One of the hallmarks of Quest Forward Learning is that students foster a love for learning that they can apply to both the classroom and the community beyond. Tupokigwe Abnery, affectionately known as “Tupo,” embodies this in her position as both Quest Forward mentor and Mentor Teacher for Opportunity Education’s East Africa Team. For three months now, she has held mentoring positions at both Marangu Hills Secondary School and Mtakuja Secondary School. Besides mentoring students, Tupo also supports Tanzanian mentors as they implement Quest Forward Learning in their classrooms. Both of these positions challenge her to grow as a mentor, she says, by “keeping me on my toes professionally, because I’m constantly evaluating why and how we do things in [the] field.”
Tupo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Kiswahili Linguistics from the University of Dodoma in 2011, and went on to educate students at two private schools: Mairiva Secondary School and Precious Blood Secondary School. During these teaching experiences, her traditional classroom environments reinforced the distance in the teacher/student relationship, as well as a profound lack of collaboration. At the time, this approach to teaching didn’t seem abnormal to Tupo, as it reflected the classrooms she herself experienced during primary and secondary school. In these classroom settings, “Students are always waiting for their teacher to begin a new topic,” she says, rather than engaging in self-driven exploration. However, through her position as a Quest Forward mentor, Tupo has witnessed how Quest Forward has facilitated student/teacher interaction, as well as encourages Tanzanian students to “be self-reliant, independent, and team players with their peers, mentors, and community members.” Learn more about how Tanzania’s Quest Forward schools are supporting student growth here.
Based on her experience in a traditional learning environment, Tupo understands the challenges most Tanzanian mentors face when trying to integrate Quest Forward Learning into their classrooms. For many, the shift in mindset is the most difficult part of adhering to the platform and methodology, because it is vastly different from their previous teaching methods. “Rather than trying to adapt to the change, many mentors will still use the traditional method to teach, and occasionally supplement their lectures with Quest Forward Learning material,” Tupo notes. “It’s a problem, but we’re talking to all the mentors in Quest Forward schools and showing them how this methodology is the simplest way to guide their learners.” Additionally, Tupo has encouraged mentors from well-established Quest Forward schools to share their challenges with peers and, together, they collaborate on solutions.
Change begins when mentors commit to breaking out of their comfort zones. As a Mentor Teacher, Tupo plays a significant role in supporting Tanzanian mentors by “guiding, supporting, and coaching [them].” When a mentor can shift their thinking and adopt Quest Forward Learning successfully, drastic changes can be observed in the classroom. At Mtakuja Secondary School, Francis Lusabe is a shining example of the opportunities a Quest Forward mentor provides. Tupo observes, “When Francis teaches, all the students are engaged. You do not see a learner idle, because they are always busy doing different activities for their courses. This makes the classroom active and keeps the students engaged.” It is the East Africa Team’s hope that soon all of their classrooms will resemble the learning environment that Francis has fostered for his students, which you can read more about in this blog post.
Tupo envisions the lasting impacts of Quest Forward Learning on Tanzanian students as they continue to use the platform to solve problems within their communities. She believes it is not only responsible for positive changes now, but that it will benefit future generations. Apart from mentors like her, she says, students are “building the mindset, habits, and skills to face any challenge and solve it.”