19 May 2012

Tanzania: Strategies Vital for Ward Secondary Schools Needed

ANAELI Simon (16) trekked 14 kilometres daily to and from school for four years he was a student at Komakya Ward Secondary School in Moshi Rural District (2008 to 2011).

He secured Division IV on his Form Four Examination results in 2011, the position he says could have been better if he did not spend much of the time on the road to and from school.

"I was among those who arrived late in school almost on daily basis because of the long distance," Anaeli, whose dream was to become a doctor, says. He is back to the village not knowing what is in store for him now that his dream has been shattered. "I am confused, after four years of secondary school I am back in the village. I wished we had a school in our village, I would have worked hard to achieve my dream," tears welling up in his eyes. His parents, both peasants in the village, are equally disappointed.

They had hoped their son, the first born in the family of six, would be able to continue with further education, get a job and support his four siblings with education. Mr Simon's concern is that the only cash crop in the area no longer provides enough support in the family. The crop no longer gives enough yields because it has declined in the world market. Most peasants, including Mr Simon, has uprooted the coffee trees and replaced them with fast maturing crops such as tomato and fodder to feed cattle.

Residents in the area practice zero grazing because of land scarcity. Ms Sophia Makyawo (13) from the same village says the one year experience of travelling seven kilometres to and from school daily was too much for her. Her parents had to hire a room for her at the nearby village to ease the distance. Together with three other girls share the room and pay 50,000/- a month. But they have to share costs for meals, electricity and water. According to her, life is not easy. Mowo is one of the four villages that form Kimochi Ward in Moshi Rural District.

In one ward a primary school was promoted to secondary due to land scarcity to construct a new school to carter for pupils graduating from primary schools located in each village. The area is densely populated with a growth rate of 2.9 per cent, according to 2002 population census. District commissioners are required to act very fast to provide solutions to acute problems facing ward secondary schools in their respective districts.

The aforesaid is just an example of the challenges the ward secondary school students are facing in the country. Among major problems in ward secondary schools are pregnancies and drop outs, shortage of (Science) teachers, classrooms and teachers' residences; and lack of hostels and meals for students. Education experts fear an entire generation of students, passing through ward secondary schools, will miss opportunities to enter science - related fields.

The biggest challenges facing these schools, whose students are mostly from poor families, include acute shortage of teachers, laboratories and books of all categories. The poor performance in ward secondary schools is likely to abate the long-term prospect of shortage of scientists in the country. The matter is serious given that over 50 per cent of scientists in the country are aging.

Most ward schools are grappling with a dire shortage of teachers in almost all subjects. Some 3,500 Form Six leavers trained for one month to teach in those schools across country, mostly set up since 2006, have since left for further studies or to pursue careers in other fields. Available information indicate that, despite importance of ward secondary schools, the government is constrained to ensure the required infrastructure for these schools are in place at the required time.

The few teachers employed to fill the gap cannot cope with the growing demand of increased population in these schools.

The government is yet to fully implement the promise to set aside 8bn/- annually to meet the staffing requirements in ward secondary schools. The money was partly meant for recruitment of university graduates, among others, to teach in the ward schools.

However, graduates appointed to teach in the peripheries, such as Kigoma and Kagera, didn't report to their work station or left immediately after reporting due to the poor condition of teachers' housing, or lack of infrastructure like roads and electricity. For these problems to end, and to address poor examination results in many schools, education experts observed that each newly appointed District Commissioner must make education improvement in their respective districts a priority.

They must take quick action and work out strategic plans that will ensure availability of teachers, meals, hostels, teachers' houses and stop girls pregnancies in these schools. However, a recent media study coordinated by the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA) in 16 regions of Tanzania Mainland and four in Zanzibar in February, this year, revealed that despite the importance of Ward Secondary schools, they are faced with a host of challenges.

