Language programme inspires pupils in Serengeti

GOODNESS Joseph (10) and Mrigo Masangura (13) attend school at Nattambigo Primary School, one of the schools bordering the world famous Serengeti National Park in Mara Region.

Thanks to a Singita Grumeti Fund language initiative, the pupils are learning English, in a short training which aims to enhance their performance in the class.

Goodness and Mrigo are among 240 young primary school boys and girls who are participating in a special language programme being held in camps throughout this month of June. While at the camps, the pupils are taught by American English language experts from Concordia College based in Minnesota, USA.

“It was amazing to be taught by American English teachers.

They teach us very well, we don’t feel nervous or shy.

In fact, they have changed my attitude towards English language. I love it,’’ said a cheerful Mrigo, a Standard Five pupil, adding that once back in school, his English teacher will be in for a surprise.

Mrigo told the ‘Daily News’ that as he was attending the training programme at SGF’s Environmental Education Centre (EEC), his intention was to improve his scores in English subject during examinations, aiming at raising his points from an average of 50 marks to 80 marks.

“From now on, my performance should be 80 per cent and above in exams.

I cannot allow it to be 50 per cent. Not after going through this training.

English is a very useful subject because it enables the learner to grasp the names of many things that we didn’t know before, including wild animals, “ the young boy who hails from a peasant family said.

On her part, Goodness said learning English was so exciting that she did not see why her performance in the class should not change for the better, adding that she cannot continue performing poorly in English after she was lucky to participate in the English immersion camp.

“I have been scoring 30 marks on average, in English.

However, from now on, my target is to get 70 plus.

English is now one of my favorite subjects, I’ m learning new things and it is so exciting,” the young girl who attends Makundusi Primary School said.

The programme was launched last year by Singita Grumeti Fund, in collaboration with Concordia Language Village (CLV). CLV is a world-renowned programme in language immersion.

It is run by teachers based in Minnesota, USA.

Singita Grumeti Fund is a non-profit organisation that supports conservation of wildlife and community development activities in the western corridor of the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania.

The introduction of the English immersion camps is part of the Singita Grumeti Fund’s continued support to the development of education sector in 21 villages, located adjacent to Grumeti/Ikorongo Game Reserves in Western Serengeti.

The objective of the programme is to enable a substantial number of primary school children in Serengeti and Bunda districts to build a strong foundation of the English language.

Following remarkable achievements shown in 2017 when it was first intro15duced, serious implementation started in June this year when pupils were on holidays, to avoid disrupting their school timetable.

“The training started on June 4th and runs up to June 30th in two camps. There were 30 pupils in each camp every week.

The aim is to help the pupils improve their English and eventually perform well in other subjects, especially after joining secondary school where the medium of communication is English,” said Ms Bahati Sumuni, the Education Programme Officer at Singita Grumeti Fund.

In so doing, the students are motivated to develop special interest in the English language as a subject and are also inspired to aim higher at all levels of education.

“We believe that learning English is an incentive to the pupils.

Once they start liking the language, they will not only concentrate on their studies but will also enjoy them.

Hopefully, there will be fewer school drop outs, “she said.

“Last year, we had about 90 children when the programme kicked off, but this year we have as many as 240 children.

Our plan is to reach out to as many children as possible in the coming years,’’ Ms Bahati added.

Thirteen US English language experts were in the country to teach the pupils at the camps, according to Ms Bahati.

Among other things, the teaching methodology at the camps involves songs, dancing, story telling and crafts.

In Serengeti District, schools with children who benefited from the programme this month are Nattabigo, Motukeri, Nyiberekera, and Makundusi.

Those from Bunda came from three schools of Milahe, Nyamatoke and Bukore.

The programme which is now called English Village Singita Grumeti ,Ms Bahati said is expected to reach 360 more students next year.

Prior to the commencement of the programme, a number of primary school teachers from the target schools, were given a special training to learn the teaching techniques applied by their colleagues from the US so that they can take part to sustain the initiative.

“We appreciate the good cooperation we are getting from teachers of the pupils.

We are also excited to see some local teachers who have shown great interest to be volunteers of this programme,” Ms Bahati further said. Singita Grumeti Fund also offers significant number of scholarships to bright needy students from families that cannot afford to meet education costs of their children in the 21 villages of Serengeti and Bunda districts.

So far more than 400 students have benefited from the fund’s scholarship scheme since 2009 when it was launched, thus making it possible for the beneficiaries to be employed not only by Singita Grumeti Reserves but also by the government and other investors operating in Western Serengeti.

Besides transforming lives of local people, Singita Grumeti Fund also supports conservation activities in the areas within Grumeti/Ikorongo Game Reserves and Ikona Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

The wildlife-rich game reserves and the Ikona WMA form integral part of the great Serengeti ecosystem in Mara Region.

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