“We must do far more to advance Sustainable Development Goal 4, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
-UN Secretary-General António Guterres
In a nutshell, Tanzania has come a long way in advancing education for its citizens, yet still has a long way to go. On this International Day of Education, taking a good look at the Tanzanian school system in 2020 helps illustrate the continued need for schools like Saving Grace.
Recent Advances in Tanzanian Education
One of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is that “all countries must offer free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education by 2030.” The government of Tanzania has made some recent improvements as they move towards this goal.
First, primary school enrollment (grades 1 through 7) has vaulted from 53% in 1975 to 94% in 2018. (5) This increase was helped along when the government, in 2015, banned all school fees that prohibited students from poor families from attending. (2)
In addition, gender equity has been achieved in primary schools. (1)
Photo Credit: Brighter Tanzania Foundation
Quality Lacking in Primary Schools
While attendance has reached a high rate in primary schools, the quality of education remains deficient. U.S. AID reports that only 5.4% of students read with comprehension. (1)
At the end of primary school, all students take an exam that determines acceptance into secondary school. With preparation inadequate and students unable to retake the test, secondary school is prohibitive to some.
Quality, Enrollment and Gender Equity Poor in Secondary Schools
Let’s start with enrollment. A little over half of Tanzanian children enroll in lower secondary school and even fewer are able to complete it. (1) Those who do attend are often stymied in receiving a quality education because of very large class sizes (an average of 70 students in a classroom); facilities that lack essentials such as libraries, labs and learning materials; and qualified teachers, particularly in math and science. (2)
Photo Credit: Doug Linstedt/Unsplash
Unfortunately, gender equity has not been achieved in secondary schools as it has in primary schools. Only one in three girls who begin secondary school are able to complete it. (Read more about gender inequity in our blog post, “Here’s to Malala!”) Government policies that discriminate against girls exacerbate the issue. Girls can be expelled from school if pregnant or married. (2)
Hurdles to Receiving a High-Caliber Education in Tanzania
Although the government has abolished student fees, parents still bear costs including transportation, uniforms and school materials. As a result, the most marginalized families are unable to access education. Also, because fees were banned, many schools have holes in their budgets, rendering them unable to fund basic needs such as school maintenance and the hiring of more teachers. (2)
Transportation is another obstacle, particularly in rural areas. Schools are sometimes located far from students’ homes. With few or no transportation options, they must either walk long distances or not attend. Some secondary students are able to board at private hostels, but this option is out of reach for poor families. (3)
Abuse by adults en route to school or by school staff harms children and sabotages their educational opportunity. Corporal punishment is legal and still used in the classroom. In addition, sexual harassment and abuse are common. (2)
Aside from abuse, girls in secondary schools are especially vulnerable to inadequate conditions. They face obstacles due to a lack of sanitation facilities. During menstruation, girls often miss school. (2) (Read more in our blog, “World Toilet Day.”)
Children with disabilities are another group that face sometimes insurmountable obstacles. Because of a lack of inclusive equipment and qualified teachers, few who are disabled attend secondary schools. (2)
As a new decade dawns, many eyes will watch for continued improvement in the Tanzanian school system. Others, such as the teachers at Saving Grace School, will continue to provide a safety net for those most marginalized.
Photo Credit: Brighter Tanzania Foundation