Last Thursday - December 12, 2019 - The Citizen published some of the findings of a study by Twaweza that largely focused upon school attendance in Tanzania, or perhaps more accurately: non-attendance by a goodly 28 percent of primary school going-age children.
Twaweza was established in 2009, and "works on enabling children to learn; citizens to exercise agency, and governments in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda to be more open and responsive."
According to the study's findings, some 15.6 percent of school-going age children in Tanzania have never, ever, been enrolled in school at all, while another 12.4 percent were enrolled - but they just as soon dropped out of school.
That makes 28 percent of the total number of children who should be 'gorging themselves on' elementary school primers in formal class during the crucial first seven years of their formal education. But that's not happening on the ground for the 28 percent; they just aren't anywhere near a classroom!
This is despite the fact that primary school education has been 'fees-free' from the year-2002 - and the government of President John Magufuli also most generously proclaimed 'fees-free' secondary education countrywide from January 2016.
But - as modern-day 'prophets' would say - there's more to 100 percent school enrolment and attendance than a free/fees-less education regime. In other words, waiving school fees alone is NOT enough of an incentive that would ensure 100 percent school enrolment and attendance.
This is amply exemplified by the Twaweza survey findings. For example, most of the polled truants were from abjectly-poor families who are routinely preoccupied with scrounging to make ends meet for their households, rather than spend time, energy, efforts and other resources to send their children to school.
As it is, some of the children - instead of being enrolled in school - are sent off by their parents/guardians as child labour in mines; tobacco farms, etc., or as street beggars, urchins...
Some children who are enrolled in school just as soon drop out from school for various reasons. The reasons included - but are by no means limited to - cruel and unusual punishment handed out by school teachers/authorities as a matter of course, as well as the non-provision of meals or meal allowances by schools and parents accordingly.
The Twaweza study report - released under the curious title 'Are our Children Learning?' - is the result of a 2017 survey which involved 48,533 respondents from 1,677 schools in 56 administrative districts across Tanzania-Mainland.
The survey numbers are the proverbial drop (of water) in the ocean. A relatively whopping 8,247,000 children (80 percent of eligible total) were enrolled in primary schools in 169 administrative districts on Tanzania-Mainland in 2014 - with a teacher-to-pupil ratio of 1:51. But, numbers aside, it has been said that "the place where a child lives also greatly influences his/her access to school - and how much they learn..."
Suffice it here to stress the advisability for all parties to, and shareholders in, quality and functional education of and for Tanzanian children must work closer together to succeed: parents/guardians, teachers and the Government.
As the word 'TWAWEZA' means in ki-Swahili: 'We can make it happen!'