The 20 regions (districts in brackets) covered under this survey include: Chake Chake (Kaskazini Pemba), Micheweni (Kusini Pemba), Kati (Kusini Unguja), Kaskazini Unguja (Kaskazini A), Tanga (Kilindi), Dodoma (Bahi), Tabora (Igunga), Shinyanga (Bariadi), Coast (Kisarawe), Ruvuma (Namtumbo), Kilimanjaro (Rombo), Lindi (Lindi Rural), Mtwara (Newala), Kagera (Muleba), Morogoro (Kilosa), Singida (Manyoni), Manyara (Kiteto), Arusha (Longido), Mwanza (Sengerema), and Rukwa (Sumbawanga Rural).

The study aimed to establish the status of the schools, as well as assessing other hurdles, and ultimately, proposing solutions and way forward. It has been established that ward secondary schools throughout the country face similar problems with different magnitudes. Of significant mention, however, is the shortage of teachers, particularly in Science subjects, as indicated by the following statistics: Gamba Secondary School in Kaskazini A District, Kaskazini Unguja Region has no single teacher for Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry.

The school has one Biology teacher from Form One to Form Four. Uleling'ombe Secondary School in Kilosa District, Morogoro, has one teacher who heads the school and teaches all subjects. Gongwe Secondary School has three teachers, out of which only one teaches all Science subjects. Mpanda district in Rukwa region needs 640 students. Currently, it has 162 teachers, and a shortage of 478 teachers. No science teachers. Kisarawe District in Coast Region has 243 teachers, and a shortage of 221 others.

Bahi Secondary School in Dodoma region has one science teacher, who teachers Physics to 376 students - Form One to Form Four. Bariadi district has a shortage of 226 teachers to reach the required number of 640 teachers. Muleba District in Kagera Region has 236 teachers, and faces a shortage of 174 teachers to reach the required number of 410. Manyara Region has a total of 1,324 secondary school teachers. The shortage of teachers varies from one district: Mbulu (438), Hanang (294), Babati Rural (294), Kiteto (68), Babati Urban (99) and Simanjiro (39). Kiteto alone has a shortage of 35 science teachers.

Rombo District, Kilimanajro Region, has a shortage of 200 teachers. The district expects to employ 70 new teachers, out of whom only 12 can teach Science subjects. The district has been rated as the best example Igunga District, Tabora Region, experiences shortage of teachers in Ward secondary schools with Nguvumoja Secondary School top in the list with one teacher who heads the school and teaches all subjects. Bukoko Secondary School has two teachers only. Mufindi District, Iringa Region, has 2,400 teachers with a shortage of 1,585. Schools with acute shortage of teachers in Mufindi District include; Itengule, which has four teachers for 352 students.

It has a shortage of 15 teachers. Mduma Secondary School has four teachers with a shortage of 15 teachers. Kihansi Secondary School has four with a shortage of 15 teachers. Isalavanu Secondary School has seven teachers and a shortage of 20. Low motivation, poor remuneration, promotion challenges and pay rise, housing, essential facilities such as clean and safe water, electricity and other infrastructural requirements are mentioned as challenges facing Ward Secondary schools in the country.

Studies also indicate that some schools are 15 kilometres away from students' homes; coupled with lack of meals, affects students' performance. Girls face a higher risk of being raped, or falling prey to men's enticements into relationships that may lead them fall pregnant, drop out of schools, or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) including HIV. Members of Parliament (MPs), councillors, parents, teachers, students, and the public in general were interviewed on problems of poor performance and drop outs in ward secondary schools during the study.

The Sexual Offences Special Provision Act (1988) spells out that having sex with a girl under 18 years of age is committing rape (criminal offence) that carries sentence of not less than 30 years if convicted. But the study reveals several instances of pregnancies in secondary schools involving girls under the age of 18. For example, Nasuri Secondary School in Namtumbo District, Ruvuma Region, with a total of 691 students, recorded 26 cases of pregnancies, all of which led to drop outs in 2011 alone.

Shinyanga and Tabora regions recorded 51 and 41 cases of pregnancy respectively. The study findings further reveal that of the 150 surveyed schools in Tanzania Mainland, girls failed miserably in the National Form Four Examination results in 2011.

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