22 February 2014

Tanzania: The Need for Girls' Hostels in Rural Schools

It was her not-so-good performance at Ordinary level that finally woke Dr Angela Bagenda to the need to take her education seriously against the odds. "The performance shocked me.

I had to concentrate on books for better marks in Advanced Level because my teachers had been disappointed with the performance. So I had to change the bad impression they had about me," explained Bagenda, who says the poor performance was down to challenges of long distance from school to home.

"I started reading hard; attended all classes though I missed some since I had to walk long distance to school. I never strayed out of the school laws. Surely I didn't want to cheat myself again, but the distance from Kagondo School to my home was long", the academician says of her time at the school.

The transformation was quite impressive. By the time she completed her Form Six in 1998, Dr Bagenda had gotten quite better grades but she still had reservations. At University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Bagenda had enrolled for a Bachelor of Commerce degree and majored in accounting.

She passed with a second class lower degree. Because of that lukewarm performance, she decided to pursue further education. Dr Bagenda has since pursued a diploma in Computer Science, as well as a certified accounting course (ACCA). "I never stopped at the first degree, "she said. "I had to continue with my studies so that I could get exactly what I wanted since the shock of the bad performance had failed to go away from my head.

So I had to do all it takes to see that I change it." Dr Bagenda's earlier story of walking longer distances to school is one shared by thousands of girls todate. School girls have to walk 10km to school and this consumes most of their days away from school aside from meeting other distracters. Such is a situation that Tanzania Education Authority (TEA) seeks to change through an ambitious project of building hostels for girls in eight regions.

In the fundraising in which TEA targeted to collect 2.3bn/- for the project at the climax it sought to build hostels and help girls not walk long distances to schools. According to TEA's Manager for Information Education and Communication, Ms Slyvia Lupembe, they were targeting companies in Geita, wananchi among other institutions to put their own mark on the country's education agenda.

"We have realised that wananchi are motivated about the idea, because according to local authorities, less than half of the people attended the fundraising. People are still giving pledges," she says.

The fundraising then went to Geita where TEA targeted contribution of mining companies and other institutions. She says that they are attaching people's ownership of the process so that there will be sustainability in future. "People will run these hostels thereafter," he says.

"The ripple effect of our projects is far-reaching - neighbouring schools have access to hostels for girls and giving them optimal time for their studies. In that case, well trained teachers will pass on their knowledge to a new generation, "she says.

"Whether you are an individual or a company, through your donation you will be helping TEA make a huge difference. We've reached our first fundraising goal but we still require further funds to get to the bigger goal," she said.

The challenge to education financing, which TEA is working to solve is one, she says, that needs contribution of both private sector and the public sector. The Gender Equality and Women Empowerment programme (GEWEII) is working in a number of districts in the country seeks to fight help girls have such opportunities to keep away from dangers of walking long distances from schools.

In fact, a UNESCO report on education financing, dubbed 'Financing education in Sub-Saharan Africa: Meeting the Challenges of Expansion, Equity and Quality', says such equity to education concerns should be highlighted because the main objective of public provision of education is to ensure equitable educational opportunities to all citizens in a country.

"Education financing is needed on issues related to equity - identifying the extent to which some population groups receive more public financial resources than others and then designing policies to redress all or some of these inequities,"it notes.

It adds that inequity in the provision of financial resources can be calculated in terms of per student expenditure by region, by urban-rural breakdowns, and by different socio-economic backgrounds and levels of educational attainment of students.

It notes that with a growing awareness of low student achievement at the end of the primary cycle, many countries are focusing on learning achievement and outcomes and such infrastructural support to girls should be given. Recently, many studies have shown a wide variety of potential quality improvement interventions for girl education. "Costs have a very strong impact on this issue.

Many interventions can be costly but have little impact on learning, while other interventions can be less costly, yet have a significant impact," it states. The report seeks to highlight achievements to date in educational development in the region through a focus on the costs and financing of education, as well as to present issues and challenges that lie ahead.

While much of the discussion is centred on primary education, the costs and financing of secondary and tertiary education are also examined. The report provides contextual information about the region, including historical background, characteristics of the population, economic environment, public financing, international aid and an education sector overview.

It stresses the importance of understanding the key external constraints, the growing demand for education and emerging opportunities for the sustainable financing of educational development in Tanzania and the region.

It analyses the breakdown of education expenditure in light of international comparisons and evolution over time. It addresses major questions on funding and allocation of education resources in relation to trade-offs, such as access versus quality, level of education and types of expenditure (recurrent, capital, teacher salaries and learning materials).

It also examines expenditure per student and discusses inequity of resource allocation. It examines the costs and financing of teachers in the region by linking the issue to overall sustainability of the financing of education. Teacher costs are by far the most important factor in education budgets.

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