The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training has recently been taking a number of steps to address the problems that afflict this critical area of our country’s endeavour.
We say so because without human skills, it will be a pipe dream to expect the nation to perform well any activity that it undertakes.
But to get the appropriate human skills, it must carefully plan how the various skills are to be developed, taking full account of the resources needed and ensuring that they are properly allocated.
Education stakeholders have noted that one of the biggest setback to the sector’s development, besides the benign neglect of its infrastructure, are the frequent changes to curricula focuses, arising from equally frequent policy changes, some well advised, others poorly thought out.
The end result of course was the unprecedented fall in the quality of education offered in the country, which a few years back saw those with the financial means sending their children abroad to study.
It must be stated at the outset that even the observation that the quality of education has gone down has always generated a big debate among education stakeholders.
Sometime back, a research institution came up with findings which not only showed that a number of primary school pupils could not read or write, but also could not do simple arithmetic.
Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training Phillip Mulugo last week visited primary schools in Dar es Salaam and confirmed some of the assertions.
He is reported to have told reporters: “Throughout my visit in Dar es Salaam primary schools I have noted the presence of pupils who don’t know how to read and write.”
Ironically, a number of schools in trying to address this situation have instituted the paid evening classes aimed to help those pupils who needed extra tuition to better understand what was tackled in class.
But this was strictly for those who could pay. We agree with Deputy Minister Mulugo’s banning of the fees and his observation that the arrangement not only promoted inequalities in the schools, but reinforced ignorance among the poor pupils.
Let us not forget that the Dar es Salaam learning environment is not one of the best in the country. The majority of pupils have to fight a major transport hurdle to make it to class in time. And while the schools may boast more than a fair share of teacher allocation, mainly the women who stay in Dar to be with spouses, they do not have much to show for it.
Mulugo has given all head teachers up to the end of next month to submit to his office the number of pupils who don’t know how to read and write.
The initiative is welcome, although we must state that what the deputy minister saw was a tip of the iceberg. The issues that need addressing are many and complicated, but at the end of it all any proffered solution must answer the simple questions: Education for whom? …For what end?
Indeed these questions must be asked and answered every time policy makers review the sector’s state of affairs or plan policy changes.