Forty minutes west of Moshi, Tanzania, Uroki Secondary School sits in a tropical rainforest on Mount Kilimanjaro’s lower slopes. In January 2018, Uroki was among the seven Tanzania schools that launched Quest Forward Learning in their Form 1 (equivalent to US 9th grade) classes.
Before students could dive into their quests, Uroki underwent a 4-phase launch process to prepare for the start of the school year. Quest Forward Coordinator Hubert Kimaro helmed this process. Uroki’s headmaster appointed Hubert because of his active participation in trainings and planning sessions for the platform’s implementation. Hubert also excelled at using technology—a helpful skill when preparing for such a daunting task. Prior to his appointment, Hubert taught at Uroki for three years. He currently teaches Form 1 Civics, using Quest Forward Learning in addition to his role as Coordinator.
According to Hubert, the most difficult part of preparing for the 2018 school year was securing a stable internet connection. Uroki’s rural location, far from any towns or cities, made it difficult for the school to receive a stable signal from network providers. Even though they installed a satellite, it would not support their 50 devices. A network provider advised them to lay fiber to gain a stronger, more reliable connection, which was an expansive and time-consuming process that lasted well into the school year. As a temporary solution, mentors tethered students’ devices to their cell phone hotspots.
In addition to solving network issues, the Uroki team went to great lengths to ensure that the students’ physical environment was conducive to collaborative learning. A generous donor, Southwood Lutheran Church (Lincoln, Nebraska), provided tablets for Uroki’s 41 students and 9 mentors. The Uroki staff repurposed old library tables to provide students with a consistent opportunity to learn alongside peers, rather than separating them at individual desks. They taped powerstrips to each table to ensure learners could charge their devices as they worked. Overall, they wanted to facilitate a functional, collaborative environment for their students to fully engage with Quest Forward Learning.
As any coordinator will tell you, managing a Quest Forward implementation involves far more than securing infrastructure. It is also about supporting fellow mentors as they adopt new teaching practices. Experienced teachers who have taught traditional classes for many years often struggle to embrace the program early on, because it is a challenge to shift their mindsets and facilitate a more student-centered classroom. To combat these obstacles, Hubert offered both technical and pedagogical support, along with a sensitive approach to monitoring his school’s consistent use of the platform. “Being a coordinator is not always easy,” Huber reflects. “Coordinators need to be passionate about helping mentors, as well as students, learn and grow.”
This month, Hubert will attend the Kilimanjaro Quest Forward Coordinators Institute and prepares to lead Uroki into its second exciting year of Quest Forward Learning.