Problem solving skills key for learners, youth

19Sep 2016
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Problem solving skills key for learners, youth

In the process of fostering young talents, our education plays a major rolein ensuring that our children and youth acquire mastery of skills and knowledge required for their academic as well as job market.

A group photo of the Students under 'Think Big Challenge' scheme and the Guest of Honor, Mrs Esther Riwa, the Assistant Director of the Youth Economic Empowerment at the Prime Minister’s Office Labour, Youth, Employment and People with Disabilities.

In the process of fostering young talents, our education plays a major rolein ensuring that our children and youth acquire mastery of skills and knowledge required for their academic as well as job market.

For a decade now, there has been a wide cry on there is lack of skilled workforce, as a big number of graduates joining the workforce do not possess relevant skills and knowledge. For a number of years, our examination system have not geared towards nurturing talents and innovations but scramble for enhancing students to pass for joining of higher levels of education.

Our current mode of teaching and examination styles have not encourage students to be more involved towards discovering their talents, and build necessary skills and knowledge to support innovations and developing solutions for challenges facing their communities, rather it promotes rote learning toward passing exams.

However, there have been a number of initiatives taken by non-stake actors towards enhancing capacities of both teachers and students to obtaining necessary skills and knowledge as a process towards boosting innovation and talents for solving challenges facing our communities.

A week ago I was invited to the closing ceremony for the Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI) EducationTeam’s ‘Think Big Challenge’ scheme, in association with local organisation named ‘Bridge ForChange (BFC)’, which took place on 10th September, 2016 at Makumbushosecondary school.

The Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI) is a UK-based NGO run by students from the University of Cambridge and local Tanzanian Universities (Ardhi, UDSM and UDOM). Our projects in education, engineering, health, and entrepreneurship focus on innovating and inspiring local change makers. The Education team works with 3 secondary schools namely Manzese, Salma Kikwete and Makumbusho secondary schools, in helping students create, plan, develop and implement ideas to improve their schools.

While, Bridge For Change (BFC) is a local non-government organisation under leadership of Mr.OcheckMsuva, which works with young people and aims to empower youths to be positive change-makers in their careers, through workshops and mentorship.

The Think Big Challenge scheme has seen around 50 of the most innovative young people from around Dar es Salaam plan and incites concrete solutions to pressing challenges in their schools and local communities. The students, from Makumbusho, Salma Kikwete and Manzese secondary schools, and BRAC Maendeleo Study Group in TabataKimanga, underwent a rigorous selection process which involved attending Career Training workshops run by members of Bridge For Change, coming up with original and innovative solutions to challenges in their schools and communities, and successfully pitching their solutions to a panel of judges.

These students attended 5 workshops at Ardhi University where CDI trained them in skills such as fundraising and project planning, which will equip them to be radical change-makers in their future careers.

Workshops, which were undertaken during weekends, covered a range of subjects, from budgeting, to grant-writing to project evaluation and delegating roles. Students worked in groups to come up with sustainable initiatives such as: teaching the jobless community members on how to bake and sell cakes, to transforming paper litter into fuel for cooking, improving security and environment at their schools, awareness on gender-based issues and many more, their ideas were creative and inspiring. During the event, students showcased their initiatives in an exhibition for guests.

The closing ceremony was a major success, with speeches from special guestsincluding Mr. Ocheck Msuva, the Founding and Managing Director of Bridge for Change; Madame Amina Shaaban, the Deputy Programme Manager for Education at BRAC; Mr. Masozi Nyirenda, the Education Columnist with the Guardian Newspaper, and Mrs Ester Riwa, the Assistant Director of the Youth Economic Empowerment at the Prime Minister’s Office (Labour, Youth, Employment and People with Disabilities), who was theGuest ofHonour.

The CDI Education team would like to congratulate the winning teams on theirsuccess and all teams for participating. They would also like to thank all theteachers, partners and volunteers who have collaborated with us to make thescheme happen. CDI are excited to hand over management of the initiatives toBridge for Change and to see how the initiatives progress.

