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Improving access to quality education for students with hearing disabilities in Rural Tanzania

Shule Direct is bridging the educational resources divide for deaf students in Tanzania through web solutions to improve learning outcomes.

Photo of Faraja Nyalandu
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What problem does your idea solve?

Tanzania has 1.2 Million people with hearing disabilities. There is a high dropout rate of students with hearing disabilities in Secondary Schools. Students who are not able to hear are taught alongside hearing children. Inclusivity is good but it also means that deaf students are left behind and their academic performances, 95% failure rate, prove this to be true. They have given up on schooling because it marks attendance and not learning. There are only 5 deaf people with Master's Degree.

Explain your idea

Shule Direct's Learning Management System (e-LMS) is an interactive offline version of Shule Direct’s Open Education Resource (OER) hosted at It offers the entire Secondary School curriculum covering 11 subjects, extracurricular skills and 3 types of dashboards for the three different categories of users i.e. Administrators, Teachers and Students. Shule Direct also offers training and a best practices manual on how to use the System and effectively integrate e-learning pedagogies within their teaching environment. The System also intends to empower its users to become content creators to enhance digital literacy. Standard Features of the LMS • The entire Shule Direct Secondary School Curriculum covering 11 Subjects; Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, History, Book Keeping, Commerce, English, Kiswahili and Civics 
 • Extra - curricular skills such as Life Skills, Academic Management and Financial Education 
 • Personalized User Dashboards for Administrators, Teachers and Students 
 • User Content Input Platforms to create, add and view; notes, tests, assignments and group activities. Shule Direct encourages Users to create their own content and share it within the school or learning center to build ICT 
and content creation skills for students and teachers. 
 • A Teachers and Students Management platform for the Administrator • Allows interactivity between Users on the System within the school setting • Tracks Users progress

Who benefits?

Imagine a 16 yr old girl who has been fortunate enough to proceed to Secondary School after all the challenges of learning while deaf in Primary School. She is in an inclusive school, she knows over 70% of children like her didn't get the chance, she is determined. But there is a problem. Her teachers are not competent to teach her in sign language, in fact sometimes they forget she is in class and talk the lesson away. With this support, we hope to reach 1550 students like her and 45 teachers.

How is your idea unique?

We never thought the Learning Management System was suited to help students with hearing disabilities until when we received a visit from officials from the University of Diak in Finland, who had done a number of interventions in the sector and thought bringing in technology based resources could further help the students. The solution is built on a holistic approach because we are considerably taking time to learn the beneficiary's context, behaviours and patterns of learning and feeding the lessons into improving the system. It is extremely simple and contextual for the local market because it is custom built from scratch to fit the learning needs within the region. Our content and methodologies have been reviewed by education experts to assure consumers of quality and relevance to learning outcomes. But we also thought of going a step ahead by not just providing educational content but also improving digital skills through practising content creation through the user friendly tools.

Tell us more about you

Shule Direct is a social enterprise that provides local, qualified and relevant digital study tools for young learners. We are working with the best teachers in Tanzania to create digitised notes, tutorials, quizzes and multimedia content and developing web and mobile solutions to deliver these to over 400,000 students. Our cloud based repository stores all the resources, with an advanced data management system and Application Programming Interface (API), which connects our web and mobile apps.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

There is a significant fear of technology among teachers which determines how they engage with the system and how students can engage with the system. The platform has been more popular with students with notably higher students' interests to learn than without the technology. We are still working on the best sustainable ways to ensure higher levels of teachers' engagement through teaching programs to enhance their teaching expertise, teaching resources and a peer to peer network of teachers in special schools for support. We did a needs assessment baseline, now working on the findings and report so that they can feed our strategies and designs. Notably over 98% of students at Njombe School for the Deaf are interested to learn on the LMS.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Tanzania

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered for-profit company (including social enterprises).

Idea Maturity

  • Early Growth/Roll-out/Scaling: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mussa Gunda

Hi my sister Faraja, i am glad and happy you have come up with this LMS for students with hearing difficulties. As we observe many teachers are almost afraid with technology while students compete to engage with it. Its my hope you will involve teachers closely so as they can use the portal also for normal students and if possibly we have to meet, welcome to Korogwe Teachers College.

Photo of Faraja Nyalandu

Dear Mussa, thank you. Yes, we work closely with teachers in designing our platforms and creating content. From what we have seen, once teachers know how technology can help them improve how they teach and what they teach, it becomes a great tool for them. Practise makes perfect!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Faraja Nyalandu and Team,

We’re excited to share with you feedback and questions from the Amplify team and an external set of experts. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

-This is a great initiative created with the users in mind. This modified curriculum is idea for students with hearing impairment since most of them are sometimes left out of the learning process due to the existence of barriers such as the use of the mainstream curriculum.
-This is a bold initiative to the educate children in Njombe. What made this outstanding is that the program can be used on offline mode, which is suitable if this program is to be implemented in rural schools for the deaf. Access to education by using this technological Learning Management System is a step in the right direction since the world is fast becoming a tech savvy world. This means students with hearing impairment will not be left behind as was the case in the past.
-Have you considered how the LMS tool would reduce the stigma for these young people?
-I have yet to see an initiative that attempts to create a self-contained offline system that aims to run parallel to what teachers would teach in the classroom in adherence to the national curriculum. The situation for people who are deaf and hard of hearing is indeed as dire as the proposal depicts -- LMS would indeed be an exciting opportunity to address teachers' inability to teach in Tanzanian (or any other country's) Sign Language and allow students to have access to the information and learn at their own pace.
-The idea is plausible and it is reassuring to note the LMS content and methodologies have been quality assured by education experts but a potential challenge would be around reducing stigma for the students with hearing disabilities.
-If these students are taken out of their 'inclusive' classrooms so that they can use LMS, might it draw unwanted negative attention to their disabilities?
-Community awareness may need to be prioritized so that there is smooth integration back into the community of the students since this school is exclusively for those with hearing impairment.
-Some possible challenges: 1) If a student does not understand/needs additional guidance for a word, concept or problem, where do they get that if teachers are not able to communicate with the student? 2) How will students' psycho-socio-emotional needs be addressed? 3) What opportunities will the deaf or hard of hearing learner have for natural language learning and interaction? 4) Access to technology/electricity
-Have you considered the use of Tanzanian Sign Language (TZSL) in the e-LMS? TZSL is a thriving language with many users - if the program is being built up from scratch, locally, it may be helpful to develop materials in TZSL as well.
-Does this program cover all parts of the country of its only for Njombe?
-What guarantees are there that the LMS being used now at Njombe can prepare the students for further education at colleges, universities and eventually the world of work?
-How will this effort educate others (family, community) regarding needs of people who are deaf/hard of hearing?

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