Dar es Salaam — Nine out of 10 Tanzanians (90 per cent) are confident the free education policy introduced by President John Magufuli will be implemented on time, according to a new survey.
The Twaweza survey also reveals that three out four (75 per cent) believe the new policy will improve the quality of education.
However, 15 per cent believe the policy will not improve quality because of the surge in enrolment, which they fear will stretch available resources.
Dubbed the 'New Dawn? 'Citizen's Views on New Developments in Education', the report is based on data collected from 1,894 respondents across mainland Tanzania between December 10, 2015 and January 2 this year.
But despite the optimism on the free education policy, citizens are divided on the quality of primary education over the past 10 years. Forty nine per cent of the respondents think the quality has improved, while 36 per cent think it has deteriorated. Fourteen per cent think there is no change. In the survey, citizens were asked for their views on the public education system, their opinions on public school teachers and on the quality of education their children receive.
They were also asked on whether the new policy would improve education, and how much they have been contributing to schools.
The report has found out that 9 out of 10 parents contribute to their children's education in public schools, and most of their cash contributions are for security (66 per cent), tests (57 per cent) and desks (34 per cent).
However, half of the citizens believe that cash contributions collected by schools do not serve their intended purposes. The majority of parents (89 per cent) think teachers use the contributions as an extra source of money.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Twaweza executive director Aidan Eyakuze said citizens had clearly and correctly diagnosed the challenges of education adding that all their advice and suggestions to the government revolved around teachers, their motivation and accountability.
He said they hoped the promise of free education to improve learning might be dashed because major reforms to address challenges of teaching for learning had yet to be spelt out.
"Although it is very encouraging that education is a priority for the Magufuli administration, we must all ensure we take a critical look at the evidence on what works to deliver learning, when children are in school that we monitor policy implementation and support and enhance the teachers and teaching. Otherwise we run the risk of more broken promises," he said.
His sentiments were echoed by a cross-section of education experts present at the event, who cautioned Magufuli over the free education policy, saying despite the programme representing a milestone in the country's history, it was not the only solution to the woes facing the education sector.
They pointed out that the quality of education being offered is a critical issue that must be taken into consideration noting that it will be of no value to the country and the nation as a whole if all children are in school but they are not learning.
The experts said the president might have a good intention on the matter but his advisers have misled him on how the programme would be implemented.
Dr Joviter Katabaro of the University of Dar es Salaam college of education said though the government will be providing all the necessities in schools, still there is a need for parent's intervention especially on ensuring the children are receiving quality education.
"We will be sending our children for schooling but not for learning and that is a crisis that we are all preparing," he said.
He said despite the free education being introduced, there are issues that cannot be left out to be taken into consideration because there are various issues to be considered to have a free and quality education.
He raised the issue of the establishment of a teacher's professional body that will regulate the conduct and behavior of teachers in the country as it is to other sectors in the country as very crucial in the improvement of the sector.
"If we do not talk of a teacher's professional body, then we should not talk of the quality of education because teachers are part and parcel of the education quality improvement team," he said.
In his remarks Member of Parliament for Nzega Mr Mr Hussein Bashe said it is time to admit as a country that we have messed up with education and agree that the nation is in a crisis looking at the results from 2006.