Dar Is Salaam — Shortage of teachers for primary schools in Tanzania has increased by almost four times over the past five years.
The shortage has jumped from 14,180 in 2014 to 53,087, according to government data.
The data indicates that the shortage is partly the result of the country's free education policy, which has pushed up student enrolment by 21.8 per cent.
The latest basic education statistics report released in 2018 shows that new primary school enrolment stood at 10.11 million pupils between 2004 and 2018.
The numbers suggest that nearly one million new entrants per year largely because of scrapping school levies, which had been keeping children from poor families away from school.
But, stakeholders say the government has not matched the high enrolment figures with the requisite number of teachers.
The deputy minister of State in the President's Office (Regional Administration and Local Government), Mwita Waitara, told Parliament in May 2019 that 3,089 primary school teachers were employed that year.
On Friday, the Education ministry permanent secretary, Dr Leonard Akwilapo, told The Citizen that plans are under way to employ 8,000 more teachers.
However, the additional teachers are still inadequate to meet the required teacher-pupil ratio of 1:40. overcrowded classrooms has adversely impacted the quality learning, with one teacher currently handling up to 250 students in places such as Geita and Kigoma Regions.
The recently-announced Standard Seven national examination results largely confirm that schools experiencing less crowding or with a better teacher/pupil ratio, performed well.
Rural based primary schools were worst affected than those in urban areas.
Comparing performance in terms of PTR
There were two schools that had a Pupil/Teacher Ratio (PTR) of over 200: Namandula Primary School located in Bukombe District in Geita, with PTR of 253.8. This means one teacher handled a class of more than 250 students.
The school had 3,300 students and 13 teachers until June 2018. In the 2018 primary education national examination results, the data collected in this school, in the category of schools with more than 40 pupils per class, had an average of 124.95 marks.
There were 87 candidates. In the results, the school was ranked 52nd out of 59 in Bukombe District, 353 out of 389 regionally and 5,588 out of 10,090 nationally.
Titye primary school in Kasulu District in Kigoma had a ratio of one teacher to 226.4 pupils per class. The school had seven teachers only for 1,585 pupils.
In the category of schools with 40 or more pupils, it had an average of 117.39 marks in the 2018 primary school examination results.
The school, with 143 graduates, was ranked 30 out of 59 at the district level, 205 out of 448 regionally and 6,816 out of 10,090 nationally.
However, the data revealed the schools with the worst PTR were from Kasulu District in Kigoma (Titye with PTR 226.4, Kitanga 198.1 and Heru Ushingo 182.6).
The situation is different for schools with good teacher-student ratio.
Dar es Salaam Region with PTR 33 has been ranked first nationally in primary school examinations for two consecutive years. The standard seven graduates in the region in 2018 passed by 92.26 per cent.
Mbande Primary School in Temeke municipality in Dar es Saalaam had the highest number of pupils for the year. The school had 6,859 students with its PTR at 73.8.
Despite having many graduates that year (743 candidates) it was ranked 55 out of 91 in Temeke municipality and 3335 out of 10,090 nationally.
The average pupil performance was 139.69 points, which is higher than the district schools in Kigoma and Geita.
Makumbusho Primary School in Kinondoni municipality had a PTR of 50.4. The school had 1,715 students and 34 teachers. The candidates who passed the exams were 154 with an average performance of 162.4. It was ranked 53rd out of 102 at the district level and 1,150 out of 10,090 nationally.
This also shows despite having a high PTR, the performance was better.
According to statistics, seven out of ten schools in the country had a teacher-student ratio that is more than the required 1:40.
Statistics show that 70.1 per cent of the 17,554 primary schools in the country as of June 2018, had more than 40 PTR. Which is equivalent to 12,307 primary schools in all regions.
Compared to the previous year (ending June 2017), 11,437 schools were just 66.01 per cent, with a PTR of over 40. This is equivalent to an increase of 870 schools in one year.
It means that 61.5 per cent of the 10,798 schools had a P/TR of more than 1:45. However, 35.4 per cent (6,218) of those same schools had a PTR of over 60.
The situation worsened when 4.7 percent of the schools had a PTR exceeding 100, which means a total of 820 schools in the country ended up having more than 100 pupils in a classroom. In comparison with 2017 only 641 schools had that size. This is equivalent to an increase of 179 schools in 2018.
The ministry of education last week, received a shot in the arm in the form of a grant totaling $90 million (about Sh240.95 billion) all in support of the country's education programme from the Global Partners for Education (GPE).
According to the government, during the signing of the grant held in Dar es Salaam, part of the money will be used to construct more classrooms to accommodate the huge number of students.
"Quality education should focus on all angles. When you construct more classrooms, it means there are more students who will need more teachers to achieve the quality that is required," said Dr Tumaini Mwakipesile, an educational consultant and former lecturer at the Mzumbe University.
He added that before the scarcity of classrooms that is witnessed currently, the PTR was still worrying.
"It will be interesting if the government will also find a way of employing more teachers to meet the ministry of education's recommendation of 1:40 PTR."
They said, the pace applied in building and constructing schools and classrooms should go together with employment of additional teachers to reduce the PTR gap.
"The introduction of fee-free education has also made apparent the need of increasing the number of teachers given the population and enrolment pressure," said, Anders Sjoberg, Swedish ambassador to Tanzania and member of the GPE.
According to a newly published report from Uwezo titled 'Are our children learning' (2019), despite the government's commitments and achievements, there are also indications that learning is either stagnating or slightly declining.
The overall assessment in the report is that the majority of children in Tanzania are now enrolled in schools, but rates of literacy and numeracy for many children are still below expectation for their age and grade.
"There is a link here to a continued high teacher-pupils ratio and national financing of education," Mr Sjoberg said.
The head of development cooperation at the Swedish embassy, Mr Ulf Killstig, believes: "It is a challenge. Investments in schools need to be made bit by bit. And it's about a balancing act."
He added: "Investments in schools need to be balanced by investments in teachers.
"Continued professional development for both new and more experienced teachers, can improve the quality of education in country."