Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

23 December 2012

Tanzania: 'Community' Schools Should Be Recognised

Photo: The East African
Arusha has reported a total number of 5,400 drop-out cases (file photo).

IT is very disheartening to see that schools are operating in a very secretive manner.

In my recent survey to many secondary schools I discovered that there were those schools which were not ready to share information.

This is something very irritating, especially when the information sought is just what any individual should be able to get it immediately.

For example, if one is interested to know the admission procedures and fees structure there should not be any fuss or hesitation about it. But to my surprise some schools (names withheld) have shown lack of cooperation when it comes to releasing general information to the public.

I want to make it very clear that of the 20 schools that I visited last month some were reluctant to share their admission and fees structures to me not because I pretended to be a parent, but because I was honest and straight forward that I was a journalist.

However, these schools are still under investigation so there is no need to punch them on newspapers. Apparently, we are waiting for the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training big exercise which reviews the fees structure and will soon give answers to some of the difficult questions facing the education system.

But, today let's discuss this postulate posed by those who think that the education system in the country has created double standards. The first thing that stakeholders of education use as their leverage to arrive to that conclusion is the schools'admission and screening as well as failures.

There are few schools which stick to the principle of going their way out to support the weak students to reach the required standards. Critics of the Form II examinations to determine whether a student can continue with studies to Form III have their reservations.

The argument is that students are not studying in a uniform environment, yet when it comes to exams they are subjected to the same conditions that good schools are. Another criterion which existed even before the introduction of form II screening out exams, is what some parents and teachers have termed it as a contradiction regarding education for all.

Some schools in the city have denied to have such a screening policy for their students, saying that they were doing what it takes to help students complete their studies up to Form IV or Form VI.

A senior management officer at Aga Khan Schools Dar es Salaam recently said that 99 per cent of the students complete their 'O' and 'A' levels education denying that there was any policy to screen out students because of fear of ending up with students who have division III and IV scores that relegate the schools outstanding status in the market.

Commenting on the same, the Headmaster of Al-haramaini Secondary School , Mr Nuhu Jabir Mruma said that it was unfortunate that those schools which were working hard to ensure that students complete their Form IV or Form VI studies are not recognized or rewarded.

The argument whether schools should be allowed to screen out students throughout the students education for the benefit of keeping to standards or just because they want to boost their image in terms of remaining competitive in the market is still a paradox.

Those schools which have continued to screen students and appear to be the best schools cannot be regarded as superior schools, saying an educationist based in Dar es Salaam. "If one school has eliminated some students who are weak on the premises of maintaining its image as a best school and the others have helped students to completed form IV and VI in large numbers, which one should be regarded as a hero?

The survey carried out by the "Sunday News" shows that there are more than 10 best schools in the city which have maintained the policy of screening out students to remain with the most competent, sending the rest to the streets. The critics argue that there is every indication that those who become dropouts leave the schools on the basis of little support extended to them while at school.

"Part of the problem is that the teachers even in private schools are overwhelmed by other factors which distract their attention to the students," said a stakeholder, Khamis Khamis who used to work as a teacher in a private school in Zanzibar.

He said that the system of screening students creates classes in the education system. How can we claim that the private schools are contributing to the education system when they have a system of eliminating students.

For instance, the system of recognizing education institutions in their contribution to the country's education should shift. It is important to look at those schools with limited resources which strive to help the students complete their studies as heroes and heroines.

For example, some schools which have 200 students graduating without any subsidies from the government should be recognized. "We only hear government institutions and agencies recognizing the most privileged schools which have a policy of only admitting those well to do students who have gone through an exclusive education system," said a student of Al-haramain.

Why there is no one who is ready out there to recognize the schools which cater for the downtrodden societies. Some teachers have expressed dismay over the screening policy that continued to exist in some schools and the new one introduced recently.

They feel that it is important for the government to review the policy so that it can be fair to schools that are under privileged with limited facilities and teachers. Can we justify most of the vision statements that are found in many private schools that they want to enable many generations of students to acquire both knowledge and essential spiritual wisdom that is needed to balance that knowledge and enable their lives to excellence.

Can that vision of providing accessible world class education which prepares our youth for the next generation that is touted by many private schools be achieved, if the private schools are not going to help those who are under privileged to make it up to the end of their secondary education?

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InFocus

School Drop-Out Rate Raises Alarm in Tanzania

Arusha has reported a total number of 5,400 drop-out cases (file photo).

More than 5,000 pupils dropped out of the seven-year primary education program in the country's Arusha region, raising concerns about student retention rates, according to the ... Read more »