14 December 2012

Tanzania: Good Learning First, Fees Later, Dons Suggest

SOME academicians have criticized the government's move to regulate the private school fee structure.

They are of the view that the state should focus on improving the quality of education in public and private schools instead of worrying about fee levels.

Contributing ideas at the 2012 Symposium on Development, which has been jointly organized by the Department of Economics of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and the Mwalimu Nyerere Chair in Development, Prof Gelase Mutahaba from UDSM said it was wrong for the government to get in the way of the private school fee structure.

Instead, he said, the government should improve public schools by developing their infrastructure and ensuring availability of well-trained teachers and teaching equipment. This, he said, would elevate the standard of the schools to the level of private ones.

Prof Mutahaba said that at the moment it was the parents' choice to take their children to private schools or public schools, regardless of how much the private schools cost. "The issue of school fees has nothing to do with the government," he said.

"The government is only responsible for the syllabus, setting educational standards and ensuring that they are met," he said giving the example of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS). He elaborated that TBS focuses the standards of consumables and does not regulate the prices of the commodities.

He noted that if the government wanted to see public schools providing the same quality of education as private ones, it should improve on the teaching and learning environment including the teachers' welfare. The Professor noted that the government's thrust when it comes to involving the community in the improvement of the education sector should not end with building more schools.

It should include ensuring smooth running of community schools. "By doing so the community will be able to work as a team in helping the government in its efforts to build more schools and also in the improvement of the quality of education," he explained.

The sentiments were echoed by Dr Jehovaness Aikaeli, also from UDSM, who noted that if the government wanted to reduce the burden of school fees which parents of children in private schools have to shoulder, it should first make sure it improves public schools to the standards of private schools.

"It's a matter of setting priorities right and addressing challenges correctly. How do you expect children to pass exams when schools are not adequately equipped with human resources and teaching equipment?" he wondered. Dr Aikaeli said there was a need to focus on solving problems in the education sector in a more focused way to meet the objective of improving its quality.

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