Our next installment in A Day in the Life of Our Communities comes from the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. 

Naila Mkuja’s family lives in a densely populated neighborhood of Zanzibar. Like many of their neighbors, the family had little experience with schools. So when Naila started attending preschool at Imani Islamiya, an Early Childhood Development (ECD) center supported by Aga Khan Education Services, her parents did not know about paying school fees.

Her teacher, Madame Riziki Mussa, found Naila to be a delightful student, but she became concerned that Naila’s education was in jeopardy when the family didn’t pay her school fees. The teachers tried to work with the parents. Sometimes they paid the fees but sometimes they did not; for two months Naila could not attend class.

Naila’s teachers invited the father to discuss options, without success. Finally, Naila’s teachers together found a way with the family to finance the girl’s education. Thanks to their persistence, Naila returned to school.

Naila became one of the shining stars of the pre-school’s 292 children. And thanks to her teachers Naila, now age 7, has started first grade.

“We always wish to see children learn and grow,” said Madame Riziki.

The Aga Khan Development Network’s East Africa pre-school program has grown to over 200 pre-schools, training 6,000 teachers and reaching over 60,000 children. The centers’ impact reaches far beyond the classroom. The centers foster crucial health, language skills and life skills. They also allow space for practicing community values and democracy, with hands-on experience in participation and governance.

“This is democracy understood as an approach to living and relating [in] all aspects of everyday life,” notes the U.K.’s Open University volume, Early Childhood in Focus No. 8; and is “a fundamental educational value…”

Worldwide, the Aga Khan Development Network’s early primary school programs benefit nearly half a million children.