Public private partnerships: Illuminating the country’s path to progress through education and collaboration

By Guardian Correspondent , The Guardian
Published at 11:16 AM Jul 09 2024
In 2023, Katoke Lweru Secondary School achieved its best-ever results in national examinations, with over 90 percent of Form IV students scoring in the top two bands.
Photo: Guardian Correspondent
In 2023, Katoke Lweru Secondary School achieved its best-ever results in national examinations, with over 90 percent of Form IV students scoring in the top two bands.

PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan has championed the cause of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in advancing educational endeavors across the country. In the heart of Tanzania's Kagera Region, nestled within the vibrant tapestry of Katoke village in the Muleba District, one such partnership is a beacon of hope and progress that illuminates the landscape—Katoke-Lweru Secondary School (KLSS).

Established 16 years ago under the joint visionary leadership of the late Rev. Canon Samuel Habimana of Katoke and Prof. Alan Watson of Sydney, and championed by The Katoke Trust for Overseas Aid (Australia), KLSS stands as a testament to the transformative power of education.

With its roots firmly planted in the community, KLSS has blossomed into an exemplary institution, enriching the lives of students and uplifting the entire community.

Driven by a steadfast commitment to education, health promotion, and poverty alleviation, The Katoke Trust's recent accomplishments and bold initiatives underscore its unwavering dedication.

Founded in 1998 by Prof Watson, a previous missionary who worked at the Katoke Teachers College, this grassroots Christian organization operates on the principle of providing education regardless of race, color, or creed to enhance the quality of leadership in Tanzania.

After Prof Watson returned to Australia in the early 70s he kept in touch with Canon Habimana and other Katoke friends with the occasional letter.

 But when he returned to Katoke in 1998 he saw the community facing serious challenges: communications were difficult, cash-crop coffee prices were down, health was suffering and education could use a hand.

 He formed a link with his University of NSW School of Teacher Education and began the Katoke Trust, visiting Tanzania usually twice a year and offering professional and practical support.

Based in Sydney, Australia, the Katoke Trust boasts a passionate team of volunteers who administer its projects with unparalleled efficiency. With virtually 100 percent of proceeds directly funding development initiatives in Tanzania, the Trust's impact is tangible and transformative.

KLSS and The Katoke Trust continue with their remarkable journey, illuminating paths to brighter futures in Tanzania and beyond.

KLSS has consistently demonstrated excellence in education, a fact that Associate Professor Alan Watson, President of The Katoke Trust, proudly shares.

 "The difference between an excellent school and an ordinary school is not immediately apparent to the casual visitor," says Watson.

"However, John Goodlad’s classic study (1984) identifies key qualities: teacher concern for individual students, absence of favoritism, good peer esteem, and suitable task difficulty. KLSS embodies these principles."

KLSS stands as a paragon of educational excellence, embodying the ideals set forth by this renowned educator Goodlad.

With a harmonious tapestry of mutual teacher support, adherence to schedules and fervent student engagement in academia and extracurricular activities, the school has become a revered cornerstone of the community.

Remarkably, KLSS has experienced a remarkable 20 percent surge in enrollments since mid-2023, a testament to its sterling reputation and unwavering commitment to nurturing young minds.

In 2023, the school achieved its best-ever results in national examinations, with over 90 percent of Form IV students scoring in the top two Divisions.

As well, KLSS excelled in the recent Eastern Regional Conference, winning accolades in singing, bible knowledge, and poetry. Such achievements have bolstered the school's reputation, leading to this recent increase in enrollments, with the current student population at 465 across Forms 1 to 6.

The Trust’s vision extends beyond the confines of KLSS. It aims to serve as a resource for other schools in the region. "Over the past 20 years, we have held regular professional workshops for the district teachers. When I visited this year, we organized professional workshops for staff from over 60 secondary schools," Watson recounts.

"These workshops, with leading Tanzanian academics addressing contemporary school challenges and with themes such as human memory and learning, received resounding praise from participants. KLSS is serving as a conduit for knowledge dissemination, excellence in education, and community uplift.”

