The moment Anne McAra arrived at the International School of Tanganyika (IST) in 1986 she started working in service learning, but she saw areas where the school could do even more.
It was in her initial interview with then-Head of the Secondary School, Bill Powell, where she was first introduced to the projects IST was involved with.
He quoted The Rufuji Leprosy Project, Mother Theresa's Orphanage and The Salvation Army home for disabled children as projects he was actively involved with.
“It was his passion for these projects that made me think IST would be a good place to work due to such commitment to the host country and local community,” McAra said. “When I arrived in 1986 I became involved with all three projects.”
When she first started, she was an IB teacher of Geography, teaching Grades 7 to IB 2 at the High School and after seven years, she wanted to extend her training so she could also start working within the Elementary School.
After a year-long sabbatical, she started teaching Grades 2 to 5 and is currently a Learning Support teacher working closely with the Grade 5 team.
“IST is a special school to work in and during my time at the school I have been able to change grades and work with many different age groups and colleagues,” McAra said.
And in each age group, she takes the time to inspire a love of service learning in all of her students.
“I am an enthusiastic member of the Service Learning Programme and have been involved in various links with the community since I joined IST,” McAra said. “I initiated the link with the Buguruni School in 1987 and have helped develop the link with the Kikaboga School in Mikumi National Park.”
Service Learning in Elementary School and the Evolution of a New Project
“Service learning is exceptionally important; it is a great link to the local community for our students who get to meet Tanzanian students,” McAra said. “Our students are able to appreciate what they have and are able to offer support to others who may not be so privileged.”
Currently, IST has two projects which link the Elementary students to local schools. Each week, special needs students from Mbagala Special School join IST students to have fun in the pool.
IST sends buses to the local schools to collect the students, teachers and caregivers.
One of McAra’s students became inspired to help after this opportunity.
“Playing with the kids that are disabled has taught me that some people don’t have the opportunities like us. I learned that sometimes you have to give a helping hand to people,” Shivshankar said. “It was really fun playing with them and learning things such as games they used to play.”
The school is also linked to Buguruni School for the Deaf, an initiative started by McAra in 1987.
“IST students learn some sign language in order to communicate with their new friends,” McAra said, adding that this is a heart-warming sight to see.
According to one of her students, Carla, Buguruni is an exceptional experience.
“Buguruni is a really good experience because you get to learn so many new things. You get to be in a new environment with new people and see how they live. It’s really fun playing with the children,” Carla said. “I can sign a little sign language now and have made new friends. I love drawing on the whiteboards together and they teach me the signs for the pictures we draw! It’s great fun!”
The programme includes sports exchange, art activities, a swimming programme for girls and a field trip to Mikumi National Park.
Another initiative McAra helped bring to IST is the link with the Kikaboga School in Mikumi National Park.
“IST students spend the day at the school sharing various activities and finding out about life at a school surrounded by wild animals,” McAra said excitedly.
According to McAra, the Service Learning Programme at IST has grown steadily over the years.
“This commitment and involvement of our students with the local community is one of the many things IST does well,” McAra said.
The Purpose of Service Learning at IST
“IST students have many opportunities available to them and not everyone is so privileged. It is important for our students to give a helping hand and think of others and believe everyone can do something if given a chance,” McAra said.
McAra hopes that through service learning, children will see how they can give back to the community and be constantly on the lookout for ways they can help.
“My hope is by doing service learning we can all become a little humbler and appreciate what we have and assist others to achieve by lending helping hands and offering friendship.”
Did you attend or work at IST and remember the Service Learning Programme being one that inspired you to help those in need and become active in the community? You are not alone! There is a whole community of IST alumni who are connecting over their time at the school. Want to join the network? Click here.