20 May 2014

Tanzania: Taxation, School Fees Hurt Education Sector

Dodoma — DELAYED inspection of schools, numerous taxes and exorbitant school fees have been pointed out as setbacks in the growth of the education sector.

Debating the 2014/2015's Ministry of Education and Vocational Training Budget estimates here, Members of Parliament (MPs) said that the two elements need to be checked if the sector is to grow.

Mr Jason Rweikiza (Bukoba Rural-CCM) said that the government has imposed various taxes in private schools making it hard for owners to charge affordable fees.

"Private school owners have resorted to hiking school fees to offset the various taxes imposed by the government to their schools but this is unhealthy because in the long run many parents will not afford," said Mr Rweikiza who also owns various schools in the country.

Mr Rweikiza also talked of school inspection in relation to the quality of education, saying that lack of it would jeopardize the future.

"My schools were inspected for the last time in 2005. If we don't invest in school inspections, we will lose direction as education is bound to deteriorate," he said.

The Deputy Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai also noted that school inspection was a critical area that needs special attention in the ministry in question.

Mr Ndugai said that schools need to be inspected regularly to ensure that standards are adhered to, as a way of rescuing education from deteriorating.

Mr James Mbatia (NCCR-Mageuzi-Nominated) also noted further that education should not be for sale, that it should be a service since it is a basic right to all.

Mr Mbatia also said that making education expensive would create classes in the country due to the fact that it will be affordable only to rich people. Michael Lekule Laizer (Longido-CCM) urged the government to empower ward secondary schools and make them attractive to all.

He pointed out that the current situation where expensive schools are refuge to wealthier people was a threat for the future as many poor people may fail to acquire quality education.

"In my constituency all the students in ward secondary schools failed last year, we should reverse the trend otherwise education will remain the right to rich people," he said.

Mr Laizer noted further that the current situation has made people from remote areas especially pastoralists fail to get quality education.

Mr Peter Serukamba (Kigoma Urban-CCM) urged fellow politicians to stop being selfish, consider poor people who cannot afford higher school fees charged in private schools.

"We should not sit here and pretend as if everything is alright simply because we can afford expensive education, we should stop being selfish and think for others while finding ways of making education affordable to all," be said.

Last year, the government said that it was on the process to make a thorough analysis on unit costs before issuing guidelines and indicative fees structures for private schools.

The then Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Mr Philipo Mulugo was quoted as saying that the work would be done by an independent consultant who would go around the country to establish unit costs and an independent team from the ministry would conduct a similar study after which a decision would be made.

The new system if announced is expected to be flexible and will safeguard the interests of both parents and school owners.

"We cannot have all the schools charging similar fees but we can have a meaningful variation of fees in a systematic and a regulated manner," Mr Mulugo was quoted as saying.

In the current setting, the industry is operating unregulated in such a way that in some schools parents are forced to cough between 2m/- and 5m/- annually in privately owned schools.

Matters are made worse where some schools demand that the fees and other expenses be paid at once, while others demand to be paid in foreign currency, especially US dollars.

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