columnBy Ramadhani Kupaza
Some residents of Arusha argue that the 22% drop in the recent Form IV National Examination students' passes is one of the indicators that the education system in Tanzania is failing. The people advance many factors that cause the failures.
People explain that some of the factors that cause failure of the education system in the country include limited recognition of the importance of the schools' academic leadership and staff. They advance other factors that cause failure. They mention factors like limited cooperation among stakeholders, inadequate qualified teachers, inconvenient working environment for teachers, lack of motivation and unattractive learning environment for students. People talk about other factors that cause failures. The factors include indiscipline, lack of administrative controls, inappropriate teaching facilities and materials. The list of factors that cause failure of the education system in Tanzania is long.
To their credit, some school owners value academic leadership in their schools. Owners of one of the Secondary Schools in Arusha City have designated the Head of the School as Principal rather than Headmaster. The word Principal in Tanzania is normally reserved for heads of institutions of higher learning like colleges. It suggests that the owners of the school pay the Principal better monetary benefits than what owners of secondary schools elsewhere pay Headmasters.
Some Arushans argue that the Government of Tanzania has contributed to low student performances in education because it has demoralized teachers by failing to pay teachers their arrears timely. Memories are still fresh about that.
Many parents are not keen to be part of school programmes, a factor that causes students to practice misguided behaviours. For instance, many parents do not attend parents meetings that schools organize. The parents reason that they are only responsible for paying the students' school fees in addition to molding the students' discipline when they are on leave at home. Informed parents would say those are unfortunate thoughts.
People advance inadequate qualified teachers as a major cause of low students' performances during the recent Form IV National Examinations. Ward Community Secondary Schools are most affected in that regard as implied by their characteristic low students' passes.
Speaking of teachers, schools that do not provide teachers with basic facilities miss out on good teachers and services. Students in such schools are bound to under perform during examinations. Basic facilities refer to water and electricity in this case.
People mention unattractive learning environments for students as a cause of failure of the education system. For instance, many schools lack proper toilets and desks. As a result, students in some schools sit on cement blocks or quit school all together.
Indiscipline is also said to cause failures in the education system. Students in Missionary schools perform well partly because the administrations in the schools encourage strict academic discipline among teachers and students deliberately.
An equally important cause of failure of the education system is the fact that District Councils lack administrative controls like inspection practices which would ensure that members of academic staff perform their duties accordingly. For instance, the Arusha District Council has not taken action to discipline a Headmaster of one community secondary school who is never at the school for years. The school is managed by the Deputy Headmaster instead. The Council keeps paying the Headmaster a monthly salary. Clearly, the Headmaster does not deserve to be paid.
Lack of teaching materials causes failures of education systems. Teaching materials refer to lack of stationeries and basic publications like school syllabuses. Lack of syllabuses means that students study blindly without knowing context or contents of the subjects they study. It was possible to buy syllabuses for every subject in Arusha some five years ago. Perhaps the Ministry of Education can commission private companies to print subject syllabuses for sale. May be private publishers can just do it. It could be good business.
Those are some of the causes of education failure that people in Arusha talk about. The untold cause of education failure in Tanzania is malnutrition. A Wikipedia Website informs that malnutrition is a common cause of reduced intelligence.
Malnutrition is a cause of concern in schools in the country. For example, a recent survey involving primary schools in Oldonyosambu and Ngarenanyuki Wards in Arusha indicated that only three of the 17 schools provided a basic meal for students. Basic meal means soft porridge made from maize in this case. It suggests that most primary school students in the Wards are undernourished and therefore their intelligence is probably impaired. It follows that the students cannot be expected to perform exceptionally well in school. Malnutrition is similar or worse as regards students in other parts of Tanzania.
Apart from improving intelligence, a balanced diet prevents diseases and infections. It is not necessary to emphasize that healthy students study well.
Oikos East Africa has intervened to alleviate the problem of malnutrition in schools that are located in Oldonyosambu and Ngarenanyuki Wards. The NGO has constructed 13 permanent kitchens where the schools will cook for students conveniently. The NGO has also constructed 16 energy saving institutional stoves complete with aluminum pots to ensure that schools use less firewood and cook quickly for students. The stoves are equipped with chimneys to avoid smoke which causes respiratory diseases.
In addition, Oikos has trained teachers in the schools to practice food security techniques to ensure that food will always be available for students when the project ends. The project is funded by the European Union.