Tanzanian primary school students using a Civics poster in the classroom

Tanzanian primary school students using a Civics poster in the classroom

LEarning through Photography—Tanzania

Learning through Photography was created by Tanzanian teachers, and has been led by them, since 2008. 


Wendy Ewald started Literacy Through Photography (LTP) in the US in 1989.  LTP is a teaching philosophy and methodology that encourages children to explore their world as they photograph scenes from their own lives and to use their images as catalysts for verbal and written expression. Framed around universal themes such as self-portrait, community, family, and dreams, LTP provides children and teachers with the expressive and investigative tools of photography and writing for use in the classroom.

In connecting picture making with writing and critical thinking, LTP promotes an expansive use of photography across different curricula and disciplines, building on the information that students naturally possess. LTP also provides a valuable opportunity for students to bring their home and community lives into the classroom. Photographs can give teachers a glimpse into their students’ lives and give students a way to understand each other’s diverse experiences.

In 2007, two primary school teachers from Arusha, Tanzania, were sent to a workshop for teachers and activists from the U.S. and other countries.  The workshop was taught by Wendy Ewald and Katie Hyde, who were teaching at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University at the time. In 2009, the two teachers who attended the workshop invited Ewald to teach a workshop for 40 primary school teachers in Arusha.

In the workshop, the teachers determined that they wanted to use photographs as a teaching tool to be integrated into their curriculum.  Ewald had expected something very different.  A core group of teachers led by local director, Pelle Shaibu, and Ewald worked together for the next five years to create and test inexpensive visual teaching tools to be used in primary schools throughout Tanzania.

The purpose of LTP is to introduce the methodology of visual learning into the classroom.  The overarching goal is to create a participatory and democratic child-centered classroom.  Instead of copying lessons from the blackboard and verbally answering the teachers’ questions, the students work in groups using the photographs and then make presentations to the class.  They learn to analyze and interpret images.  They come to understand that each one of them sees images, and the world, differently.

We believe, as others that we’ve worked with believe, that this program is an efficient way to make a significant impact on the Tanzanian classroom.   We believe it will lead to a more active, analytical, and egalitarian civil society. 



"We cannot turn our backs on the students or ignore problems like HIV, gender, and life skills. Visual learning is a way to focus on these problems. It addresses and promotes cultural reproductions and enhancement, traditional learning and the understanding of classroom practice. It develops skills such as communication, self-esteem, and self-advocacy in the cases of students with learning disabilities and handicaps, the stimulation of critical thinking, and the development of analytical skills."

            —Revered Tanzanian educator Dr. Kisanji talking about Teaching and Learning through Photography