The Chemistry Teachers of Kilimanjaro

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Tanzanian teachers: Prof. Kalafunja O’saki is standing on the left, Dr. Rachel Mamlok-Naaman is in the center; Dr. Francis, who was a doctoral student at the time, is on the far right. Sitting on the left are Kalimba Magesa and Dr. Gabrieli, then a doctoral student

"Pula, pula – slowly, slowly.” Tanzanian chemistry teachers use this expression to talk about their efforts to improve chemistry education in a place where there is not always running water or sewage treatment, and where Internet connections may be sporadic – if they exist at all. Dr. Rachel Mamlok-Naaman of the Weizmann Institute’s Science Teaching Department recently attended a conference in Arusha, near the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, on the subject of advancing science education in Tanzania. The conference was part of a project for enabling science learning in high schools in rural areas in the country, headed by Prof. Nava Setter of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

Within the framework of the project, three Tanzanian doctoral students were hosted at the Weizmann Institute of Science for two months. They began their stay in the research group of Prof. Ron Naaman in the Faculty of Chemistry, then worked with Mamlok-Naaman in the Science Teaching Department. Together, they developed new learning materials for the Tanzanian chemistry high school curriculum, for teachers and students, and planned a workshop for Tanzanian teachers to introduce them to the new materials.

Preparing breakfast in the village house where Dr. Mamlok-Naaman stayed

The new materials were first presented at a two-day conference in Arusha for education professionals: supervisors, members of the Ministry of Education, school principals and regional advisers. The teachers’ workshop that followed took place in the village of Kisimiri, at a regional boarding school for students from around the Kilimanjaro area. Mamlok-Naaman was there to help, along with Prof. Kalafunja O’saki, who leads the project in Tanzania, and his PhD students.

Kalimba Magesa Keyyu, one of the teachers who participated in the project and the workshop, and afterward spent a month with Mamlok-Naaman in the Weizmann Institute’s Science Teaching Department, wrote of her experience: “I learned many things, including how to organize students and perform experiments in a perfect way, so as to get proper results….Despite being highly occupied with academic issues and family matters, she (Mamlok-Naaman) devoted her precious time to me. She was really like my mother.”