Barrick Gold and CARE International Tanzania have announced the results of a six-year partnership which has dramatically improved education for thousands of children and youth living near the company’s Bulyanhulu mine.
CARE is recognized as a leading international organization in the fight against global poverty, and with a strong presence in Tanzania, teaming up with Barrick Gold was a logical choice.
“This has been one of CARE’s most successful programs in the country,” said Nick Southern, CARE country director. “It is to Barrick Gold’s great credit that they are making a long-term investment in this region, enabling us to support children from entry level through to high school. This is creating a strong foundation of learning that is a powerful tool against poverty in this region.”
In 2001, Barrick Gold invested US$2 million to fund a long-term education program in the remote Kahama District, then one of the worst performing areas academically in Tanzania. Since that time, primary school enrolment has increased by 75 per cent to over 7,000 children in 2007. Also, significantly more children are now making the transition to high school, where enrolment has more than doubled, from about 800 students in 2001 to 1,885 today. This year, over 89 per cent of the students who completed primary school passed their final exams, up from just 16 per cent prior to the implementation of the program.
Previously, the region suffered from a critical shortage of classrooms, inadequately trained teachers and a lack of basic learning materials. Overall quality of education in village primary schools was poor and enrolment low. Worse still were transition rates to secondary school. For children of the region’s poorest families and orphans, even modest school fees and uniforms were a barrier to entry into the school system.
As Southern recounts, “Many of the schools in the district were dysfunctional. It was like people here had given up.” Adopting a grassroots approach, CARE worked in collaboration with Barrick Gold’s community relations officers, the Kahama District Education Department, the Ministry of Education and parents and community leaders.
Under the program, the first secondary school in Bugarama Ward was built, along with a total of eight new primary schools, complete with teachers’ houses and proper sanitary facilities. Professional training was provided to motivate and support teachers in their efforts to help raise academic standards, along with new textbooks and resources.
The company and the community have also attempted to address the exclusion of some economically disadvantaged children from the local school system. Thanks to donations from Bulyanhulu employees and contractors, 150 orphaned students are now attending high school. Village leaders were instrumental in identifying and selecting students from poor families in need of financial assistance. Barrick Gold also funded four highly promising local students to attend the International School in Moshi to ensure these young scholars achieve their full academic potential.
According to Southern, a culture of learning has taken hold in the community that has been embraced by parents and children keen to learn. Barrick Gold and CARE are currently working out the next phase of their successful partnership in the region, building on this promising foundation.
Barrick Gold’s community relations team and CARE workers have identified special educational challenges for girls. In a number of homes, patriarchal traditions mean that girls are often assigned more chores than boys, resulting in less time to study. Reports also indicate some girls have encountered sexual harassment on their way to and from school, affecting their punctuality, attendance and ability to concentrate. Teenage pregnancies and marriages are other reasons for higher female dropout rates. In Bugarama ward, communities are seeking to dismantle some of the barriers related to gender by planning to raise funds for construction of a hostel for girls.
One female student described changing attitudes toward girls’ education: “Now more (girls) have a need to be educated to a higher level compared to the previous time, when they only used to think of being married. They now expect to reach the university.” As Samantha Chadwick, Barrick Gold’s community relations manager for Tanzania, stated, “We know there is much more work to do to dismantle the barriers girls are encountering both inside and outside the classroom. Nonetheless, the progress we are seeing is very encouraging, as many more girls set their sights on higher learning. We plan to step up our efforts to assist in this area moving forward.”