A Tanzanian Pathbreaker

Catherine Njau, who has initiated pathbreaking work connecting English-language teaching with creating brighter futures for young women in Tanzania, is seeking funding to support her participation in the TESOL 2019 conference in Atlanta.  At a time when TESOL is moving to involve African teachers more actively, Catherine has the potential to play a key role that goes far beyond the Kilimanjaro-Area village where she teaches.Catherine is a Tanzanian English teacher who makes around $200 per month but is a strong force for change in her community. Beyond teaching English, she has formed clubs and an organization to teach boys, girls and their communities about women’s and family health as well as distributing reusable menstrual pads to thousands of girls who cannot afford them. Catherine tackles tough, often taboo issues within her community and is looking to spread her message to fellow educators.

The Conference

At the TESOL 2019 Conference, Catherine will be a member of the panel Social Issues in the Classroom: Ideas from African Teachers. This panel is composed of five teachers from universities and secondary schools across Africa who are making a difference by addressing critical local social issues. Catherine’s participation will help her to not only spread her important methods for engaging her students and their community on issues of women’s health and hygiene, but also learn from and network with other teachers from across Africa and around the world.

TESOL 2019 takes place in Atlanta, Georgia March 11-15, 2019. This conference is the largest international conference for educators, researchers, administrators, policy makers, publishers, language and social activists involved in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  The panels will consist of teachers who are using compelling, locally contextualized strategies to deal with pressing social issues.

Catherine’s Work

Catherine teaches English at Mboni Secondary School, a government-run school on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She has been an inspirational force for her students and their families. Using dynamic teaching methods that require students to be actively engaged, she has created programs that confront critical social issues such as menstrual hygiene, STD’s and early marriage and pregnancy—topics which had traditionally been considered taboo. Many girls in Tanzania have no access to information or resources to deal with their monthly periods. Consequently, they use unhygienic methods or, more often, girls just stay home to avoid embarrassment.

In 2011 Catherine created Kuleana, an organization that educates girls and boys about life skills and provides girls with reusable menstrual pads. So far, over 4000 students have benefitted from this program. Catherine’s group uses drama and songs to address gender and family issues, by giving students a chance to share what they know with their community. Currently, girls in Tanzania who become pregnant are forced to leave school and can even be arrested, causing them to abandon their future dreams. Catherine’s program is making a big difference in many young people’s lives and this opportunity will allow Catherine to increase her capacity to serve her community, even with her limited resources.

For more information about Catherine’s work see: My Classroom: Tanzania (Article by Riah Werner) https://americanenglish.state.gov/resources/english-teaching-forum-56-number-4

Funding Her Trip

Catherine’s monthly teaching salary is approximately $200 per month, which she uses to support her family of five. She was awarded a grant by TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), but the grant only covers her registration ($830). Colleagues have offered to share their lodging with her free of charge. Her local friends and family have chipped in funds to cover her domestic transportation fees, the cost of her US visa, ground transportation to and from airports and meals during the conference. The only missing expense is her airfare which will be approximately $1500.

Catherine’s attendance at the 2019 convention will have a great impact on her ability to teach, and on the teachers who attend her presentation as well as her community, but without your help, she will not be able to attend the conference. Any amount that you can contribute will be most appreciated!
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