science.