1 February 2013

Tanzania: Heated Debate As MPs View Education Status

Dodoma — THE National Assembly docked a private motion tabled by Mr James Mbatia (Nominated-NCCRMageuzi) to form a select committee and investigate serious weaknesses in the country's education sector.

Instead, it voted to deliberate on a counter motion presented by the Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa, that asked Parliament to allow the state to take into consideration issues raised by Mbatia as it is reviewing the education and training policy.

The vote by members of parliament came after a battle of wits on issues surrounding standing orders, with those from the opposition claiming that docking Mr Mbatia's motion was against the orders while those from the ruling party supported the minister's motion.

In his motion, Mr Mbatia raised serious concerns in three main areas in the country's education sector which he named as education policy, lack of official curricula for secondary and primary education and weaknesses in approving learning and teaching materials for secondary and primary schools.

He also took swipe at the Educational Materials Approval Committee (EMAC) for failing to deliver on its duties and allowed the influx of mediocre learning and teaching materials in the country, which do not serve the intended purpose of educating and enlightening students and pupils.

To hammer his point home, he read excerpts from books that contained too many obvious errors yet they were still approved by EMAC. He accused officials of possible embezzlement of 13 million US dollars that was given in the form of assistance by South Carolina State University through USAID after Tanzania had requested for assistance for science and mathematics books.

"Education is the heartbeat of any nation, if the heartbeat is abnormal it might lead to the demise of a nation," he said. He also noted that weaknesses in the education sector have led to many failures in other sectors.

To look into the weaknesses and shortcomings in the sector, he proposed that Parliament should form a select committee to "probe the depth of the problem in the education system and where possible the committee should recommend courses of action to rid the nation of the problem."

Dr Kawambwa, however, countered the motion, saying that issues raised by Mr Mbatia are crucial but forming select committee alone would not solve the problem. He said since 2009 the government has started the process of reviewing the education and training policy, thus Parliament should instead wait for the review to be completed.

When the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Anna Makinda, wanted MPs to pick between one of the two motions to be discussed, a heated debate ensued. Although almost all legislators agreed in principle that issues raised by Mr Mbatia were of genuine concern, divisions emerged on whether or not to form a select committee.

Ms Makinda said that the issues raised by Mr Mbatia broad based and needed to be probed by more than just a select committee. The sentiment was echoed by Deputy Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai; Minister of State - Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs - Mr William Lukuvi and the Minister for Labour and Employment, Ms Gaudensia Kabaka.

Others were Mr Richard ole Sendeka (Simanjiro- CCM), Mrs Margareth Sitta (Special Seats-CCM), Ms Jenista Mhagama (Peramiho- CCM). Mr Mbatia opposed the move to dock his motion and was supported by other MPs from the opposition camp.

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