Need for a balanced 2016/2017 education budget

02May 2016
The Guardian
Need for a balanced 2016/2017 education budget

THE discussions and debated for the National Budget for Financial Year 2016/2017 commenced at the National Parliament in Dodoma.

Prof Joyce Ndalichako MP; Minister for Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training.

The consolidated government budget will be tabled by the Minister for Finance after the ministerial budgets have been discussed. Basing of facts that this event is very crucial to the nation, I thought it was necessary to present some key issues to be considered and expected from the budget and members of parliament to highlight during debates and discussions.

The 2016/2017 national budget marks the start of the new government under President John Pombe Magufuli, which came with a number of changes in operations of the government.

This budget also marks the start of the second Five Year Development Plan (2016/2017 to 2020/2021) whose focus is ‘Nurturing Industrialisation for Economic Transformation and Human Development’.

The financial year 2015/16 (as was also the case in 2013/14 and 2014/2015) saw revenue shortfalls which meant planned spending was short of the approved budget; affecting infrastructure projects and social investments.

It also saw a decrease in government contribution to the provision of social services such as education, water and health. Like in the previous financial period, yet again 2015/2016 saw serious delays in disbursements by government and Development Partners.

The new administration under President John Pombe Magufuli started with a bhang! Be declaring a number of initiatives and policies including cutting government expenditure, provision of free basic education, fighting corruption, improvement in the health sector and many of such initiatives.

Therefore, the 2016/2017 budget becomes the first ‘test’ for the new administration in the wake of implementation of its slogan ‘Hapa Kazi tu!’ on extent to which it has prepared to tackle a number of challenges mainly in the social and economic sectors, and that the administration puts effective mechanisms and policies to ensure that each citizen fully participates in social economic activities for the development of this nation.

Soon after assuming power at the end of 2015, one of the key agenda of the new government was implementation of ‘free basic education’ in which all school aged children were required to be enrolled in pre-primary and primary schools as of January, 2016.

The government through the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocation Training (MOESTVT) provided a number of directives on how to implement ‘free basic education’ through Education Circular Number 5 of 2015 issued on 27th November, 2015, in which school fees and contributions for secondary schools and basic education respectively, were abolished.

The Education Circular Number 5 of 2015, which is signed by Professor Eustella Bhalalusesa (Commissioner of Education-MOESTVT) provides that “The Government has decided to provide free basic education from pre-primary to form four, from 2016 academic year.

This Government’s decision is in the process of implementation of Education and Training Policy (2014) which aims at ensuring that all children in Tanzania have access to education without any form of constraints including fees or payments.

In the process of implementation of these decisions, all fees which were being paid for secondary education at Form One to Four have been eliminated. Moreover, Education Circular No.8 of 2011 concerning contributions in schools is also being abolished. However, a Guideline for Fee Free Basic Education is being prepared and will be disseminated to school owners on or before 15th December 2015. This Circular has come into effect as from 21st November 2015”.

To add emphasis on provision of free basic education, MOESTVT provided Education Circular Number 6 of 2016 issued on 10th December, 2015. The Circular provides roles and responsibilities of various education stakeholders including MOESTVT, President’s Office-Regional Administration and Local Governments (PO-RALG), Owners of Government Schools (Executive Directors of Town/District and City Councils) Heads of Government Schools, Committees/ Boards of Government Schools, Parents/ Guardians, Community/ Citizens, teachers and students.

It should be noted that ‘free basic education’ includes parents and communities to play their roles in supporting education development. On this Education Circular Number 6 of 2015 stipulates roles of parents and communities.

For parents, the Circular indicates that Parents and Guardians will continue to do the following:

(a) To purchase school and sports uniforms, learning materials including exercise books and pens/pencils, and food for their day students;
(b) To finance medical expenses for their children;
(c) To pay for fare for traveling to and fro school for day students; and boarding students during leave;
(d) To purchase mattress, sheets, personal hygiene items for students in boarding schools, and in hostels which are used by Government; and
(e) To rebuke and report (to authorities) on tendencies which are contrary to free basic education.
On the other side, the School is part of the Community. Therefore, Communities around the school will continue to do the following:
(a) To mobilise parents/ guardians with school aged children to enroll them and ensure they retain in school in order them to obtain education;
(b) To cooperate with School and parents/ guardians in ensuring that students are in school during lessons time instead of wandering in streets or involve in activities which are not related to academic lessons;
(c) To cooperate in all activities aiming at bringing education development in their communities in order to obtain timely intended results; and
(d) To continue offering in-kind and material contributions to improve welfare and development of schools within their communities.

In the course of implementing ‘free basic education’ policy, a number of challenges emerged including increased enrolment beyond expectations, which calls for immediate intervention in provision of desks, infrastructure (such as classrooms, latrines, and teachers houses) and need for more capitation grant to cater for increased enrolment. It is my hope that 2016/2017 Education Sector budget will cater for these challenges.

