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Students of the COBET accelerated learning programme in Dar es Salaam. Photo: La Sainte Union Sisters.

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the La Sainte Union Sisters operate an accelerated learning programme for children who are out of school (or who have dropped out), with the goal of mainstreaming the children back into school.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Compensatory Basic Education in Tanzania (COBET) project to close last March for three months, the over 200 children enrolled in the programme’s classes became extremely vulnerable to the possibility of not returning to school after the lockdown. Girls in particular were especially at risk of being forced into an early marriage, and the project team, observing an increased rate of early pregnancy in the area during this period, were concerned about this possible outcome as well.

In hopes of minimising the risks the girls faced, the project made extra efforts to maintain contact with their pupils throughout the duration of the school closure. By continuing to link in with the children the teachers of COBET were able to provide support, information and advocacy for their pupils. All of the COBET children returned to school and none of the girls became pregnant during the lockdown. To make up for lost learning time during lockdown, the programme has added an extra hour’s tuition every day and an additional two on Saturdays. Additionally, the mid-term break and holiday periods were shortened to enable completion of the syllabus.

The COBET programme continues to be a success despite the upheavals of the past year. Students who are successfully mainstreamed into school continue to be supported and the results they achieve once they return are consistently better than those of the average student in the schools they attend. Some past students have graduated from university and colleges and come back to visit and encourage the present students.

The school has been selected as a centre of excellence, further testament to the quality of the education being provided.