23 February 2013

Tanzania: Minister Admits Challenges in Education Sector

THE debate on factors behind massive failure recorded in just-released national Form Four examinations results took a new twist on Friday as the Minister for Education and Vocational Training says the outcome reflects measures taken to block loopholes for cheating in national examinations.

Dr Shukuru Kawambwa, who was responding to questions from journalists in Dar es Salaam , admitted, however, that there were many challenges in the education sector that included lack of teachers and teaching facilities.

In a turn of events, he expressed delight that the education sector was among six major areas selected for discussion, in 'Labs' model designed to ensure tracking of government performance launched by President Jakaya Kikwete . This is a new system adapted by the government to deliver results in shortest time possible.

"I am happy that education is part of the six areas to be discussed in detail and proposals made on how to get good results," he explained, adding that the ministry would cooperate fully with experts in the labs.

He explained that Tanzanians should work together to find a common solution, through providing good ideas "instead of looking for a scapegoat to blame.

"I know the results shocked many people, including myself. On the other hand, this shows that we are successful in curbing cheating and leaking of examination papers, which had been going on for years."

He explained further that the challenges that would be raised by experts would provide suggestions on ways to improve the education sector. Other areas the experts will deliberate include energy, water, infrastructure, and agriculture and resource mobilization.Dr Kawambwa noted that due to low rate in cheating, the number of students whose results were cancelled has gone down from 789 in 2011 to 303 for those who sat for national examinations last year.

The Ministry announced last Monday that over 60 per cent (240,000) of a total of 367,750 candidates who sat for the national examination had failed.

Those with Div Four were 103,227, Division Three (15,426), Division Two (6,453) and Div One (1,641).They were the results which sent shocking waves across the country, with people from walks of life calling for the minister to show responsibility and step down.

The teachers, on the other hand, are of the views that much as they sympathized with the decimal performance, the poor performance was a clear message delivered that the government ought to address problems facing teachers in the country. Poor working conditions, meagre salaries and lack of teaching facilities are among teachers' concerns. But the government maintains that many of the teachers' problems have been dealt with; including paying them salary arrears, construction of teachers' houses and employing more teachers.

One of the education experts in the country, Prof Edmond Mungure of Tumaini University, said revival of the education system required serious review and resolutions to address all facets of the sector."Apart from the confusion in the teaching curriculum, hardships facing teachers must be addressed squarely. Teaching facilities must be available in all schools and academic excellence should be maintained in all schools," Prof Mungure said.

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