[Editorial from The Citizen]
Education for girls should no longer be the subject of negotiation, especially in light of the fact that females comprise the greater part of the population. As far back as 2003, there were 98 males for every 100 females in Tanzania. There should be more girls than boys in school now, all things being equal.
Yet the evidence paints a different picture. According to the Tanzania Domestic Household Survey of last year, at least 93 per cent of girls from the wealthiest families got full primary education, but only 54 per cent from poorest families did so.
There may be a number of reasons for this yawning disparity, and we can only speculate on some of them. Whereas girls from the former category may be chauffeur-driven to school, the latter often have to walk or, if they are lucky, get on public transport.
The same ritual is repeated when school is over and they have to return home. All too often, there are many distractions for girls caught up in this situation. With this kind of rigmarole, it is small wonder that only half of the girls from poor families complete education in Tanzania’s primary schools.
This is neither fair nor moral. Indeed, such disparities feed class segregation in our society—with one Tanzania of educated children from rich families and another comprising uneducated children from poor families.
No meaningful education translates these days into meaningful life opportunities. This is the destiny of most girls. This is not the Tanzania we want. Since the dawn of independence, we have upheld the dream of a society in which every child has an equal opportunity in education. We have aspired to have a country in which no child is marginalised, regardless of family status.
We should leave no stone unturned in our efforts to erase such glaring differences among Tanzania’s children. There is a saying that educating a girl is educating an entire family. The benefits should be clear enough.
As former Peace Corps Volunteers in Tanzania, we’re always proud of what the current Peace Corps Volunteers are accomplishing there. Recently the work of two Peace Corps volunteers at a conference on pedagogical practices was highlighted in the Tanzanian newspaper, The Guardian. The volunteers, Aron Walker and Peter McDonough set up an exhibit showing how to equip a science laboratory with locally available materials. In a country where all science subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) are mandatory for two years and the laboratory supplies are scarce (not to mention the funds to buy them or to build the physical laboratory building), teaching science effectively can be difficult. Being able to set up a laboratory in a cost-effective manner using local materials would help teachers be able to better capture students’ interest and increase their understanding through practical, hands-on explorations. Way to go Aron and Peter!
Click here for the full article from The Guardian
This article reports on the results of an Uwezo Tanzania survey assessing the performance of primary school students. The title is a bit misleading since the language in which half of the students are ‘illiterate’ is English, and not Swahili. This is still a big problem as the official language of instruction in secondary schools is English. Furthermore the report states that approximately 20% of primary school leavers are effectively illiterate in Swahili, which still could use some improvement.
on The Citizen
An article describing some of the unintended effects of the rapid growth in primary school enrollment that followed the abolition of school fees, including higher student to teacher ratios, overcrowded classrooms, and shortages of books. While the article states that the current teacher to pupil ratio is 1:51, I’d be interested in seeing how the ratio would break down if Standards 1 and 2 were separated from the others. There are teachers who are certified only for teaching these lower standards, but I’ve seen cases where they compose the majority of the teaching staff and, due to the lack of better qualified teachers, end up teaching the older students as well.
The full article
is available on the Guardian’s website.
“Government Moves to Ease Shortage of Teachers”
This article discusses the shortage of teachers that is being experienced in Tanzania.
A major factor in the shortage at the secondary school level is the rapid increase in enrollment that has taken place over the last few years. The article reports that the number of students entering Form I has increased from 134,964 students in 2005 to 477,554 students in 2009. This rapid increase is due to the addition of many new schools and expanded enrollment in existing schools. It would be interesting to see these numbers for previous years as well. In 2004 Hagati Secondary, where I taught, expanded the number of Form I students from 80 to 120. In addition to this, the government built or took over three or four more schools in the area from which Hagati had formerly drawn students. So I imagine that 2004 saw a great increase in enrollment as well.
The increased number of students at secondary schools isn’t even fully captured by numbers given. In 2008, I believe, the government abolished the rule that students had to pass an examination in Form II to continue to study. As a result the number of students in Forms III and IV have likely increased by an even greater percentage.
While expanding access to education is wonderful, it would be nice if during such expansions as much effort was put into increasing the number of teachers as in increasing the number of students. If the number of Teachers’ Training Colleges were similarly expanded at the same time as, or, better yet, prior to, the secondary school expansion, then perhaps the shortage of teachers would not be so great. Instead an already existing shortage of teachers was greatly exacerbated. I only hope that the quality of education has not diminished too much as a result.
available on The Citizen