Education experts have been meeting in Dar es Salaam, chiefly to look into the challenges encountered in the sector and ways to address them.
They were attending a conference whose theme was “Reflections on Education Reforms in Tanzania - Towards Innovative Approaches”.
As pointed out by Prof Eustella Bhalalusesa, Dean of the University of Dar es Salaam’s School of Education, the challenges are not only many and varied but also enormous and cross-cutting and therefore calling for in-depth analysis aimed at finding sustainable solutions.
The timing could not have been better, given the notable failure rates as evidenced in the recent National Form Four examination results and in the many institutions not subject to public display of their academic performance results.
Only recently, Education and Vocational Training deputy minister Phillip Mulugo toured some primary schools in Dar es Salaam only to discover that some pupils could not read or write although they about to complete Standard Seven.
But even more significantly, we are discussing the issue at a time when the world is more and more running on knowledge. This requires that those seeking to interact competently at the global level, be equipped with a growing base of knowledge or else accept to be left by the wayside.
Given these above startling observations, the fundamental question is whether we have created an education system that moulds children into individuals really able to cope with their environment.
In other words, it is about knocking into shape a knowledge society – one that creates, shares and uses knowledge for the prosperity and people’s well-being.
How well we function as a nation much depends on the extent to which we craft our education system to give us the needed knowledgeable people in every area of national endeavour.
Any education system that does not meet this basic condition must be looked into afresh and critically, for it will be seriously wanting in its goals.
Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda opened the Dar es Salaam conference on Wednesday by rightly pointing to some of the gaps in our education system which he said the government is busy grappling with.
He said a quick evaluation of the system from primary to university level indicated an acute shortage of competent teachers, policy makers, planners, managers and administrators.
The PM added that the education system is also hampered by inadequacy books, computers, laboratories, toilets, teachers’ houses, desks and accommodation facilities, not to mention the ever growing student loan budget.
We know of scores of researchers who have studied our education system and made recommendations which we believe the academics, researchers and policy makers at the Dar es Salaam conference will have critically evaluated, while also proposing innovative approaches through and by which to address the challenges.
We need to see these challenges against the highly limited budgetary resources on the one hand, while alert to the fact that it is not only about vital resources being scarce.
Scarcity of resources should not necessarily translate into failure by the nation to deliver quality education to our children. Our experts must help us identify and deal appropriately with all factors constraining quality education delivery in the country.