Children drop out of school for a variety of reasons, including perceptions on the part of parents that the school is not effectively meeting the child’s needs or operating in the child’s best interests.
Creating ‘child-friendly’ schools is thus of critical importance for achieving universal primary education, for increasing educational quality, for promoting educational equity and inclusiveness, and for achieving gender equity in education. They also reveal that there is no single solution to increasing access to education and improving its quality. Rather, there are thousands of proven local and national solutions.
In Tanzania, the education sector has remained a top government priority sector as it takes the biggest share in the overall government budget which is around 17 per cent of the total budget.
The lamentable learning environment, however, is still an issue and its impact is visible on the quality of learning and drop-outs rates for primary schools in Tanzania.
The environment and infrastructure in schools have a big stake for quality education in Tanzania including adequacy of latrines and classrooms in primary schools. Pupil classroom ratio is 1:77 against the standard of 1:45.
Speaking during a breakfast meeting that was organised by Policy Forum in Dar es Salaam last week, a research and policy analyst with HakiElimu, Makumba Mwemezi, said that provision of fee free basic education that was introduced in 2016, and caused zero school fees to lower secondary schools, has positive impacts on enrolment.
Mwemezi mentioned some of those positive impacts as the 46 per cent increase in pre primary enrolment of over 500,000 new entrants. The 41 per cent increase of primary school’s enrolment of 552,289 entrants in 2016 including those who had dropped out of schools; and the enrolment increase of over 1 million new entrants compared to 2015.
However, Mwemezi said that despite the positive impacts realised mainly after the introduction of fee free policy, there are still challenges, which were needed to be addressed by the government and other key stakeholders in the education sector.
The first challenge is on schools’ infrastructure. He said that the increase in school enrolment has created classroom shortage of around 146,106 classrooms for primary schools, and around 12,568 in secondary schools.
He further said that the enrolment increase of one million students has created classrooms deficit. Using the average of one classroom for 45 pupils, the increase will require 23,000 new classrooms which cost about 267bn/- (with 1 classroom costing 12m/-).
Mwemezi further said that the government has not been able to use much of its resources to fund the budgetary allocation of 20 percent as required according to the Dakar Agreement 2000.
He noted that the current meager problems facing the education sector in the country was due to the low budget allocations, an aspect that many educational projects are not implemented on time as required and to the satisfaction.
He suggested that in order for the fee-free education policy introduced by the fifth phase government to efficiently work, it needed to inject more funds in its 2017/18 budget, because the enrolment rate in both pre-primary and primary schools continued to shoot up since the move has encouraged many parents to send their children to school.
Meanwhile, Mwemezi urged the government and other key stakeholders to address teachers’ claims, including outstanding salary claims amounting to 200bn/-; non salary claims about 10bn/-; and retired teachers pension claims amounting to138bn/-.
For her part, one of the participants to that breakfast meeting, a lecturer with Mzumbe University, Dr Godbertha Kinyondo, said the government should seriously address the issue of infrastructure in terms of classroom space to accommodate the new entrants.
She further called upon the government to employ qualified teachers to teach these kids. “We don’t have enough qualified teachers, even the few we have we can’t meet their requirements.”
She added: “Many teachers are complaining that their salaries and reaching packages have not been paid, their promotion not realised and they are totally demotivated.” However, Dr Kinyondo urged the government not to allocate more money into tertiary education than in the lower level.
“We need to build the foundation at the lower level because that is really key. If we build the foundation at the lower level it helps to improve quality education,” she said.
In the same platform Tanzania Education Network’s Programme Manager, Nicodemus Eatlawe, said it was unbecoming for the government’s budget to depend on donors.
“We are becoming more dependent on donors instead of becoming independent as we used to say,” he reacted. He said: “Budget allocation probably is not an end solution to make our education quality, however, allocating enough money to education is very important.”
Eatlawe, urged the government to make clarification on what it meant with free education. “This is because community participation in contributing for education has been deteriorated in recent era.”