Cutting out the middle-man: development education at the coal face in Tanzania

Young Scientists exhibitions could be Ireland’s greatest export yet, reports Michael Doorly from the finals of the Young Scientists Tanzania exhibition.

“Have you ever heard of development education?” I ask Agnes the 15 year old team leader from Pemba Secondary School in Mwanza, Tanzania. “No” she says bluntly, “what is it?” I point to her team project entitled “Why is Tanzania poor despite having abundant natural resources?”, and I ask her to show me the graph explaining Tanzania’s levels of debt and to tell me again about the ‘Corruption ends with me’ group she and her team mates have started…I stop her in mid-sentence and answer her question, “this is development education”.

Agnes and her team are just one of a hundred schools who have come for all corners of the country, some travelling 13 hours by bus, to take part in the first ever Young Scientist Tanzania (YST) exhibition. The projects range from ‘hard science’ (“petals as natural indicators in acid and base titrations”) to the science in technology (“Non-electric” fridge) and the study of social and behavioural science (‘Attitudes to Albinism’).

The ‘journey’ here, whether from across the city of Dar es Salaam (which can also take 13 hours in grid locked traffic) or from the far North-West of the country has its starting point in Ireland. Joe Clowry from the Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium in Maynooth reminded me of the reaction Fr. Michael Kelly and a group of visiting Tanzanian’s had after they visited a school in Donegal and sat in on a lively ‘dev-ed’ session on combating genocide:

“They said why are you not doing this in Africa, it is great for Irish students to know this but in Africa they can live it.”

It is a great question and one that challenges me as a development educator coming from a large development organisation. Why indeed do so many NGOs continue to view development education as something for domestic audiences only, why isn’t it an integral part of our overseas programming? Yes of course it is vital that we continue to engage the Irish public in the many debates and discussions around development, that we continue to raise awareness of inequality and injustice and that we encourage them to become better ‘global citizens’.

But in talking with Agnes and her team mates another more immediate and powerful side of development education is exposed. She is here living at the coal face of the issue, she is asking the ‘nuclear’ question…

‘WHY?’, why does it have to be this way?, ‘why despite our resources are we so poor?’

In ‘doing’ development education with Agnes I get a feeling that I am somehow cutting out the middle man, I am not just asking my government to ask her government to look after its citizens, but I am supporting and working with young Tanzanian citizens to ask the questions they want answered.

The Young Scientist Tanzania competition is about science for development, it recognises just as the Young Scientist in Ireland did some 49 years ago, that science is a vital ingredient in the economic and social development of any country. It is a sad fact that last year only six Tanzanian students entered computer science at Third Level. For Tanzania or any developing country to prosper they need their own nurses, engineers, economists, computer scientists and agronomists, all people of science…but they also need people who will ask the hard and awkward questions about fairness and justice in society, people like Agnes.

Over 1000 students and members of the public visited the final day of the YST, the energy, passion and potential in the hall was noted by everyone present. Dr Tony Scott, the founder of Young Scientist Ireland, at one point enthusiastically declared:

“It’s exactly the same as it is in Dublin, exactly the same.”

If YST can do for Tanzania what YSI has done for Ireland it will perhaps be one of Ireland’s greatest ever exports. But it is an export that can be and must be enriched with the support and engagement of development education.

A few words from Nyanjige Mazeleng’we: winner of the Science for Development Award

It was our pleasure to be among the students competing in the first young scientist’s exhibition in Tanzania. We were focused on finding out what exactly makes our country poor, despite being blessed with a bunch of unique natural resources.What pushed us to do this project are the problems which we face in our country, like the absence of any power supply in some places which dulls economic activities in Tanzania.

With everything we have learned through taking part in Young Scientists Tanzania we look forward to educating people starting in school about the kinds of things that have to be done in Tanzania to bring about development.

Education is an essential ingredient for peoples’ chances in life, in Tanzania and elsewhere. It is unfortunate that a large amount of Tanzanians do not finish school, and some do not attend at all. The difficulties we face in managing our resources and dealing with economic problems we have in eliminating poverty starts with young people getting educated.

