20 May 2012

Tanzania: Efforts to Boost Community Secondary Schools On Course

IT IS out of the importance of education for the future of this country that the status of the sector has become the concern of Tanzanians from all walks of lives. Experts and the general public, although appreciate efforts by the government and non-state actors to improve the quality of education, they have the opinion more could be done to improve it further.

Several studies have been conducted to establish the gravity of problems faced by schools, including lack of adequate and competent teachers, the quality of teachers' settlements, availability of meals, need for dormitories, self-realization skills and rampancy of pregnancies and suggest solutions.

The Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), in one of its five-year strategic plan (2009-2013) sought to conduct media survey on the status of secondary schools particularly those owned by communities. The survey included gathering information on ten schools in each district. Focus was on girl students because of their vulnerability and efforts being done to solve their specific problems.

It is through the understanding that education is the key to the future of any country that cares for its people. Tanzania's founding President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, in his many writings and political statements underscored the importance of education for the future of humanity. Nyerere set out his vision in education that it had to work for the common good, foster cooperation and promote equality between men and women as well as nations among nations.

He is quoted as saying in one of his speeches in 1978: "Man can only liberate himself or develop himself through education for self reliance; he cannot be liberated or developed by another. So development is for man, by man, and of man; the same is true of education. "Education has to help citizens to make their own decisions and to implement those decisions for them.

The education provided must therefore encourage the development of each citizen of three things; an enquiring mind, an ability to learn from what others do and reject or adopt it to his/her own needs, and a basic confidence in his/ her own position as a free and equal member of the society who values others and is valued for what he/she does and not for what he/she obtains."

Mwalimu's words and actions expressed a call for liberating education, in terms of access, content and equality. The outcome of surveys reveals that Ward secondary schools throughout the country face similar challenges. Students walk long distances everyday to and from school, most of the schools do not have adequate numbers of teachers, particularly in Science subjects; schools do not have meal arrangements for their students.

Schools suffer from lack of safe and clean water. Except for few areas such as Rombo district, Kilimanjaro region, which have indicated the need for dormitories or hostels for their students. Lack of science teachers featured out prominently in many schools. In Mpanda district, for instance, there are only two Science subject teachers. In Muheza district in Tanga region, out of 100 teachers assigned to the district schools this year, one can teach science subjects.

Lack of science teachers, for example, was clearly reflected in last year's National Form Four Examination results. According to the results, no school produced Division One students from the districts covered under the study. Most students were on Division Four and failures. School pregnancy among girls is still an area of concern. Victims of unwanted pregnancies end up dropping out of school and getting married.

Long distances to and from schools; lack of proper upbringing; lack of meals at schools, renting or living in unsafe and risky settlements; enticements from well-to-do men and boys, have been identified as causes for unwanted pregnancies among girl students in the schools covered under the study. The study further revealed that most schools do not have enough classrooms for the students.

At some schools, students of different classes alternate in using the few available classrooms while some teachers have turned their offices into classrooms. Reasons mentioned for this shortage include government inability to set aside enough budgets for the development of its schools, society's overdependency on government, lack of mobilization and motivation among parents, and the parents' financial instability. Chake Chake in Pemba, Rombo (Kilimanjaro) and Mpanda (Rukwa) have been mentioned as the only selfsufficient districts with regard to classrooms.

Mpanda district is reported to have 30 extra classrooms of the 150 requirement, according to the District Education Officer, Mr Jacob Mchete. Another revelation is that most ward secondary schools do not have dormitories for their students. Even though there is an explanation that most of the schools were built in the vicinity of the students' homes so as to save parents from incurring unnecessary costs, the construction of hostels is increasingly becoming a necessary demand that has to be met to save students from walking long distances everyday and starving while studying.

It will also give them an opportunity to do preparation studies at night. According to the Webster's Dictionary, self-realization is defined as "the fulfilment by oneself of the possibilities of one's character or personality." Except for few areas, particularly in Kilimanjaro region, many schools do not have proper scheme of imparting ethical and values to their students as a way of positively influencing their behaviour.

Magamba Secondary School in Mpanda district sought services of an unnamed NGO to train students in life skills. While it is generally perceived that such education is more relevant to girls than boys, some schools do not have female teachers, hence, make girls feel uncomfortable to learn sensitive issues from male teachers. Lack of education in self-realization has a negative impact on the students' life style and it is cited as major cause for pregnancies among school girls. For instance, at Nasuri Secondary School in Namtumbo district, Ruvuma region, 26 students were reported to fall pregnant in 2011 alone.

Mr Gideon Shangwe, District Academic Officer in Kisarawe, Coast Region, said education in self-realization, if properly administered, could help instill discipline and check school pregnancies, drug abuses and truancy among students while boosting academic performances. Cases of school pregnancy are not properly documented, but a few cases available highlight the magnitude of the problem in districts covered by the study.

In 2011, Shinyanga region recorded 51 incidences of school girls pregnancy in its districts as follows: Bariadi (six), Maswa (27), Kishapu (20), Kahama (60), Meatu (two), Shinyanga Rural (eight). In Tabora region, 41 cases were reported in the following schools: Hanihani (eight), Mbutu (three), Nguvumoja (seven), Igunga Day (three), Nanga (four), Mwakipanga (six), Bukoko (six) and Mwanzugi (four). All the pregnant students had dropped out of school. Stakeholders in education sector have proposed ways to solve existing problems in ward secondary schools:

The government should encourage the best brains to go into teaching and put in place motivational schemes for teachers. The government should allocate a sufficient budget for entire educational infrastructure, including teachers' housing, remuneration and promotion, construction of classrooms, water and communication systems, electricity, laboratories, and hostels. Special emphasis should be on increasing a number of qualified science teachers.

No school should be opened before the government ascertains itself of availability of a good number of teachers, at least three teachers' houses, a laboratory and an administration block. Construction of hostels should be mandatory for every school. Parents should be encouraged to invest their time, energy and money in their kids' education as a way of supplementing the government's efforts.

Students should not be penalized for their parents' failure to pay schools fees or other necessary contributions. Schools should encourage the growing of food crops that will eventually subsidize existing efforts to provide meals to students. The government should construct vocational training centres in every ward as a way of providing opportunity to students with vocational inclination. The government should mobilize people to do voluntary works and contributions towards educational development in their respective areas. Secondary education should be left to those who pass well and get selected.

As of now, there is too much politicizing of education whereby thousands of illiterate pupils have "passed exams" to join secondary schools. In 2011 alone, over 5,000 pupils were selected for secondary schools, but could hardly read or write. Schools should make sure they have strong boards of directors for effective management of their schools and a thorough follow up on school performance.

Mr Khassim Majaliwa, Deputy Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) responsible for education says the government has taken several measures aimed at improving primary and secondary schools in the country, some of which have started to bear fruits. According to Mr Majaliwa, the pass rate for Form Four leavers have reached about 62 per cent through the implementation of the Secondary School Development Programme in the country.

There are about 3,340 secondary schools in the country, out of which 2,850 are owned by the local communities. Currently, the citizens are motivated on the importance of education as local authorities have been given full mandate to construct and ensure development of secondary schools in their respective localities, Mr Majaliwa said over phone interview with the 'Sunday News' from Dodoma over the weekend.

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