Rebecca Crook, ‘Jambiani Secondary School  Zanzibar’, 2016, Museum of African Design (MOAD)


Abdullah Ali, better known as Mr. Topu, is the head teacher of Jambiani Primary School. Immediately upon stepping into his office, you have the impression that this man is on a mission to improve his school and to garner the best resources for his students and teachers. His colorful office has teaching schedules, the school budget, current work projects, and the school’s vision and mission, among many other carefully organized documents and procedures. Mr. Topu began his teaching career in 1976 and has served the Jambiani community since 1983. As Head Teacher, he supports 20 teachers and 698 pupils. After discussing the evolution of the teaching profession in the eyes of the public and the challenges he faces as an educator, I asked him what he sees as necessary steps to improving educational outcomes for students. Here are his responses:

  1. “If the government employed quality teachers, education of course would be better. Not just anyone should become a teacher. The most important thing is high-quality teachers.”
  2. “Pay teachers a good salary. On time. In full.”
  3. “Send materials like books and pencils.”
  4. “Increase the number of schools and classrooms so that we do not have classes of 50 or 100 students.”
  5. “Have teacher training from time to time. We need to be well-educated to teach effectively. We need to know how to enable children to conquer future problems.”

I could do a whole series on teacher voices alone. They have insights that it’s time we listen to.

About Rebecca Crook