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Last Updated: Friday, 15 July, 2005, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Tanzania looks beyond free schooling
Milton Nkosi
BBC One Planet, Tanzania

School class
Large classes put a strain on teachers
Tanzania has made great strides towards providing free education for all of the country's primary school children - one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. But there are signs that this is not helping the long-term development of the majority of the country's children.

Mivinjeni Primary School, on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, has just celebrated the opening of three new classrooms.

Sometimes I feel we are just stuffing children into schools
Rakesh Rajani, educationalist
They were desperately needed. Mivinjeni Primary has over 2,300 pupils, and 50 teachers - a ratio that would cause an outcry in the developed world.

But the high number of pupils is because three years ago the Tanzanian government reintroduced free primary school education, funded mainly by international donors.

Head teacher Alex Roberts is hopeful about the future.

"This programme for me is very good because every student is going to school and getting their needs in school," he says.

Packed classes

In a Swahili language class for 13-year-olds, the classroom is packed, each desk shared by four students.

Mwamini Said
Mwamini Said is determined to let her younger children finish school
The children are attentive and eager to learn, but the size of the class is putting pressure on their teacher, Apasuri Muno.

"I feel tired every day - it's difficult monitoring 60 children at a time," she says.

But she adds she was unhappy with the old system where some children were educated and others not: "That is why now there is no payment in primary schools, to make sure pupils get education."


Tanzania is on course to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of free primary education for all children by 2015, but the quality of that education is coming in for criticism.

Rakesh Rajani, the executive director of Hakielimu, an education NGO, says too much emphasis is being placed on achieving 100% enrolment rates and building new classrooms.

"It's about quality, quality, quality," he argues. "Sometimes I feel we are just stuffing children into schools.

"I am proud of the classrooms we have built and about the kids who are now enrolled in school since we abolished [primary] school fees, but that's just a starting point."


Mr Rajani believes Tanzanian children are currently not being stimulated or encouraged to think for themselves.

Figures show only 9% of all primary schoolchildren go on to secondary
"What we need is for children to be able to interact with teachers and with each other," he says, "in a way that they can be inspired and enthusiastic about what they want to be and what they want to make of this country."

He feels Tanzania lacks the sort of visionary leadership needed to transform schools that are still "drab, boring places".

Primary school starts from age seven and finishes at 13, but only 9% of all primary schoolchildren go on to secondary, because that's where fees have to be paid.

Drop out

At Mivinjeni, 66 out of a class of 92 recently qualified to go on to secondary school, but only 16 of them had the funds to do so.

School room
Only a handful complete their education
Mr Roberts says he is very worried.

"If children don't have the chance to go to secondary school they will become a bad boy or a bad girl, hanging around on the street."

For a country such as Tanzania that needs an educated and skilled workforce, the lack of opportunity to progress through the education system is a tragedy because it creates a human mass of unfulfilled potential.


That was apparent when I visited the Said family on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.

Yusuf Said, 25, did not finish secondary education because his mother could not afford the $200 a year fees. Now he sells second hand clothes at the local market.

"If I had finished school I would have become a policeman and would work to stop crime," he says. "I am very bitter that could not go ahead."

Like any parent, I believe that one day there will be a doctor or a lawyer or even a pilot in the family
Mwamini Said, market trader
Yusuf's mother, Mwamini Said, is a 43-year-old widow, supporting her five children and three relatives in her tiny three-roomed house in Ilala district.

Her husband died in car crash three years ago, and she survives by selling African crafts at the same market where Yusuf sells his clothes.

She says she cannot cope if she has to pay fees from secondary level right up to university, let alone the day-to-day struggle for food and running the household.

But Mwamini recognises that without education their home situation may never improve, so she is fighting to ensure that Yusuf's younger siblings stay in school right to the end.

"Like any parent, I believe that one day there will be a doctor or a lawyer or even a pilot in the family," she says.


This determination delivers the little successes. At the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's only public university, with 15,000 students, I met Zubeida Chande, a final year sociology student.

She persevered against all odds and made it through secondary school to university.

"Even when you get a chance to go to university, the environment is not conducive for studying. For instance, in one course you might have 400 students.

"It's not like they're preparing a student to enter the job market."

It's a long way very tiresome but something you can do. Youth and children must have aspirations and courage to go on.

Change from the top

At the faculty of education I spoke to Professor Justinian Galabawa who has researched and written extensively on the many challenges facing education, not just in Tanzania but across East Africa.

Education is not aligned to what businesses need and what the private sector needs
Harprit Dugaal, business manager
He thinks that to improve education systems, change must come right from the top, starting with African leaders who must learn from the past.

He says Tanzania's first president, Julius Nyerere - also known as Mwalimu (the Teacher) - touched on the possible solutions.

"Mwalimu pointed out that education was very theoretical, not practical - but unfortunately most of these things have not been corrected."

He believes thought that "the government is trying its level best to expand access and expanding the transition rate from primary to secondary education up to 50% - at least half of the kids should be able to go to secondary school".

Vocational training

So what do the industry leaders of Tanzania think of the relevance of theory versus practical experience in the job market?

Harprit Dugaal, general manager of Sumaria Group of companies - one of Tanzania's leading employers - says industry needs more vocationally trained students.

"Education is not aligned to what businesses need and what the private sector needs," he argues.

"A boy may come out of a village having been to primary school but cannot get a job."

He says that for the education system to become self-sustaining, it needs to encourage the formation of small businesses, thus expanding Tanzania's tax base: "You would not need to depend on donor agencies, you would be able to sustain it yourself."



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