A little while ago, I posted an old op-ed column by Rakesh Rajani, in which he asked “What if NGOs were newspapers?” And I promised to follow it up with some thoughts on our situation here at Daraja, where we are an NGO that runs newspapers, to see how accurate Rakesh’s ideas were. Well, here goes.
Rakesh’s main point was that NGOs are not subject to the strict deadlines that rule newspapers’ work, or to the same kind of pressure that newspapers face to give readers what they want. A reporter who misses a deadline finds that their story isn’t published. A newspaper that comes out late risks missing out on sales and undermining their readers’ trust. And if a newspaper writes about things that don’t interest their readers then that paper won’t get bought again. The nearest equivalent pressures on NGOs have often very little to do with the community – their “beneficiaries” – and more to do with keeping their donors happy.
In other words, NGOs aren’t as strongly accountable to the community as newspapers for doing their work on time or for doing it well. Continue reading →
UNICEF’s report into violence against children in Tanzania, published earlier this month, should be a wake up call for Tanzania. Based on an extensive survey in 2009, it finds that almost three in ten girls in Tanzania are sexually abused by the time they reach 18 years of age. The same is true for one in seven boys. These are pretty shocking findings. But perhaps not very surprising to anyone familiar with the Tanzanian education system.
In Daraja’s Kwanza Jamii Njombe local newspaper, we have had several stories relating to the sexual abuse of children, particularly by their teachers. I can’t say whether this is a growing problem, but it’s certainly a hot issue in the minds of students and parents in Njombe. Many, many cases have come to our attention since we started our paper, on top of those (also numerous) we had come across previously. Continue reading →
The (UK) Guardian published an article this week on it’s Global Development website about @Verdade, a weekly newspaper in Mozambique that’s distributed completely free of charge. The same paper has been the focus of articles in Time magazine and Think Africa Press as well. They give away 50,000 copies a week, and estimate their weekly readership to be around 400,000 people, making it the most read newspaper in Mozambique.
I’m not aware of any Tanzanian newspapers that are distributed free of charge. There are plenty of newsletters and the like, some of which are made to look like newspapers, but there’s a big difference between a company, government department or organisation publishing a newsletter to promote its own work and a genuine newspaper trying to be profitable using without charging a cover price. Even Femina, publishers of Fema and Si Mchezo magazines, for which the vast majority of copies are distributed free of charge is not really using a free model as it’s usually understood since it is funded by donors. Nor are they really news magazines. Continue reading →
If the goal is simply to get children into schools, Tanzania’s education sector deserves (and receives) full credit. But if we want those children to actually learn something, getting them into school is only the first (and easiest) step. Unless that is followed up with well-trained and fairly paid teachers and money for text books and other teaching equipment, those children aren’t going to learn much. And if they’re not learning, what’s the point of the children being there?
A few weeks ago on this blog we shared Kwanza Jamii Njombe’s investigation on the Primary Education Capitation Grant – a grant to each school of 10,000/- per pupil per year, for spending by the schools on text books, teaching materials, etc. Our report revealed some shocking findings – and which has provoked a stern response from the Council Education Department (of which more will be posted here as the story develops). Schools were found to be receiving only around 10% of the amount specified in policy. Continue reading →
“Magoda Wafanya Mapinduzi” (Revolution in Magoda) was the front page headline on the very first issue of Daraja’s Kwanza Jamii Njombe newspaper when it was launched last year. (See below for the full article as it was published). Residents of Magoda village, 20km from Njombe town, grew tired of waiting for a government-funded water project and decided to go it alone, paying for the project and doing all the work themselves. At the time it felt a little bit like we were over-hyping the story with that headline, but some more recent developments suggests that it might have been just right. We’ll come to that in a moment, but first some background.
Magoda villagers told us how they had been repeatedly requesting a water project for years from the district council, without success. And then, four years ago, they were told Magoda had been selected as one of ten villages to benefit from a “World Bank” project – it’s actually part of the multi-donor Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) – and that a piped water scheme would be constructed to serve the village. But that was four years ago. They waited, then waited some more. And then they gave up waiting and decided to do it themselves. D-I-Y (do it yourself) development. Continue reading →
Daraja’s Kwanza Jamii Njombe newspaper is one of very few genuinely local newspapers in Tanzania. The vast majority of papers cover stories from the whole country (though with a big bias for stories from Dar es Salaam and Dodoma), and aim to distribute across the most cities and towns nationwide.
One of the few examples of a well established local paper is the Arusha Times, published weekly in English by F.M Arusha Ltd established by William Lobulu and available online with the most-read newspaper website in Tanzania. I had the opportunity this week to visit Arusha Times’s office, to introduce Kwanza Jamii Njombe and to see what lessons Daraja can learn from Arusha Times’s experience. Continue reading →