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Has 2012/2013 education sector budget addressed key challenges?

20th August 2012
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  Last Monday, 13th August 2012, I was invited as a guest speaker in the evening talk show at one of famous radio stations here in Dar es Salaam. We were discussing about reasons behind low morale of young people to opt for science courses at secondary and college levels of education

During this talk show we analysed a number of issues and later received a number of SMS and calls from listeners who contributed their idea and solutions to challenges facing science education in the country. It was highlighted that education sector is faced with many challenges including few and unqualified science teachers, poor academic performance, teachers strikes due to low payment, lack of incentives for science teachers especially in rural areas, lack of teaching and learning materials and facilities, lack or dilapidated infrastructure, and many more which they hope the upcoming education budget will try to address them.

In the same evening, as we were discussing the above mentioned issues, the Minister of Education and Vocational Training, Dr. Shukuru Kawambwa, was presenting his ministry’s budget speech at the Parliament in Dodoma. After the talk show I requested various people who were listening to the education sector budget speech to provide their comments at a glance, on whether the budget has addressed issues and challenges as per their expectations.

A number of them said that though there are a few things which are new, but the rest of the budget was just like giving ‘lukewarm water’ to a thirsty person, it will never quench his thirst. To them they do not see that all the programmes and activities mentioned in the budget can address key challenges in education sector.

This article aims at make some analysis on the budget to find out to what extent has it or has not addressed key challenges in the education sector and propose way forward.

According to the education sector budget, MoEVT requested approval of TShs. 724,471,937,000 for financial year 2012/2013; out which a breakdown of the expenditure is as follows:

(a) TShs.96,386,272,065 for normal departmental expenditure; whereby Tshs. 41,685,937,000 were requested for salaries and Tshs.54,700,335,065 for other expenditure;

(b) Tshs. 535,540,348,935 were requested for normal expenditure of institutes. Out of that Tshs.205,541,876,000 are for salaries, and TShs.329,962,472,935 are for other expenditures (Tshs.306,000,000,000 are for students loans in higher education);

(c) A total of TShs. 92,532,316,000 was requested for MoEVT development projects. Out of that, TShs. 18,561,689,000 are from internal sources and TShs.74,019,627,00 are expected from development partners.

Following this budget, I have the following comments:

(a) Dependence on external sources of funding: our education sector budget is still highly dependence on donor support especially on development programmes. The dependence on external source of funding for development projects is about 80 percent. This means that if donors do not honor their promise, our development projects will be doomed.

It should be noted that many donor countries are currently facing economic crises; therefore, it is likely there support will be dwindling or unpredictable each year.

The experience in the past years has shown that most donor countries do not provide all the funds they promised, while some do not provide at all though they promised. According to Hakielimu report (2012), in 2008/09, MoEVT budget donors contributed only 43 percent of what they promised; 2009/10 they contributed only 48percent of what they promised.

I recommend that we should be innovative in finding more internal sources of financing our education. We can increase revenue base through termination of unnecessary expenditures, lower or cancel tax holidays, ensure revenues from natural resources and related industries are linked and funding education and training, deploy the whole of skills development levy (SDL) to education. SDL is 6percent but it is only 2 percent which is allocated to VETA.

(b) Inadequate actual allocation of funds for education and training: recently, Hakielimu issued a statement about this. It says in 2010/2011 SEDP II was allocated TShs68.96 billion instead of planned TShs127.39 Billion. This has a deficit of TShs.58.44 Billion. In 2011/12, allocated TShs.74.7 Billion for development projects instead of TShs.135.39 billion requested. Generally, the government has been allocating an average of 50% of the education development budget.

(c) Massive expenditure on student loans: In 2011/2012 students’ loans took about 56 percent of education budget allocated to institutes under MoEVT; while in 2012/2013 budget students loans take up 42.2 percent of the whole education sector budget, and 57 percent of budget requested for normal expenditures for Institutes under MoEVT!