We are aware that in a number of years there has been a challenge of capitation grants reaching schools on time and amount required. During the first quarter of 2013, about 34 percent of primary schools in Tanzania had not received the capitation grant.

For the schools that had received it, it was as little as 2,094 TZS when it was supposed to be 16,000 TZS. This has been the case between 2010 and 2012 when most schools had only received an average of 2,202 TZS per pupil per annum (Sauti za Wananchi, Mobile Phone Survey-Round 2, April 2013).

In addition, some primary head teachers, about 37 percent are not informed about how much of the capitation grant their schools are supposed to receive (Sauti za Wananchi, Mobile Phone Survey-Round 2, April 2013).

This means 37 percent of primary schools in Tanzania had not received a capitation grant in 2013.
While 54 percent of the teachers knew about a capitation grant, but received an amount as low as 2,000 TZS contrary to the amount set by the central government. Yet, they did not report the matter or complain to any authority responsible to distribute the capitation grant (Sauti za Wananchi, Mobile Phone Survey-Round 2, April 2013).

I am aware that the Government has tried to curb this challenge by ensuring that capitation grants are disbursed directly to schools instead of being disbursed through local government authorities.

Preliminary findings have shown that schools have received the funds. However, we are yet to know whether the funds have been used effectively and efficiently.

The 2016/2017 budget should be aware that amounts set for capitation grants of TShs.10,000 for primary schools and 20,000 for secondary schools were planned many years ago, therefore, have been passed by time and events such as inflation and increased demand for education provision.

Therefore, there is a need to increase amount of capitation grant. The unit cost survey undertaken recently by MOESTV should inform this budget to allocate new capitation grant.

Recognizing the adverse effects of the challenges in inadequate resources in implementation of various projects in social and economic sectors, the following policy recommendations are forwarded:

(a) Mobilising domestic resource mobilisation: I am aware that the government is implementing cost cutting measures in various ways in order to increase its revenue to implement its programmes.

However, we need to have devise sustainable sources of revenue including expanding our tax base, formalizing our sectors – many people do not pay tax though they undertake informal income generating activities, to prioritise our activities and programmes, to enhance discipline in expenditure, to intensify fight against corruption and avoid tax exemptions.

(b) Reduce dependence on external financing: For a number of years our budget have been dependent on external financing. As a result many of our development projects have been non-starter due to lack of funding when development partners do not honour their commitments.

For a number of years it has been estimated that development partners have honoured only 50 percent of their commitments. Increasing internal financial ability to implement our budget will ensure all our plans and programmes are implemented to reach our objectives.

(c) Is this budget realistic?The implementation of the previous budgets does not provide reassurance that the forthcoming 2016/2017 budget will be executed effectively and realistically. Delays in disbursement are still critical.

Has this budget learned from the past and put effective mechanisms to ensure timely disbursement of funds? For example, in 2014/2015 budget until March 2015 only 38 percent of the development budget had been disbursed.

This literally means that more than 50 percent of the earmarked development projects had not been implemented at that time, while at the time less than 3 months remained before the financial year ends.

This was also the case for the recurrent budget, as it was been reported that most of the local authorities had not received the approved budget which was meant for operational expenses.

(d) A call for balanced 2016/2017 education budget priorities: The allocations and disbursements of funds within the 2016/2017 education sector budget should be attentive to the learning needs and challenges. These challenges include the long-standing inadequacy of capitation grants, concerns over unimplemented policy and unresolved stakeholder’s grievances within the sector.

In order to improve management and performance in schools, it is important that these institutions are regularly inspected.
According to Godfrey Bonaventura, the Research and Policy Analysis Manager at Hakielimu, the 2016/2017 education sector budget can be balanced if it fulfils the following:

(a) It considers demands of free education;
(b) Development budget is increased between 30 to 40 percent of education sector budget;
(c) More money for development goes to primary and secondary schools;
(d) Perfect match between allocation and actual expenditure in development budget; and
(e) Considers teachers, teaching and learning.

It should be noted that education is key and an engine for economic transformation, through producing skilled human capital. Therefore, in order for the government to realise its second year five years development plan of ‘nurturing industrialisation for economic transformation and human development’ and the long-term development focus of ensuring that Tanzania becomes a middle income and semi-industrialised country by 2025, high investment in education and training is inevitable.

It is my hope that the 2016/2017 budget is going to provide a picture of how serious are we in working towards becoming a middle income and semi-industrialised country by 2025.

A healthy, well-fed society, which is educated and skilled, is vital for growth of the country’s economy. It is for this reason I urge the government to consider the improving its sector budgets to make policies work for people in Tanzania.

The writer is a specialist in educational planning, policy, and finance. He is reached through: [email protected] or +255754304181