It is a well known fact that the quality of our education, especially in public schools where most ordinary Tanzanians’ children go to has been on the decline for quite some time now.
Examples abound showing that despite current efforts, a lot more still needs to be done to put education back on the rails, as a vehicle for the country’s development.
Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) and other education stakeholders held a roundtable meeting in Arusha, discussing the quality of public school education in our country, concluding that the unfortunate situation is triggered by on the one hand invasion of the profession by unqualified people, and on the other by teachers complaining that they are demoralised and underpaid.
Yet the quality of our education has not always been poor. There was a time when teachers used to be well paid and well trained, performing their duties to the best of their abilities. Some are still as dedicated as ever, despite the challenges of working in the sector.
Any measures that seek to revive the country’s quality of education must thus address the above issues, restoring professionalism and the morale of teachers.
It is argued that education is the key to development. Tanzania is well aware of this. That is why the government employed such measures as removing school fees in public primary schools to achieve universal primary education, one of the Millenium Development Goals.
The government also launched short courses for Form VI leavers who aspired to be teachers so that they could take up the additional teaching load.
The programme helped to supply teachers especially in newly established ward secondary schools, but what was not taken into consideration was the fact that the short courses that were offered could not actually guarantee production of competent teachers, especially if the ones taking the course didn’t actually perform well in their Form VI exams.
It is a fact that a number of university students pursuing teaching courses have only considered doing so after failing to qualify for what they initially wanted to pursue. There are many smart young people out there who would make great teachers if encouraged to pursue the course at higher learning institutions, but it is also true that the current conditions do not attract them.
It is a pity that this most important professions in any country seeking to speed up its development has not been given the attention and support it deserves.
It is our view that if teachers in public schools are paid well and given housing, health insurance, we would start seeing the change we seek in reviving the quality of education we so much talk about.
UNESCO reports reveal that one in five people have not completed primary school education in Africa. Yet this is a continent that is being exalted everywhere as the economic powerhouse of tomorrow. It will be difficult to achieve the pace and level of development we desire if we continue to put too little in the education sector.
The government has to invest more in education, if we are serious about relying on our public schools to mould the much needed professional cadre.