by Ben Taylor

Criticisms of form 4 exam results
The National Examinations Council of Tanzania (NECTA) released exam results for last year’s form 4 exams (O-levels), showing a 15% increase in the pass rate (58% of students who took their exams in November 2013 achieved a pass, up from 43% of those who took their exams in 2012).

However, education sector analysts described the new results as misleading. Elizabeth Missokia pointed out that the exams were graded under a new system that lowered the marks required in order to achieve a pass. “The government is fooling the public by claiming that results have improved,” she said.

The new grading system includes an A which previously ranged from 81-100 but can now be obtained if a student scores 75-100, the government also introduced a B+ which ranges from 64-74, B:50-59, and C:40­49. “If we could put these results into the previous year’s grading, I can say that no improvement has been attained,” noted Dr Mkumbo of the University of Dar es Salaam.

The government-owned Daily News called for “heads to roll” at the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. “A critical self examination is needed at the Ministry, especially the department responsible for secondary schools,” they said in an Editorial. “It borders on the criminal to keep poor children at school for four years just to have them get poor results.”

Rakesh Rajani, an activist who heads the Twaweza organisation, faulted the Continuous Assessment (CA) process, which contributes 30% of the candidate’s final marks. He argued that evidence shows that CA is most of the time not objective and usually highly inflated. “In two out of seven subjects you could be given 80% in your CA and get only 10% in your exams; and get absolutely zero in your other 5 subjects, and still pass,” he said.

The secretary general of Tanzania Association of Managers and Owners of Non-government Schools and Colleges (TAMONGSCO) Mr Benjamin Nkonya said that there is no way the country can take pride from the results.
“Truth is, the learning environment in most of the public schools is bad. There are no libraries, no books, no laboratories, teachers are demotivated, many of them incompetent. There is no way we can have good results in such a situation,” he said. (Daily News, The Citizen)

Teacher retention challenges
The government has admitted that despite considerable costs incurred in educating primary and secondary school teachers in the country, a good number of them are not practising their profession.
“Teachers have been a favoured group in various education aspects such as admission in universities and in securing loans from the Higher Education Students’ Loans Board (HESLB),” said Prof Eustella Bhalalusesa, Commissioner of Education in the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.

Prof Bhalalusesa said a good number of the employed teachers do not stay at their stations for long. “They just report and go for other jobs,” she said, adding that the ministry has taken it as a challenge and was working on it.

The President of the Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU), Gratian Mkoba, argued that poor housing, low salaries, lack of social services and infrastructure are among the factors forcing many teachers to leave their job for greener pastures. He said trainee teachers get TSh 10,000 as a daily allowance, but when they graduate they receive less than TSh 10,000 per day or less than TSh 300,000 per month. “This frustrates them, making them quit their jobs in search of other activities or jobs”, he said. (The Guardian)

BAE radar “change” begins to reach schools
The majority of the text books purchased using the refund from the bungled radar purchase have been distributed to primary schools across the country.

British defence company, BAE Systems, paid Tanzania £29.5 million (TSh72.3 billion) after it sold an obsolete and overpriced military radar to the country, as part of a settlement reached with the UK Courts and Serious Fraud Office.

It was agreed that TSh59.7 billion would be used to purchase books, TSh12.2 billion to buy desks while TSh367.2 million was set to be used for monitoring and auditing. Over 85% of the text books have now been distributed, according to officials from the Prime Minister’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government.

Cambridge charity supporting vulnerable children in Gairo district
Villagers from Gairo district in Morogoro region have a reason to smile after the Cambridge-based Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) introduced a new programme to support vulnerable children from poor families to access best education from primary to tertiary level.

The Director of Operations and Finance for Camfed Tanzania, Msaada Balula, said educating girls is the best way to help a community to alleviate poverty, noting that educating them is the most effective strategy to ensure the well-being of children and in the long run economic development.

Camfed’s ‘Comprehensive Bursary Support’ will cover all costs related to their secondary education from school fees to textbooks and other costs. According to Balula, the value of the support will depend on the need and poverty level of the supported children.

He said that since Camfed began operations in the country in 2005, a total of 21,592 students have been supported to access education and remain in school from primary to university level.

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