Malaika Milinga

Malaika is Director of the Kids are Kings Nursery in Songea, Tanzania. The centre runs a nursery school that teaches children in English, offering scholarships to those who are unable to access government nurseries locally or afford the average private nursery school fees.

Why did you set up Kids are Kings?

In Tanzania primary school classes are taught in Swahili but secondary school is taught in English. I was working as a primary school teacher when I noticed that many of my students going on to secondary school did not know enough of the language to join in with classes and achieve the grades that they needed to graduate to the next year. I wanted to help these children get a better foundation in English by teaching them the language when they were young so that they could succeed when they went on to secondary school. I set up the Centre with a group of friends in 2015. We now have 17 students between the age of three and five and one full time teacher. The children learn science, maths, English and arts and crafts - all taught in English. I also teach in the nursery and love it. I believe education is the way forward for children in Tanzania as it helps open their minds and have the confidence to achieve their goals.

What are the challenges you have faced as a woman?

There have been many challenges to running the nursery school and Foundation. Some of these have definitely been because I am a woman. Many people in the community have said that the nursery and I could not succeed because I am a woman. We offer classes at a lower cost than other private nurseries and schools in the area however some people would still rather send their children to schools that they struggle to afford. They do not have the confidence that an organisation run by a woman could provide the quality of education for their children.

I feel very strongly that this is not the case. I have seen many times how women have more strength then men. In Tanzania both women and men go to work but when they return home tired the expectation is that the woman, as a wife and a mother, will prepare dinner and clean the house. In the fields women do the same work as men but will often do so whilst carrying children on their backs. It is then the women who are expected to bring all the tools back at the end of the day whilst the men rest. In the family many times it is the women who have to financially support their parents and loved ones rather than fathers, brothers or uncles. Women hold many roles in Tanzanian life and the expectations on them are very high, yet they often do not get the recognition that they deserve. If given the chance to pursue their goals in life women would do many great things.

What challenges face girls in school?

It is common in Tanzania for parents to prioritise the education of their sons. This means many girls struggle to attend school if there is only enough money to send one child, or if they are needed to help at home or in the family business or farm.

How girls perform at school is often impacted by their life at home. As with their sisters, aunts and mothers girls are often expected to do a lot of work in the home. When they return from school their brothers may be allowed to play or do their homework but girls are asked to help fetch water, clean and look after their younger brothers and sisters. This can directly affect how they do in class.

I believe it is important for both boys and girls to be able to get an education as they both have much to offer. It may take a long time for attitudes to change across the country but I do as much as I can by teaching both boys and girls how powerful a woman can be and that we are all equal in our potential.

I think many women find it difficult to take the first steps in pursuing their dreams but my advice to them would be that girls (and women) can!

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