In Swahili, we use the word hojaji to mean “questionnaire.”  At Toa, this refers to our parent interviews which occur after our observation period, and the initial test of all the Grade One students in the current year have been completed, the results entered, and the data revealed.

We find out which students fall into Tier One (typically developed), Tier Two (lagging slightly), and Tier 3 (well behind their peers).  Based on our education consultant Angi Stone-MacDonald‘s training from way back when, we know that a test score well below the cutoff mark of 80% is a red flag as are any findings from the observation period that indicate atypical social, adaptive, or behavioral skills.  The parents of such children we discover to be Tier 3 are then called in to discuss the observation and assessment results and we ask a few questions to gain a fuller picture of the child’s history and life at home.

Since some of the questions are sensitive, I no longer conduct hojaji and leave it to my Tanzanian colleagues to create a safe and welcoming space where parents and caregivers can feel comfortable to give truthful answers and ask questions freely.  Typical questions include: who does the child live with at home; what work do the adults in the house do; is there drinking, smoking, or drugs at home; are there siblings and/or extended relatives; did/does the child suffer from any significant illnesses; did the child meet his/her milestones (crying at birth, walking and talking within a year) on time, etc.  Though we ask about health and are happy to have the information, we do not inquire out right about a child or any family member’s HIV status as this tends to be a very delicate subject in Tanzania.  We also do ask about mama‘s behavior while pregnant – also with much tact and sympathy – as we have seen cases of fetal alcohol syndrome or other issues relating to falls, gestational diabetes, and oxygen deprivation among other things.

Once these hojaji are completed, the Toa team along with the parents/caregivers can make a plan going forward for the child which may include medical or psychosocial support as well as, of course, Toa’s pullout program.  Parents are generally tentative at first but once they get to know us, they appreciate us and are willing to cooperate in the process.

This year, because of the school closures due to Covid starting in mid-March, we were late to complete testing and data entry which meant that parent interviews were thrown off course as well.  But since the end of June, we have been back in school and back on track and I am happy to share some photos of our tutors with a few parents, going over the test scores and filling out hojaji!