During awarding ceremony, a number of guests delivered their speeches, in which they show their appreciation for CDI and BFC to run the Think Big Challenge as it helped students in participating schools to build their skills and capacity to analyse challenges within their communities and propose working solutions.

The UK President of the Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI), Mr. Matt Hopgood said that “We live in a society today where young people are not trusted. Youth are often labelled as lazy, apathetic, and selfish. 50 per cent of the world’s population are under 25, and yet the views of young people are often ignored.

I’m not sure about you, but this picture of youth is the complete opposite of what we have seen showcased today. We’ve seen young people thinking about their communities, thinking outside the box, thinking big.

The sensitivity and ambition of all the teams has been very inspiring. If people of all ages showed this same desire to improve their community, we would be living in an entirely different world.”

While on the other side, the Tanzania Education Project Director of CDI, MsAdelgiza Marcus, informed participants that during the sessions of this event, students were supposed to identify challenges in their school and communities, and thereafter, propose solutions to the challenges.

Students were supposed to work out solutions independent of their parents, teachers or government. This aimed at enabling them to be fully committed to their tasks and use their minds to find solutions. This helped them to shade away dependence ‘syndrome’.

The Tanzanian Director of CDI, Mr. Jonathan Nkungu, argued that this program aims at building capacity of students in problem solving skills, which may help them in academic and career development. The problem solving skills will help them to solve the issues surrounding them daily in school.

It was revealed by Heads of Schools that one of the most important skills which were learned by students was time management, which is an essential ingredient in success of their academic and career aspirations.

It was further revealed under this program that learning skills on working as a ‘team’ has managed students to eradicate group divisions in schools by making students cooperate more and act as one, by forming actives which will make them come together, like watering the garden together, and educating students on how to work as a team.

Currently students are working hard collectively to solve problems such as poor academic performance, segregation and environmental pollution, all the while engaging their peers and demonstrating confidence in convincing them to join their initiatives.”

All of the resulting initiatives have helped students to develop their creativity, agency and teamwork, and now we can also see the wider impacts of their projects. Students can now identify their problems, brainstorm solutions and take steps towards achieving those solutions. The process has been very interesting and all other stakeholders should learn from CDI and Bridge for Change.

According to Mr. OcheckMsuva, Founding and Managing Director of Bridge For Change, the good thing about being young is that theybelieve that everything is possible.Mr. Ochek encouraged young people to keep on with their dreams and should not allow your ambition to die. Youth are the generation that possesses the future.

During the event I was also given an opportunity to say few words. In my short speech I said that I came to know about CDI and BFC after they contact me and we had a fruitful discussion and I managed to provide few ideas which resulted into success of this event.

To me this initaitive is a catalyst for students to bring out their talents. I did not hesitate to join CDI and BFC because I have seen how students are struggling due to lack of skills.’

The Guest of Honour, Mrs Ester Riwa, informed invitees that the government grateful to know that there are stakeholders who are trying to network and connect with youth in schools.With this project they are filling a gap of skills, and with government support it will go far.

She further said that projects which were exhibited by students have inspired her, and therefore, she will work will inform her superiors to see how the government can collaborate with CDI and BFC to ensure sustainability of these initiatives.

She insisted that “at one time we were saying that we should help young people by giving them support and funds. Actually we’ve realised that they don’t need funds.

The main challenge is mind set. The first thing to do is change their mind-sets. Our youth are not dreaming. They are working around the dreams of their parents. When they leave school they cannot fulfil their dreams because they don’t have their own.”

Finally, the guest of honour challenged CDI and BFC to ensure the sustainability of these projects in your communities, and to become the catalyst of their societies on issues such as women empowerment, environment protection, security and many others.

One of the main ways to help children and youth become confident and competent problem solvers is by offering them plenty of opportunities to practise key problem-solving skills and, importantly, to talk about the skills in context.

Once learners have had experience of these different problem-solving skills, they may like to tackle independently some of a myriad of challenges and c ahead of them in their academic spheres, society and work environment. Let us give opportunity to our children.

The writer is a specialist in educational policy, planning, economics and finance. He is reached through: [email protected] and +255754304181

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