The Katoke Trust's efforts are not limited to education. It actively engages in poverty reduction projects, and vanilla cultivation, a long-term initiative, continues to gain traction despite fluctuating market prices.

 "There is a strong demand for vine lengths to plant, and more local farmers are seeking help to grow the crop," notes Watson. Additionally, the Trust’s malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention programs are saving lives, while women’s chicken-raising programs are providing food security and empowerment for women.

One of the Trust’s most exciting new ventures is the Engaruka School Project, aimed at providing education to the semi-nomadic Maasai tribe.

"We are working with Professor Jonathan and his wife Cath plus a dedicated sub-committee to establish a school north of Arusha on the other side of Tanzania to Katoke," Watson explains. "This initiative was born from a great longing for education in this remote area."

The project was initiated by the enthusiastic request of the local community, which included a warm welcome from the village Chief, the community, and the church during a visit by Watson and his wife Elizabeth in August 2019.

For the Engaruka School Project, fundraising efforts in Australia have been instrumental, enabling the building of major structures such as classrooms, an administration block, and teacher accommodation. The first teacher appointments are being made, and the school is set to welcome its initial cohort of students in July 2024.

The Katoke Trust is committed to sustaining and expanding its impact in the local community through various initiatives. "Our vision is to collaborate with partners moving towards self-reliance," Watson states.

The Trust's plans include completing the high school infrastructure, starting an English medium primary school as part of KLSS, and continuing medical support for malaria and AIDS prevention.

The Trust aims to extend vanilla growing and women’s chicken projects, maintain high educational standards at KLSS, and serve as a model for other schools. The establishment of the Engaruka school is a significant milestone in these efforts.

The Katoke Trust’s success is built on the long-term dedication of its volunteers and supporters, who are pleased to see all their fund-raising efforts used for this important development work in distant Tanzania.

This year, Mr. Adrian Jackson, the Trust’s treasurer, was honored with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his exceptional service, following the Australia Medal previously awarded to Prof. Watson for his leadership and expertise. Both awards are recognition by the Commonwealth Government of Australia for this important development work. 

"Since we started raising funds for KLSS and other projects in 2007-1998, more than $A10m has been raised," Watson reveals. "We have a management committee of 16 people and seven sub-committees as well.  All are volunteers so less than 2% of the funds we raise are spent in Australia on essential costs like insurance and auditing."

The Trust’s Communications and Fundraising Committee has significantly increased visibility and support. "For the life-changing impact of this program, we thank God," Watson says. "I am also thankful for the loyal support and help of my wife, Elizabeth, for this calling which we share."

As The Katoke Trust looks to the future, it invites supporters to continue their journey with them. "We even have a Will Gift scheme and would love to be remembered in a supporter’s will," Watson shares. "Any bequest can help us make an even greater impact, and be a lasting legacy."

In the heart of Tanzania, the Katoke Trust for Overseas Aid stands as a testament to the transformative power of education in eradicating poverty.

Guided by Professor Alan Watson, this beacon of hope has brightened countless futures. During a recent six-week visit, Professor Watson assessed the Katoke-Lweru Secondary School (KLSS), witnessing its remarkable progress in poverty reduction.

Through site visits and interactions with staff, Professor Watson observed the dedication of Tanzanian leadership, staff, and students in their pursuit of excellence.

KLSS remains committed to self-reliance and collaboration, with plans to expand infrastructure, maintain educational standards, and open an English-medium primary school. The support of long-term donors underscores the community's resolve for positive change.

Looking ahead, KLSS aims to sustain its achievements while fostering innovation and growth. By leveraging technology and enhancing teacher training, the school strives to provide higher-quality education, ensuring it remains a pillar of hope and progress for future generations.

As KLSS radiates hope and progress, Professor Alan Watson extends profound gratitude to every contributor. Fueled by a shared vision and dedication, the Katoke Trust for Overseas Aid is poised to script a new chapter in Tanzania's narrative—one of empowerment, opportunity, and limitless potential.

For President Samia, collaborations such as this serve as beacons of innovation and efficacy, forging pathways to a brighter future for generations to come. With unwavering commitment and collaborative spirit, Tanzania stands poised to ascend to new heights, propelled by the transformative force of education.