Jifundishe is a Swahili word that means “teach yourself”. We are just back from a trip to Tanzania and the Jifundishe Free Library located in the Arusha area of Tanzania where we worked with over 100 students preparing them for their Qualifying Tests. The Qualifying Tests are conducted in English and the education system has similarity to the English system. Students pass tests to move from one Form to another. The students were those who could not afford secondary school and learned by teaching themselves and attending our workshops. The groups we worked with were Form Two students trying to move to Form Four, and Form Four students trying to move up to Form Six. It was an honor to work with these remarkable students. They all love the concept of learning and work hard to improve their skills.
A free library is a rarity in Tanzania and the free library at Jifundishe has been sponsored through donations and the hard work of a team of people both Tanzanian and American. Our group consisted of four people, all part of Unlimited Possibilities, a group headquartered in New Hampshire. I asked the head of the library how many of the 100 students might have access to a computer at home. Her guess was maybe one student. Despite a lack of resources we take for granted the students we worked with were all tri-lingual. They speak the language of their tribe- there are 158 local languages in Tanzania although Bantu is the predominant tribal language; they speak Swahili which is the national language; and they speak English. The literacy rate in Tanzania is 68%, however I’m not sure how that is calculated. Education in Tanzania is compulsory until the age of 15.
What impressed me most about the students was their success and commitment to educating themselves and their fellow students. They all work in groups and willingly share whatever they have learned. In our sessions together it was standard operating procedure that each person in the group understand the specific lesson before we moved on to the next lesson. The group operated as one. Successes were shared successes. The disciplines of team building are part of the culture.
Many sections from my book “Theory You” that launched the topic of self-mentoring already existed with the students: becoming your own mentor, managing emotions, doing more with less, overcoming barriers, being a team player, communicating, humility, and self-orientation. Many of the students lacked confidence and we attributed that to a paucity of positive reinforcement in their student lives. We attempted to give them honest positive feedback and support in our sessions together.
Teaching yourself works. The track record at Jifundishe is amazing. We can’t wait for the results from the Qualifying Tests; we’re as anxious as the students. Our expectations are high.
If you want to learn more about Jifundishe go to:
If you want to learn more about Unlimited Possibilities go their web site at:
There were many powerful things to take away from the trip to Tanzania. One of them was witnessing the positive results from self-educating or self-mentoring. We saw theory in action. The smiles on the faces of the students will remain with us forever and were, as the ad says “Priceless”. While in Tanzania we also held 5 seminars for the academic and business community and I’ll discuss them in my next blog.