I have opinion that the government should liase with social security funds which have plenty of idle funds, to develop products on students’ loans with lower and reasonable rates; so that the current students’ loans budget could finance other development programmes. Social security funds have wider coverage regional wise, therefore they can easily verify students information and follow up loan repayment very closely.

In the same day, Hakielimu organized a meeting of education stakeholder, which was held at REPOA premises in Dar es Salaam. The aim of the meeting was to listen and discuss the 2012/2013 education sector budget. Some few of the comments from those who attended that event are as follows:

(a) The minister’s budget speech failed to highlight enduring strikes by students in higher learning institutions as a challenge. These strikes are most often caused by students’ dissatisfaction with the higher learning loans system and might be significantly reduced if the system was decentralized so that the Loans Board worked through offices at regional level. Government should introduce a scholarship system so that students who distinguish themselves through their performance are assured that their studies will be paid for. This avenue would provide hope to students from poor families.

(b) This budget is no different than last year’s budget in terms of how it will address current challenges in the education sector; we don’t expect anything new as a result of its implementation. The budget does not discuss at length strategies that will be used to address education sector challenges; it does not critically analyze underlining issues and concerns.

(c) In his speech the Minister of Education and Vocational Training mentioned the improvement in teacher-pupil ratio, from 1 to 48 to 1 to 46. On the surface, it would appear we have done well in this area, given that our objective is to have at least 1 teacher to 45 pupils. But in reality, the figure given is an average and across the country there are classrooms with over 50, 60 and even 70 pupils to one teacher. The use of averages in presentations such as this one without further explanation is misleading and consequently fails to provide the public with a real picture of what is going on in education.

(d) The Ministry expects to finalize the new education policy document during this financial year, although it has not said specifically when. We would like to urge the Ministry to make sure that this happens because the 1995 education and training policy is out of date. It is important that the government finally releases a new policy that takes into account changes in the economic context and development vision of the country.

(e) When discussing the issue of education quality, the Minister focused on how the Ministry had successfully raised the primary school pass rate from 53.5 to 58.3 per cent. While this is indeed an improvement, it is still not satisfactory and more needs to be done to improve learner outcomes. This is particularly urgent at secondary school level, where in the most recent form four exams, 90 per cent of the examination candidates record a dismal performance of division four or zero. The provision of quality secondary education is fundamental to the development of this country because of its potential impact on human development and particularly in the areas of health and citizen agency. We are shocked and surprised that the Minister failed to mention this.

Despite some shortfalls in the education sector budget, I commend the MoEVT budget for showing interest in enhancing the capacity of Inspectorate department by upgrading it into an agency and increasing budget in order to reach at least 80 percent of schools each year. It should be noted that Inspectorate department plays a very crucial role in enhancing quality of education process, output and outcome. If the said commitment is going to be honored, and not just a political platitude, I am convinced that we can reveal weaknesses in our education system and find solutions earlier before manifestations of inefficiency in the system through mass failures in academics, attrition, teachers and students strikes and many more.

I would also like to commend MoEVT for taking stern actions against 176 head teachers and 2 headmasters who were found to be involved in the 2011 National STD VII and Certificate of Secondary Education examination cheating. However, MoEVT has not publicly released a report on investigation of this scandal. In due course of practicing transparency and accountability, this report could have been a public document.

Lastly, I commend Members of Parliament who discussed the budget with passion and patriotism under knowledge that education is an engine for our economy. However, I plead to them that they should follow up closely on implementation of all promises made by MoEVT.

Despite having macro and micro policies in place, we have observed that the major problem in our education and training system lies in effective implementation and funding of our policies and programmes.

There are many issues and recommendations which I have not been able to address. I hope this article is going to stimulate a continuous public debate on these issues.

The writer Masozi Nyirenda, is a Specialist in Education Planning, Management, Economics of Education, Finance and Policy Studies; he is reached through +255754304181 or masozi.nyirenda@gmail.com

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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