One of the practical elements in the Binti Shupavu life skills program is helping girls through the exam preparation period. We do this over the span of the entire school year, in various ways such as discussions on study techniques, time management (planning and making schedules), emphasizing the importance of a good learning environment, crisis support and counseling girls through this stressful time. This blog is about how Binti Shupavu helps keep girls in school by coaching them on the qualities needed for academic achievement.
November is the month for exams for all secondary school students in Tanzania. Form 1 and 3 have school-based exams, whereas Form 2 and 4 take the more important (and stressful) national exams. Our program focuses on national exam candidates. Form 2 girls are intent on getting good results in the subjects they would like to further pursue and career choices are determined at this time. Form 4 students are concentrating on getting good marks to be able to progress from Ordinary Level to Advanced Level (last two years of high school). The end of Form 2 and 4 is a vulnerable stage for girls in Tanzania – those not performing to a certain standard often have to leave formal education or have limited choices. Competition and pressure is building. (For some additional background on the progression from O-Level to A-Level, see Kisa Mentor Esther Piniel’s blog.)
Our current Binti Shupavu girls are the first group we have mentored through exams and the Binti Shupavu Mentors are supporting 350 Form 2 students and 345 Form 4 students. As we have built relationships over the year, AfricAid’s Mentors get really involved in their Scholars’ success.
Binti Shupavu Scholars say there is a major difference in their exam preparation before and after they joined the program and that being in the program has been very helpful for them in preparing for their national exams. I interviewed some Scholars about how specifically the program has benefited them in their preparation:
“Binti Shupavu has helped me in my preparation by knowing my priorities and staying away from bad company who could lead me to failure. Also, through the opportunity of Binti Shupavu I have been able to determine my abilities and know that I can do better. Before joining Binti Shupavu, I had no timetable but through the program I have learned how to prepare one, which is helpful in accomplishing my duties. I am so grateful for this program – I have learned a lot and prepared well for my final exams.” Fransisca, Form 4, Karanga Secondary School
“I am so thankful for the Binti Shupavu program. Without being part of it, I wouldn’t have been this much prepared. Through the program, I have been able to determine my learning style which has helped me in my preparation.” Tatu, Form 4, Karanga Secondary School
Encouraging girls and building their self-confidence is a long-term technique we Mentors use to attain the goal of improving exam results. In our classes we talk of building inner strength and facing difficulties. Career Day also had many messages about believing in yourself and having bold life goals. The Study Skills unit has some reflective questions for every Scholar to better understand the areas she needs to improve. At the beginning of the unit, girls discuss these questions with their fellow Scholars under the supervision of the Mentors.
- What does it mean to “study?”
- What are some of the situations in which you would need to study?
- How do you currently study? What materials do you use?
- What are some of the things that distract you from studying?
- Do you study by yourself or with others? Why?
Mentoring also involves counseling and the good relationship formed between Mentors and Scholars creates a safe space for the girls to share the challenges they encounter. Our beneficiaries face multiple challenges, especially during the adolescent age, and by being there to listen to and support them creates a better environment for their preparation. When I spoke with my Scholars, they told me how they have been boosted by our encouragement:
“Before, I was very fearful for the exams, but Binti Shupavu made me gain confidence. Now, I am able to face any challenges that I come across. I have learned how to overcome stress, live a healthy life, have healthy thoughts, and do healthy acts which have been very helpful in my preparation.” Michelle, Form 4, Mwika Secondary School
“I am so proud of being a Binti Shupavu Scholar. It has made me to choose friends wisely who can bring me up in achieving my dreams. At first it was very challenging whenever I encountered a problem. I easily gave up, but through Binti Shupavu I have learned how to be brave and become resilient. Now I can face my problems and work on them which made me confident sitting for my exams.” Mwanaidi, Form 2, Langasani Secondary School
We understand our Scholars need a good support team around them. This means that parents have a big part to contribute in the achievement of Scholars. We conduct Parent Engagement Meetings (Learn More) where we meet Scholars’ parents and discuss different ways they can help their children prepare for their exams. A good learning environment means uninterrupted time for study, possession of the right books, and sometimes even financial support for tutoring. Familiarizing parents with these topics s can make a big difference in academic outcome. Even a word of encouragement from a parent can be very reassuring.
Sometimes outside challenges prevent Scholars from concentrating in school. A social or financial crisis can derail a young person’s educational future. AfricAid realizes this from past experiences, and now provides financial support to the most vulnerable Scholars by assisting with their school and lunch fees. Unburdened by these worries, our young people can concentrate on the task at hand and have a peaceful preparation.
We will be closely evaluating whether our approach makes a sizeable difference in exam results. We believe it will! We wish all our students the very best of luck on their exams. They should take comfort in the knowledge that they have done their very best.