We have learned that everything done with commitment, faith and the passion to achieve can be successful. This is because we were determined to learn and also to win in this competition. We will succeed in getting rid of poverty in our country starting from our region, Mwanza.

Thanks to the Pearson Foundation we managed to meet many committed young scientists and see lots of interesting projects. With so many Tanzanian scientists on the way this gives me great hope for the future of my country and what we can do.

We just hope that this can continue every year so that all students will be looking forward to the learning and discovery that comes with undertaking new projects.

Much thanks to the Concern Worldwide for the science for development prize. We hope to stay in touch and act as ambassadress in Tanzania, working hand in hand with you to eliminate poverty across African countries.

Nyanjige’s team won the science for development award 2012 for their project ‘Why is Tanzania poor despite abundant natural resources?’


A selection of the winning projects
Presented below is a selection of the award winners from the finals.

In total there were 13 categories and 22 projects given awards – to explore those further visit the YST website: and check out the YST_Exhibition Guide that accompanied the event.

Main Award, Young Scientist Tanzania 2012

1st Prize – KIBOSHO GIRLS, Kilimanjaro
Project poster: Impact of nitrate on water due to the application of fertilizers PDF
Students: Aisha Nduku, Monica Shinina, Nengai Moses




Runner Up: Ilboru, Arusha
Project poster: Bio gas – investigation and comparison of natural fuels PDF
Students: Edwin Luguku, Justin Mpwaga, Nyanda Mbassa




The Chemistry/Physics/Maths Award

1st Prize –  Kenton, Dar es Salaam
Project poster: Do we know what is in our water? PDF
Students: Prince Elias, Lawrence Chacha, Khadija Mshindo





The Social and Behavioural Award

1ST Prize: Notre Dame, Arusha
Project poster: Effect of colour and music PDF
Students: Kombe Oliver, June Joseph, Samira Yusuph






3rd Prize: Mikanjuni, Tanga
Project poster: Skin bleaching materials, facts and effects PDF
Students: Mwinyiheri Kabanda, Zaina Ali, Ashura Beka




The Technology Award

1st Prize –  Barbro Johansen, Dar es Salaam
Project poster:  non electric fridges PDF
Students: Vision Bagonza, Theonestina Amos, Juliana Itanisa






2nd Prize:  Fidel Castro, Pemba, Znz
Project poster: The potential of wind power in pemba PDF
Students: Rashid Abeid, Issa Mohammad, Fatma Juma




 3rd Prize: Bwiru Girls, Mwanza
Project poster: Solar cone food waste digestor PDF
Students: Suzan Toyali, Sia Malle, Theresia Gilbert




          Science for Development
Concern/Niall Weldon Special Award

School: Pamba, Mwanza
Project poster: Why is Tanzania poor despite having abundent resources PDF
Students: Nyanjige Mazereng’wa, Pashazia Faustine, Agnes Simon




 Sustainable Rural Development
The Self Help Africa Special Award

School: Butimba, Mwanza
Project poster: Potential of locally produced plant pesticides PDF
Students: Donatha Buberwa, Kaburu Idrissa, Celina Elias




  Communicating Science
The TASJA Special Award

School: Fountain of Hope Seminary, Moshi
Project poster: The use of industrial fertilizers and effects on soil PDF
Students: Ebenezer Mphuru, Christopher Mushi, Winniel Munishi




 Children in Cross Fire Award

 School: Kisutu Girls, Dar es Salaam
Project poster: An analysis of malnutrition in Dar es Salaam PDF
Students: Pascalia Nyoni, Pasgalia Mkami, Shaimaar Awadh




New Young Scientist Africa Award

School: Vingunguti, Dar es Salaam
Project poster: Social implications of locating a ward school PDF
Student: Andrew Bayaga, George Stephano, Gloria Ngowi




Best Renewable Energy project – ESBI Special Award

School: Fidel Castro, Pemba
Project poster: The potential of wind power in pemba PDF
Students: Rashid Abeid, Issa Mohammad, Fatma Juma