Why Tanzania needs to invest in quality education for all children

There is a saying that, “The best inheritance to leave your child is education” — implying that whatever of value you give your child cannot compare with education, the value of which is long lasting.

Reviewing the educational system and policies in Tanzania, one sees various classes within society in which the chance of getting an education depends on who they are and where they live — and that education only benefits a few within the society.

According to LHCR Report in 2018, however, introduction of a fee-free education policy by the government has helped to increase access to education at primary and secondary school levels.

Previously, children from poor families normally ended up being house-girls and house-boys.  The education systems favoured a certain group of people enjoying benefits at the expense of others, hence creating very different results in final primary and secondary school examinations.

For instance, a good learning environment in urban primary and secondary schools is among the factors that makes such a difference, thus making education an essential right for Tanzania children.

According to the study by the Twaweza organisation (2010) of 38 districts, children in urban areas scored about 7-10 percentage points higher than children in rural areas on examination in all subjects. The study also revealed that about 50 percent of students in rural areas leave standard seven without knowing how to read or to write in English, while one in ten students cannot do simple arithmetic.

From the Twaweza organisation findings, one can easily see how the undisputed difference in education between urban and rural areas was something that is slowly changing for the better after the government put in place good plans for the education sector.

The education gap that is now a challenge is the inequality that exists in urban areas between the kind of schools that children from rich families attend and those for middle to poorer children.

As far as the importance of education is concerned, we need to re-think what can be done to improve the quality of education for the future of our children, so as to ensure that they receive quality education regardless of where and who they are.

The government should invest to make schools safe-havens for children by creating good environments that will encourage children to continue studying, rather than quitting school out of humiliation and beatings that undermine their ability to learn.

Also, integrating and expanding sports in schools can help. They reduce violence, improve discipline and school attendance, and facilitate good student–teacher relations, among many other benefits. In general, they help to encourage children to complete their primary education and go on to secondary school.

There should be regular inspection for all schools and teachers on their own attendance and performance, along with adoption of child–centered teaching methods. This will make them actively accountable for their responsibilities.

Teacher absenteeism, said to be a challenge in Tanzania as well as other developing countries, is accelerated by teachers themselves and by the working environment created by the government.

Also, there should be deliberate efforts to invest in reduction of teenage pregnancy, which is a challenge to quality education for all children. For instance in 2007, over 8,000 girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy, and the number seems to be growing every year.

According to the LHRC (2018), the lack of school hostels and dormitories, traditional practices, and the significant distance between homes and schools are among the strong contributing factors leading to school girls becoming pregnant in many parts of the country.

For instance, students at Mlete Village in Songea Rural District walk for more than five kilometres to Lukala secondary school, which also lacks important facilities like desks, classrooms, latrines and dormitories, as well as residential houses for teachers.

Poor payment of teachers in government schools is another challenge toward achieving quality education for all children. Teachers in government schools are poorly paid, which demoralize them in implementing their responsibilities to impart knowledge to pupils.

Private schools have a better chance of performing in examinations, compared to government schools, because they have qualified teachers who are comfortably paid. The class sizes are also much smaller, and teaching facilities are modern. These schools can only be accessed by students from rich families.

In general, deliberate efforts must be made to address the deficiencies and inequities in the Tanzanian education system and policies in order to improve education from the pre and primary schools to higher learning institutions. Only in this way can we have well-prepared and competitive personnel in the globalised market.

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