Dodoma — Ambitious plan by the government to provide fee-free and quality education has paid off, with tripled enrolments recorded in many public schools, countrywide.
Tabling his 2017/2018 ministerial budget estimates, the Minister of State in the President's Office, Regional Administration and Local Government, George Simbachawene, said enrolment for kindergarten schools shot up to 1,345,636 in 2017 compared to last year's 971,716.
He further said Standard One enrolment in 2017 was 1,842,513 against the 1,896,584 pupils registered last year, bringing to 3,188,149 the total number enrolled at both pre and primary levels, an increase of 319,849 pupils.
Mr Simbachawene said the increase in enrolment has created an infrastructure crisis in some areas. "We are experiencing shortage of classes and laboratories. We understand that some schools are struggling to cope with huge number of new entrants after the government announced fee-free primary and secondary education," he said.
The minister noted that the ministry has directed regional and district commissioners to continue fast tracking construction of classrooms to address the shortage in their respective areas.
He insisted that Tanzanians ought to know that the free education policy did not mean that the government will finance everything to enable students to acquire education.
He said parents and other stakeholders could be involved in addressing some of the challenges at school.He also said the government has managed to pay 10bn/- it owed to teachers and another 4.2bn/- for purchasing of educational equipment.
Another 1.75bn/- was spent on renovating infrastructure at 19 primary schools. By last March, he said the government in collaboration with citizens and other stakeholders had completed construction of 45,348 primary school teachers' houses, but there is still shortage of 182,899 housing units. For secondary schools, the minister said, a total of 14,346 houses were built, cutting the shortage to 69,794 housing units.
He further said improvement in teaching environment has improved pass rate at the National Standard Four Examination from 88.87 per cent in 2015 to 93.36 per cent in 2016, while pass rate at Standard Seven improved from 68.4 per cent in 2015 to 70.36 per cent last year.
All pupils who passed their Standard Seven Exams were selected to join various secondary schools in the country this year, he said.
Mr Simbachawene told the House that in the 2016/17 fiscal year, the government disbursed 58bn/- to the Local Government Development out of 156bn/- allocated to 185 councils countrywide. He said 80 per cent of the cash was meant for development projects, especially in road construction, agriculture, education, health and water.
He also touched the Tanzania Strategic Cities Project (TSCP), which is being financed by the World Bank through Specific investment Loan (SIL) and DANIDA.
The projects are implemented in seven councils - Arusha, Mbeya, Mwanza and Tanga cities as well as Dodoma Municipality, Kigoma Ujiji and Mtwara -Mikindani. Minister Simbachawene asked the Parliament to endorse 6.57tri/- for the ministry in the 2017/18 fiscal year.