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EiE in Tanzania: Meet Anna Mhina, Educator at The Hope Girls and Boys School in Arusha, Tanzania

Posted by EiE Team on Thursday, December 9, 2021

In partnership with Ina Heafitz, we are thrilled to announce that EiE® professional development and STEM classroom resources are being used to support the teachers and students of Hope Girls and Boys School in Arusha, Tanzania.

In the last post of our EiE in Tanzania series, we introduced the professional development resources being used with Friends of Meali International to bring EiE to Arusha. We also told you a bit about Ina Heafitz and how she came to sponsor this school in Tanzania. In this post, we’ll tell the story of Anna Mhina, head teacher with the Hope Girls and Boys School, as she shares her experience teaching EiE units and how she adapted EiE resources for her classroom.
Anna Mhina began her education career as a government teacher in the region of Shinyanga, Tanzania. After several years, she wanted to make a change and moved to Arusha, taking a job at Hope Girls and Boys school last year, and becoming the head teacher for the school’s 170 students. 

After Ina Heafitz introduced EiE curriculum supplements and activities to the school, Anna began teaching the school’s 22 students in 2nd grade the Engineering is Elementary® unit for designing solar ovens. The flexible curriculum, with engaging student activities and educator support resources, was easily adapted to utilize available materials and meet the cultural needs of the school.

“We read the story of Lerato and, the day after reading the story, we took our kids near the school to [a house] where they use firewood [for cooking] to see the realities of using and the direct impact of using firewood,” Anna said. “Because, in our class, we have different kids from different families [from] many economic levels.”

In Tanzania, some families still rely on firewood for basic heating, cooking and cleaning, while others have more reliable access to electricity. By building a real-world connection to the Arusha community, Anna highlighted the importance of engineering solar energy sources to her young students.

“We were not using [the] materials that were [listed within the Educator Guides], because of the nature of our kids, our environment and of course, the technology [of] our country. We are new in this technology, so we just used different materials that resemble those [in the instructions],” Anna said. “What we can say is we use your method, but we modified it. So the activities goes well.”

Immediately, Anna said she noticed the students were engaged and eager to learn about engineering. The classes, different from traditional Tanzanian education, felt special to the students. So much so that even students in other grades, who weren’t learning EiE lessons, were asking about them.

“Students were totally more interest[ed] with the lesson. Why? It's because we took them from the normal class to the new class,” Anna said. “Also, we know, all kids are engineers. So they were also interested to do the activity. In the example of cutting those boxes, preparing their materials, they were interested with that activity, so it was simple for us to teach them. Even if some teachers were not well understood the lesson, the motivation we got from the kids, [gave] us the power to search [for more] materials from the internet [and books, so that we [could] lead them to design that solar oven.”

Students weren’t the only ones more engaged, Anna said. Families of young students, who usually aren’t particularly engaged in school lessons, were also excited to participate.

“When the parents came to our school and we show[ed] them those boxes, those designs, they [were very] interested and it give us a chance to get more new people [interested] because it's worth something,” Anna said. “I got a call from the parent asking me about 'What is a shoe box?' on the material list. As English is not our national language, they apparently did not [know] about it. So the kids when they go to their homes and ask their parent, 'Mommy please, I want you to buy for me a shoe box, I want to design my solar oven.' So they call me to ask what was a shoe box and I just [explain] to them so they [become even] more interested. [Then] the kids [are designing] their own solar oven at home with their parents!”

Anna also explained her own teaching style has been changed through her work with EiE units. 

“It's built my brain, my capacity of thinking, because I used to know [that] engineering is about building of roads to houses, electricity, something like that. I didn't know that everything and everybody can be engineer and everything needs [an] engineer to make it,” Anna said. “So, from there I liked it so much and I knew when it came to my head, I can know more things and I can help my kids and the school.”

While teaching will always be close to her heart, beginning to expand her approach to engineering has inspired her to continue with a more learner-centered, inquiry-based method. 

“I discovered [the] Learning Center approach is very important because, after taking my kids to our own neighboring family to look at how are they [are] using firewood in cooking, [that] is where I discovered my kids can understand more in [practice] than in theory. So, from there, I changed my way of teaching. Instead of standing there in the classroom and introducing the topic, teaching the kids, I just introduce the lesson and give them the materials needed to find the answers and it becomes [easier] for the kids to understand.”

To see more from Anna Mhina, Ina Heafitz, Friends of Meali International, the Hope Girls and Boys School in Arusha and other #EiEInspired STEM journeys, check out @EiE_org on Twitter!

Written by EiE Team

Topics: Profiles, Implementing EiE, Engineering for All, Engineering Design Process, Create a Generation of Problem Solvers

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