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Building Bridges Initiative Proposal

PROJECT: “Mobilizing Youth and Women to Improve the Learning Environment for Children with Special Needs in Tanga”


Achieving universal and quality education is a major challenge in Tanzania. Efforts to achieve this goal face severe resource constraints, which often leads to schools overlooking the special needs of people with disabilities.   Communities have limited awareness of the challenges, including discrimination, faced by disabled children and youth in Tanzania. School staff have limited specialised training for working with and teaching children with special needs. TAWAH wants to improve the learning environment for special needs students by strengthening positive community relationships and problem-solving networks by bringing community groups together to alleviate some of the problems facing special needs students through organizing community to improve the physical infrastructure at the school and conducting training, focus groups discussions and seminars on how to work with special needs students for participating community groups.

TAWAH is partnering with Pongwe Primary School in Tanga, a school with special needs students that is currently unable to provide the requirements for its visually impaired students. The existing classrooms are overcrowded, dilapidated and pose a hazard to the students trying to move within them. TAWAH wants to improve the physical environment for Pongwe students by building a new classroom, which will alleviate severe overcrowding, improve mobility of students within the classroom, and ultimately enhance the overall learning environment.


Pongwe Primary School, near Tanga city, Tanzania, is a government school serving children with albinism, blind or sight impaired students, and non-special needs students. Pongwe School faces a number of challenges, the foremost of which is an insufficient number of classrooms. For fifth and sixth graders preparing for the national primary school exams, over 100 students are crammed into ill-ventilated 9×7 meter classrooms meant for a maximum of 42 students. The problem of a lack of classrooms is exacerbated by the dilapidated condition of existing classrooms constructed over a half century ago that have large cracks in the walls and holes in the floors.

Existing classrooms at Pongwe Primary School

Dilapidated condition of existing classrooms

Pongwe was established as a school in 1959 and in 1968 it started receiving sight impaired and blind students. As a measure to protect children with albinism from superstition-driven violence, the government in 2009 directed Pongwe to shelter, protect, and educate students with albinism, most of whom have visual impairments. The school has 940 students from grade one to seven (471 boys and 439 girls), 80 of whom are special needs students who live at the school, including students with albinism who fear for their personal safety at their homes.


Tanzania Women Architects for Humanity (TAWAH), proposes to work with experts in Tanga to conduct trainings for targeted groups composed of Pongwe school staff, students, and community participants on topics such as pedagogy for teaching students with special needs, understanding albinism, and the challenges facing youth with special needs in Tanzania. In addition, TAWAH will work with the students and staff of Pongwe Primary School, together with volunteer female students from Maawal Secondary School in Tanga, and volunteer female architecture students from Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam, to design and build new three classrooms. TAWAH will use innovative, environmentally friendly and low cost technology in the design and construction of the classroom, which will also serve as a template for future classroom construction at Pongwe and other local schools.


This project will achieve the following:

  1. Conduct training program
  • Heightened awareness of the discrimination and marginalisation experienced by children and youth with special needs and at risk youth with albinism. Improve the pedagogy of teachers working with students with special needs. This will de-stigmatise children with special needs and strengthen engagement and relationships between the students of Pongwe School and the Tanga community.

2. Build new classrooms

  • Reduced overcrowding at Pongwe Primary School will create a safer and more comfortable environment conducive to increased learning and academic performance.

3. Practical construction skills to female volunteers

  • Female students from Maawal Secondary School and Ardhi University will gain practical construction experience and develop their problem solving and teamwork skills. Ardhi University students will gain an understanding of the importance of considering the needs of people with disabilities in town planning, land use and building design. Maawal Secondary School students will develop awareness of careers for women in architecture, urban planning and construction.


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