New College Prep Program

We have a brand new program for our Form 6 graduates we are excited to share with you about!

Neema International recently gained a new intern, and her name is Shufaa Hame. Shufaa received scholarships from Freza Schools, International School of Tanganyika and the Mastercard Foundation to attend the American University of Beirut where she received a B.A. in Education and a minor in Public Health. If that weren’t impressive enough, she also received academic awards while in school.

Shufaa recently arrived on-ground here in Uru at about the same time our Form 6 students had graduated and were back home for vacation. Shufaa came to us having had all these amazing education opportunities and this was one thing that especially impressed Mandy when considering her to hire. Mandy would tell you it was all a perfect storm.

Shufaa was initially hired as a communications and marketing intern. It wasn’t until Mandy witnessed Shufaa offering her advice and talking to the Form 6 graduates about college that she saw a whole new world opening up for her students. Mandy felt it was a very “organic transition” from there— Shufaa would be a perfect fit as the new facilitator of the NIESP (Neema International Education Sponsorship Program) program.

Shufaa’s work with the NIESP students, and collaboration with our education administrative team has become very valuable in facing one of the country’s biggest challenges: education.

The education dilemma in Tanzania is systemic and begins with the lack of affordable early education programs, such as kindergarten or preschool. Therefore, most children do not start school until they are 6 or 7 years old– the youngest kids can attend government primary school. These government schools don’t make the matter easier for any given student to thrive and reach their full potential.

On the account that many of these schools have an average ratio of 60-80 students to a teacher, students receive very little individualized attention and instruction. As a result of the overall poor education in primary school, the rate at which students continue onto secondary school is about 28%, while only 3% go onto attend university or college.

Neema International already does its best for the community to offer better primary school education through Uru Academy and overall support and stability for its families through projects and programs like Neema Bags and the Digitruck.

In Mandy Stein’s words, “We could invest a million dollars per child from when they’re born until they are 18 years old, but if we don’t finish the last missing piece of the puzzle— attending college and getting a job— then what was it all for?”

NIESP was implemented with this in mind already, however, it was not until Shufaa came that we had a whole new vision for the program. This time NIESP has scholarships at the forefront of the program’s agenda.

If we could have more students receiving scholarships, we could have a lot more attending college, while saving money at the same time. Shufaa is really special in this case because she has first-hand knowledge about the work and effort it takes to create amazing opportunities for yourself. Some scholarships are only awarded to 1-2 students in any given program.

Shufaa has completely transformed the NIESP program to become her own. Her first task as the new facilitator, assigned to her by Mandy, was to break the news to the Form 6 graduates that they would be taking a gap year before going to college. The extra gap year is an essential time for these kids to get some experience under their belt and learn from Shufaa. Most of our students have little extracurricular activities having been in boarding schools during their secondary education.

Shufaa prepares lessons and activities every Tuesday and Friday when she meets with 6 of our NIESP students. At the foundation of her program she focuses on reading, writing, and communication skills. Once she feels these are all strong amongst her students, she will move onto having them put those skills to actual work in creating resumes and internship applications as part of their college preparation.

Shufaa oversees the entire process— mentoring and teaching specific skills best for making our students competitive applicants when applying for scholarships to universities, specifically, those that are abroad.

More impressively, Shufaa works with the students during this time on becoming more comfortable with expressing themselves. She encourages the latter by incorporating guided readings during their lessons, and asking them to reflect on what they thought of that day’s reading. She pushes them to think out of the box and to not be afraid to be themselves.

Shufaa is exactly the kind of mentor our students need during such a pivotal time in their life. She fits in so well with our existing education staff and we could not be more appreciative of her impact within this organization.